Another Nice Holiday
1 Corinthians 15:1-20
Dr. Jim Denison
I have been prepared all week to defend the relevance of Easter theologically. It bothers me that we ask Americans their favorite holiday, and Easter gets 2%. It bothers me that we ask non-Christians why Christians celebrate Easter, and 46% don’t know. And they don’t care.
I was ready to show you why we should care, theologically and biblically; why Easter isn’t just another nice holiday.
Then I realized that would not be the sermon I would need to hear if I were coming to church along with you, if it weren’t my job to preach to you today. What would I want to hear, sitting in the pew beside you today? What do you need me to talk about this morning?
Our text defends and explains the relevance of Easter. Let’s see if these words help us.
The risen Christ gives purpose
The first issue I need to hear about today is stress, burnout. The Northwestern National Life Insurance Company recently did a survey, and discovered that 40% of America’s employees feel either “very” or “extremely” stressed.
I learned recently that there is an American Institute of Stress. What does that say about us? They estimate that between 75% and 90% of our visits to the doctor are caused primarily by stress, with a loss to American industry of $200 to $300 billion annually. We are stressed people.
I need to know that my life matters beyond the day to day struggles and issues we all face, that God can give my life a purpose which makes the daily grind worth it all, that Jesus can use my life to accomplish something beyond myself, something significant. Don’t you?
We’re not the first. Peter gave up after the cross. Jesus had died, and Peter had failed. He had bragged publicly about his courage, then denied three times that he even knew his Lord. The proud fisherman turned out to be a coward. And his life had no more purpose or meaning.
So he went back to what he knew, to fishing. And just there, as Paul says, the risen Christ “appeared to Peter” (v. 5). He forgave him, and restored him. And he called him to “feed his sheep,” to lead his church. He gave his life purpose and significance.
The risen Christ can still do this today. He alone can give purpose and meaning to anyone, no matter our past or even our present. No matter the bad or the good we’ve done. Anyone.
John Grisham’s books have sold more than 40 million copies. He has wealth, fame, and success. But they haven’t been enough. In recent years Jesus has become more real to Grisham than ever before. His salvation, which occurred at the age of eight in a Southern Baptist church in Arkansas, has become more real than ever before. He has donated millions to missions, taught Sunday school, and been part of mission trips sponsored by his church across the world.
In fact, his last book, The Testament, was inspired by a recent church mission trip to Brazil. I read it recently, and recommend it to you. He grapples with faith and life, and presents the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ in a powerful way. And he says that his relationship with Jesus is now “the most important part of my life.”
This morning Jesus reminded me that he is my only purpose. Only he can give my life meaning and significance. Knowing him, and then making him known. Not my work, or schedule, or stress. Knowing the risen Christ personally gives me purpose, meaning, and significance. I needed that.
Do you need “north” on your compass? A reason to be, in the midst of the stress and pressure of life? Only the risen Christ can give you the purpose your heart yearns to find, and only because of Easter. Only because this isn’t another nice holiday. On this Easter morning, why not ask him for the purpose he alone can give?
The risen Christ gives peace
This morning, I need his peace as well. The fighting in Kosovo had us all worried. Where is God when soldiers are captured and civilians are slaughtered? Closer to home, what will the stock market do?
For many of us, fear is much closer to home even that that. Some of you are worried about keeping your marriage together, or your finances; some of you wonder where your children are today, or your parents; some are waiting for the next hospital test or doctor’s visit with great apprehension. Some wonder where you’ll go to college next year; some wonder how you’ll pay for college. We all have fears and worries. We all need peace. We’re not the first.
Consider “doubting Thomas.” After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples, but Thomas was absent. He wouldn’t believe them without proof.
So the next Sunday night after Easter, the risen Christ appeared to “the Twelve” (v. 5). And when Thomas saw him personally, his questions were answered, his doubts disappeared, and peace was his.
Consider the early Christian movement. They are supposed to take the gospel to the entire world, 25 million in the Empire alone, almost none of whom had ever heard of Jesus. How on earth would they do it?
Then on a mountain in Galilee, the risen Christ “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (v. 6). And to them he said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… And I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
He promised them his help, his presence. And the risen Christ gave them his peace.
We have many questions, many doubts, many fears. Psychologists list over 700 phobias in our society today. Everything from “arachnibutrophobia,” the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth, to “phobophobia,” the fear of fear. What do you fear? What causes you anxiety and worry this morning? Where do you need peace?