I heard about an atheist who was a little bit upset because of all the holidays that people of faith celebrated.
He said to a friend, "You Christians have Christmas and Easter. And Jews celebrate their holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur. But we atheists don't have recognized holidays. It's unfair discrimination."
His friend thought about it for a moment and said, "Well, you atheists could celebrate April 1. That could be your holiday. You know, April Fool's Day. It fits, because 'the fool has said in his heart there is no God.' "
Easter, on the other hand, is for everyone. But it is not about bunnies or brightly colored eggs. It is about Jesus, and specifically, it is about Jesus crucified and risen again from the dead.
I don't know how you might describe your life this Easter. Maybe you are full of faith and looking forward to joining your family and friends at church and perhaps a special meal later in the day. If everything is going well for you, then praise God for that.
For others, it might be a different story. Easter might be a reminder, like Christmas, of someone who is no longer with them. And with every year that passes, they are remembered and missed. So for some, Easter is a bittersweet day.
Death can seem so cruel, so harsh, and so final. And that is exactly how the disciples felt when they saw the beaten, bloodied body of their Lord hanging on a Roman cross. Then, in addition to the crucifixion, a Roman soldier took his spear, thrust it into Jesus' side, and out of it came blood and water.
There was no question about it. Christ had died. If the crucifixion hadn't killed him, certainly the spear of the Roman soldier would have. The disciples thought it was over. They thought death had finished it.
If they would have thought back, they would have remembered this was the same Lord who had raised people from the dead. He raised the daughter of Jairus. He raised Lazarus after he already was in the process of decomposition.
And if they would have thought back, they would have remembered that on the day that Lazarus was raised, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25 NKJV).
But it is hard to see through eyes that have been blinded by tears. So the disciples were shocked to find an angel waiting for them with the good news: "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him" (Mark 16:6 NKJV).
They thought He was dead. But He was alive again.
Because Jesus has died and has risen again, it means that we as believers do not have to be afraid of death. As 1 Corinthians 15:20 tells us, "But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again" (NLT). Jesus has gone to the other side, He has returned, and He has the keys to death and hell (see Revelation 1:18).
It's hard for us to accept that our bodies are wearing out. Yet the Bible says we will have new bodies one day: "We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us" (Romans 8:23 NIV).
You see, my body is not the real me. The real me is my soul, my spirit. This body will die. But my soul will live on.
One day, you may open up the newspaper and read that Greg Laurie died. But don't you believe a word of it, because at the moment you read that I have died, I will be more alive than I have ever been before in the presence of God. And the same could be said for every believer.
And here is the message of Jesus: You are going to see your loved ones again. You will be with them. Not only are they a part of your past, but they are also part of your future.
He is the resurrection and the life, and if we believe in Him, though we were dead, yet shall we live.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began several statements with the words, “Blessed are …” Pastor Greg Laurie says those words contain time-tested insight on where to find happiness. Tune in Monday for a discussion of the biblical prescription for joy. Join us!All Sermons by Greg Laurie