Have you ever had an entire weekend, not just a day, that you wanted to remember for the rest of your life? Perhaps it was a special vacation, or maybe even an impactful conference you attended. Or maybe it was special in a very different sense and you never want to forget those final three days with a loved one before you couldn’t see them again on earth.
Every year, we as the Church remember one particular weekend that happened almost 2,000 years ago. Christianity is rooted in real, historical events; our faith is based on objective facts that happened in time and space. Michael Horton, professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, was once asked by his pastor, “When were you saved?” He relates his response in an article: “Without meaning to be clever, I heard myself answer, ‘Two thousand years ago.’”1 Has your heart been gripped by the “marvelous truth of Christ’s objective, completed work,” accomplished for you on a hill called Calvary one Friday long ago? Do you find yourself remembering that Jesus’ body was in the grave that Saturday? Don’t you find your heart eager to run and celebrate the empty tomb on Sunday morning?
There certainly is a wonderous truth that every Sunday we celebrate our Living Savior; the very day that we know is now set apart for rest and worship has changed from the last day of the week to the first. But even with that weekly rhythm that God has graciously commanded us to keep, it is good to remember that the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection all happened over a literal weekend in Palestine while Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea. Let’s not forget that the history related to us in the Bible really happened2, it is not made up! We do not base our hope on myth or legend or fairy tales; instead, let’s rejoice and loudly proclaim that Jesus really died and rose again!
As we anticipate this tremendous opportunity to witness to our community this Easter—since there is still an echo of understanding that this is a Christian holiday—allow me to pose some questions about these three days that you might be asked or might be able to winsomely ask a friend or neighbor.
“Good” Friday – Do you know why Christians call this awful day “Good”? Do you know what happened that day and why it is eternally significant? What happened on the cross? Why was it necessary that Jesus Christ was crucified? Why did he have to die so that we might be saved? Why don’t we call it “Sad” Friday? Did Jesus really die on the cross? (Muslims are taught that he didn’t.) How does the cross display both the love and justice of God? Why is the empty cross a prominent symbol of Christianity?
“Silent” Saturday – What was happening on this day between Jesus’ death and resurrection? Do we even think about our Savior on this day, or is it just another day like other weekends? It certainly was a Sabbath like no other for the first disciples! They were caught between the certainly was a Sabbath like no other for the first disciples! They were caught between the harsh reality of witnessing the death of Jesus on a Roman cross and not yet experiencing the reality of the Risen Christ. Should we pay attention to this day too? Why is it significant that He was buried? How do skeptical theories—like the “swoon theory”—that deny the resurrection fail in the face of Jesus’ burial? How could this time when Jesus’ body was “resting” in the grave before rising from the dead give us peace and hope when we stand before the grave of a loved one?
Easter Sunday – What do we celebrate on this day? Why is the fact that Jesus rose from the dead essential for our faith and life? What is lost if Jesus did not rise, if there is no resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15)? Why do Christians gather for a sunrise service on Easter Sunday? How does the resurrection make Christianity different from other religions? Do you know why this is a movable holiday? How does this help remind us that we are celebrating an actual historical event? How do you celebrate that Jesus is alive? Could you invite someone to celebrate with you this year? Is there someone you can invite in order to explain why you are celebrating this day? (Many international students never get invited into an American home, and many are curious to learn about our culture and customs—Easter is an excellent opportunity to share the love of Christ and truth of the Gospel!)
A Few Helpful Resources – books and booklets
- The Cross in Four Words by Kevin DeYoung, Richard Coekin, and Yannick Christos-Wahab. 90 pages
- The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul. 167 pages (but it’s a small book = 6 ½” x 4 ½”)
- Why Did Jesus Have to Die by Marcus Nodder. 96 pages
- Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb by Val Grieve. 75 pages
- Alive: How the Resurrection of Christ Changes Everything by Gabriel Fluhrer. 153 pages
- Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life by Sam Allberry. 142 pages
Three Evangelistic booklets for Easter:
- Easter Uncut: What Really Happened and Why It Really Matters by Carl Laferton
- Happily Ever After: How Easter Can Change Your Life for Good by Jonty Allcock
- Easter in Three Words by William Taylor
May God bless you this month as you think deeply about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lived and died and rose again that we might be saved and have eternal life!
May we be a blessing to those around us as we testify to the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection and bear witness to the transformation of our lives because of His.
1 “The Great Announcement” in Modern Reformation, January/February 2011.
2 An excellent resource that is very appropriate for personal or family devotions (with slightly older children) is a book by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived. There are charts, diagrams, and maps to help understand the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘when’ from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.