If you’re struggling in life, pastel colors and chocolate bunnies won’t make you feel better. Deep down, it all feels a little trivial. What we need is Resurrection Day—in its full meaning. Here are four ways Easter is authentic hope for every day of the year.
For many of us, Easter is an emotional day—full of disappointment, grief, and depression. As we officially move into Spring, we think of all that isn’t and all that could be. And we’re sad. We reflect and don’t feel hope but despair. But for the earliest Christians—who likewise experienced intense pain and disappointment—Jesus’ resurrection changed their entire state of mind.
I think of Paul the apostle, who went through unbelievable difficulties including shipwrecks and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). And yet despite this, he declares:
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8–10 NIV).
For Paul and other early Christians, resurrection was a state of mind. The resurrected Lord Jesus gave them hope, despite incredible obstacles. Such a hope can change the way we look at each and everyday. It can give us what we need to overcome our feelings of despair, depression, and grief. It can give us what we need to move forward.
The pain of losing a loved one is absolutely searing. The grief knows no bounds. But even when facing this grief, Paul the apostle could have hope. He declares:
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–16 NIV).
There is hope for the living and the dead in Christ. There is a final resurrection day coming. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, those who believe experience resurrected life (compare Colossians 1:18; John 3:16–17; 11:25). This is hope for every day—no matter what loss may come our way. We can look to the future of what God will do and declare it good.
Jesus did not die merely for our salvation, although he certainly died for that (see Isaiah 53:10–12). He also died so that we can have freedom from sin and its ramifications. Jesus’ resurrection gave us the ability to be freed from sin’s power over our life. Resurrection gives us liberating hope. Paul put it this way:
“We were therefore buried with [Jesus] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:4–7 NIV).
Perhaps today you are feeling bound by the sin in your life. Jesus has hope for you. Jesus’ resurrection can reign in your life and release you from the bondage of sin. Jesus can give you new life. Jesus wants you to be free. Jesus wants to offer everyone in our world the liberty of resurrected life.
Throughout our world, there is unbelievable pain. There are famines, extreme poverty, and those who have never known the freedom of Jesus. There are people in desperate situations who desperately need help. The call of the gospel—the call of Jesus—is that we would have new life in him and that we would offer new life to others (Matthew 18:5; 25:40–45; John 14:6; James 1:27).
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension offers us the very power of God in our lives (John 14–16). It gives us a chance to have the transformational power of God as Holy Spirit working in us. It gives us the chance to be God’s representatives here and now. With resurrected life on our side—in us and working through us—we can do anything God calls us to do (Philippians 4:16). Resurrection is real and tangible hope, right now.
Imagine the great and incredible power of offering new life to the broken and hurting of our planet. Imagine equality and the freedom of Jesus reaching every ear. Imagine the hope that we could have this day and everyday if we were truly about Jesus’ love.
Resurrection is what we need. Resurrection is what our world needs. Resurrection is hope for every day, in every situation.
"We have come to know love by this: that he [Christ] laid down his life on behalf of us, and we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers" (1 John 3:16 LEB).
What does it mean to lay down our lives on behalf of our brothers and sisters? Who are our brothers and sisters? Can 1 John 3:16 actually refer to giving up our lives for someone else ... to the point of death?
One could argue that "the brothers" mentioned in 1 John 3:16 refers only to fellow Christians, since the apostles often refer to their fellow ministers of the gospel as "the brothers" (1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 9:33; 3 John 3; Acts 21:17). You could even quote Jesus in support of this argument:
"Who is my mother and who are my brothers ... For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, my sister, and my mother" (Matthew 12:48-50 NIV).
However, the book of James strongly urges us to show no partiality when it comes to loving others. James goes so far as to say that if we show partiality, we are sinning and are convicted under the law as transgressors (James 2:9).
Christ is the greatest example of impartial love, for he went to the cross for all humankind, the unrighteous and the righteous alike. As the apostle Paul put it:
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
We know we are meant to lay down our lives for all humankind, not just Christians or those who practice righteousness. But to what extent are we to go in order to complete this task? Are we really to die for someone else (1 John 3:16)?
To answer this, I will go again to the example of Christ. Christ's sacrifice shows that we are meant to love one another to such an extent that—though it may not be required of us by God—we would be willing to suffer the punishment of death on behalf of another. A love like this changes the world.
Christ once said:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and 'Hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matthew 5:43–46 LEB).
Paul elaborated on this point in Romans 12:9–18 (LEB):
"Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor ... Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. ...Think the same thing toward one another; do not think arrogantly, but associate with the lowly. ... If it is possible on your part, be at peace with all people."
Many of the earliest Christians gave up their lives not just for the God they served, but also for the people they were serving. In the case of many believers, their lives were taken at the hands of evil men and women who hated God. And yet, their sacrifice has become an example of faith to us all (see Hebrews 11:36–38).
God himself requires only one death from every believer: that we die to ourselves and live for Christ.
"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all; as a result all died. And he died for all, in order that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14 LEB).
And in living for Christ, we become an example for all people of his love. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
So I urge you, brothers and sisters, to think this day about the life you have to give and to whom you have to give it. And I pray that in giving of our lives together, we can change this world for the better, for sake of the Kingdom of God.