Every time a minister ascends the pulpit to expound and apply God’s Word it is important. But this Sunday—Easter Sunday—is especially important. It is one of the highest attended Sundays of the year. Christians, non-Christians, and nominal Christians alike will be present in churches all across America and beyond. This means pastors have a unique opportunity ahead of them to explain to a diverse audience the centrality of the resurrection and the hope it imparts.
In order to steward this opportunity well, I want to list and explain three principles that every Easter Sunday sermon ought to include. I am not suggesting that these should be your preaching points, but these principles should surface throughout the course of your sermon.
The resurrection of Jesus is historically accurate.
The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus is not a fairy tale, urban legend, or religious hoax. Yes, it must be received by faith, but that it does not mean it’s unreasonable to believe. Faith, in other words, does not need to be blind in order to qualify as faith. Luke tells us that after the resurrection Jesus “presented himself alive to [his disciples] by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3).
Many people who attend on Easter won’t be convinced that the resurrection actually happened. One of your goals, then, is to demonstrate that the resurrection is a historically reliable event. So explain the significance of the empty tomb (John 20:1-10). Point out that Jesus appeared to over five hundred witnesses (1 Cor. 15:6). Ask them, “Why would Jesus’ disciples willingly suffer and die for something they knew was a lie?”
There is a lot of evidence that demonstrates the resurrection is historically accurate and one of your goals is to showcase those evidences this Sunday.
The resurrection of Jesus is theologically significant.
Jesus’ resurrection is more than a fascinating story. It has tremendous theological implications. It is the lynchpin on which our faith and preaching rest (1 Cor. 15:14). It also reveals that Jesus’ claims to divinity are true. Plus, it vindicates him as the Giver of eternal life.
The resurrection also proves that Jesus’ work on the cross actually accomplished salvation. On that first Good Friday, Jesus declared, “It is finished,” announcing that he had paid our sin debt in full. Three days later, the Father declared—through the resurrection—that Jesus’ sacrifice for sin had been accepted. The resurrection functions as the Father’s ‘stamp of approval’ for the Son’s substitutionary death (see Rom. 4:25).
Jesus’ resurrection also demonstrates that the curse of death has been overturned. Prior to Jesus, every human who had fought death had lost miserably. But Jesus went into the grave on Friday evening and came out victorious on Sunday morning. The resurrection shows that Jesus “has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 2:10).
This Sunday, don’t turn the resurrection into an anecdote about new beginnings. Be sure to draw out the myriad of theological implications concerning it.
The resurrection of Jesus is personally applicable.
The resurrection isn’t merely a doctrine to be discussed or an event to be debated; it is a truth that must be embraced and applied. Since the resurrection is both historically accurate and theologically significant it follows, then, that it is also personally applicable. In other words, because the resurrection happened Jesus cannot be ignored. He’s not a mascot that an individual can cheer for once or twice a year. He is Lord of all and the only hope for this world.
Make it your priority to tell those in attendance that only Jesus can give them peace with God and purpose in life. Remind them that death is imminent for everyone, but Jesus has transformed death into the means of ushering his people into his presence. As John Flavel observed, “A grave with Christ is a comfortable place.” Ask them difficult questions that no one else will ask them the rest of the year, such as, “What will you do with Jesus? Will you embrace him as your Lord and God or will you put him back on the shelf until next Easter?”
Brothers, every occasion that we have to herald the good news of Jesus is important, but this Sunday is particularly important. Give yourself to much prayer and preparation and be sure you explain that the resurrection of Jesus is historically accurate, theologically significant, and personally applicable.
Nathan Rose is the senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri. He also serves the North American Mission Board and the Clay-Platte Baptist Association by helping to revitalize and assist struggling churches. He is also a regular contributor to For the Church, a gospel-centered ministry of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Historical Theology. He and his wife, Rachel, have three young and very energetic children. You can connect with him on Twitter at @nathanrose33.