Have you ever had someone that you know die? It's a sad time, knowing that you will never get to talk to them or see them again until you see them again in heaven. Usually when someone dies, we cry and we miss them.
That's what happened when Jesus died. His friends missed him. They gathered together and talked about Him and how they were going to go on without Him. They were sad, and they were scared.
Then, the women who had gone to the tomb showed up at the door and gave them great news. "Jesus is alive," they said. What do you think the disciples' reaction was? What do you think your reaction would have been?
The disciples didn't believe the women. Even though Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples that He would rise from the dead, they didn't believe Him. After all, no one had ever risen from the dead.
Matthew 16:21 tells us "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Yet, even though Jesus had told them what would happen, his disciples were still surprised when Jesus actually rose again.
Check out their reaction in Luke 24:36-39. "While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
Even though the disciples could see Jesus, they still had a hard time believing that He had risen from the dead. Can you imagine how their sadness turned to joy when they realized Jesus was actually standing there in front of them?
It's that joy that we celebrate at Easter. The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive. We don't worship a dead God. We don't worship a statue that was never alive. We worship a God who came to earth, sacrificed Himself for us and then beat death and rose again. That's a reason for joy.
It's that joy that makes being a Christ-follower different from any other religion in the world. If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, being a Christ-follower would be no different from any other religion. Like we talked about yesterday, Jesus' death on the cross makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God. His sacrifice blots out our sins.
Yet, if Jesus had stayed dead, we would have nothing to celebrate. Jesus would not have been who He said He was. Jesus told His disciples over and over again that He would die but also that He would rise again. Because He rose again, because He defeated death, we can have confidence in God's promises that we, too, will have eternal (that means forever) life with God.
We celebrate Easter on the day that Jesus rose from the dead, not on the day that He died. His death is important, but without his resurrection Jesus just becomes another person who made some big claims then died. His resurrection means that we can believe in all of God's promises. Jesus did what He said He would do. And that makes Easter a reason for us to celebrate.
As you celebrate Easter this year, remember that Easter is about joy. Think about how it might have felt to be one of the disciples seeing Jesus again after His death.