Easter Day Family Communion - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now this morning we are thinking about the Easter story, but I wonder what you think Easter is all about? You see for some people, Easter is about these sorts of things: It might be bunnies. (Slide 2-bunnies) They look lovely and fluffy don’t they, and some people think that Easter is all about bunnies. I’m not sure why, but that’s what some people think about Easter! Other people might think that Easter is all about chicks (Slide 3-chicks). After all, chicks remind us of new life and they come from eggs, so maybe lots of people just think Easter is all about chicks. But I guess most of us think that Easter is about eggs. Some might be thinking of eggs like this at this point (Slide 4-Faberge egg). You’re perhaps hoping that you might get one of these eggs from a family member. Because these are very expensive eggs and not usually given out in the Buttery household. But most of us will probably get an egg like this (Slide 5- chocolate), with lots of chocolaty goodies inside. So maybe that’s what Easter is all about. Eating eggs, something perhaps you’re hoping to do later on. Of course, there is one thing that some people love about Easter time, and that is that it comes at spring time, (Slide 6- flowers) so it’s a great time for flowers. So maybe Easter is all about daffs or tulips. But actually when we open our Bibles, we find that Easter is about something far more exciting. And that is what we are going to discover this morning.
But first I thought it would be good to remind ourselves about the Easter story, because although we read about it every year and sometimes more, yet it’s such an amazing story, that I think we need to hear about again. And it’s often easy to grow tired of this amazing story! And to help us remember there are five hints hidden in eggs around the church building. And I’ve got five clues to help find those five eggs. So children, see if you can find the eggs as quickly as possible and bring them back to me. (Slide 7- Clues) Now while the children are finding the eggs, it’s worth us being aware that Easter can be a time when we simply remember and do nothing about the truths we hear. But as we will see the Easter story is not just a story about Jesus some two thousand years old. It’s a message that is very relevant to you and me, and vitally important that we hold onto for the rest of our lives.
Well it looks as if the children have found the clues so let’s remind ourselves of the story. And our first clue from our first egg is a picture of a police line. (Slide 8- Jesus arrested) It reminds us first that Jesus was arrested. Because Jesus took all his friends to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night. Jesus had just had a final meal with his disciples and he’d told them that he was going to be betrayed by a close friend and that he would die on the cross. (Slide 9- Jesus) But Jesus needs to ask God for strength to go through with such a terrible thing. And if there was any way that Jesus could avoid having to suffer, then maybe God would do that. But it was not to be, because this was God’s plan to save people like you and me. And when Jesus had finished praying, one of his close friends, a man called Judas, came and brought a whole group of soldiers with him. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus. Can you imagine one of your best friends lying to you and handing you over to the police. And Judas did it just for money. A few pounds, not much at all. But let’s have a look at our second clue from our next egg and this is a picture of a gavel- Jesus goes through a trial (Slide 10- Jesus tried) Jesus was taken to the most powerful man in Israel at the time, a man called Pilate. And Pilate had the power to kill people. So he asked Jesus again and again why people were accusing him. Had Jesus done something wrong? But Jesus wouldn’t answer. He just stood there in silence not saying a word. And after trying to talk to Jesus, Pilate said that he could find no reason to kill Jesus. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He was totally innocent. So all the things people were saying against Jesus were untrue. So what should Pilate have done? He should have let Jesus go! (Slide 11- Pilate) But Pilate was afraid of what his boss the Roman Emperor would think, so he asked the people what they wanted to do with Jesus. And do you remember what they shouted? Crucify him! Crucify him! In other words, the people wanted Jesus to die on the cross. And that brings us on to our third egg- and a picture of the cross, because next Jesus is crucified (Slide 12- Jesus crucified). So the soldiers took Jesus to the top of a hill and put him on the cross, along with two robbers who were crucified either side of Jesus. And there Jesus stayed for three hours, before he died. And our fourth egg, which has a picture of a rock in it, (Slide 13- Jesus buried) shows us that next Jesus was buried in a friend’s tomb. He really was dead! No doubt about it! Now we might have thought that was the end of the story. But it’s not. Because our fifth egg shows us what happened next. It’s got a picture of a sunrise in it, (Slide 14- Jesus rises) and reminds us that on the morning of Sunday, Jesus rose again. He appeared to a couple of his friends and then all his disciples by the end of the day.
Now that is the fantastic story of Easter. But what does it all mean? Well Paul in his letter to his friends in Corinth which we read earlier tells us why Easter is such good news. And there are two things for us to learn.
15- Title 1)
(Slide 15- Title 1)
First of all, Easter is such good news because Easter is about real forgiveness. So let’s remember what Paul said in his letter to his friends in Corinth. In verse 3 of our reading, we discover this. Paul says: "What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." This says Paul is really really important! We need to listen very carefully to what Paul is saying. He says Jesus died for our sins. Now what does that mean?
Well let me explain. You see when we look at ourselves and examine our own hearts, we often think we are a bit like this! (Slide 16- Gold heart) We think we have hearts of gold, but we’re not perfect. So there are bits of black on our hearts. We sometimes don’t do what people ask us to do, we say the odd lie, we don’t do our homework on time, we hurt our brother or sister, that sort of thing! Basically we think we’re OK. And when it comes to God, he thinks we’re ok too. He’s a nice guy who likes nice people and he will let us in to heaven, to live with him forever. That’s what we think a lot of the time. The trouble is though, it’s wrong. And it’s not what God thinks at all. Because actually our hearts are more like this- (Slide 17- Black heart). Our hearts are black. Now that doesn’t mean that we do wrong all the time. But our big problem is that we do not and we cannot do what is right. We often do what we want and we are not perfect. We don’t live up to our own standards, let alone God’s. And God’s says in order to be friends with me and live with me you need to be 100% perfect, because, he says, I am 100% perfect. And even if we have just done one thing wrong, we’ve blown it. Because deep down we always want to do what we want to do. And so our hearts are black. But that is why Easter is such good news. Because God would not let his precious people stay like that. God loves us very much and longs for us to be friends with him again. And he allows his only Son to take our black hearts and get rid of them. (Slide 18- Red heart) It means he has to die on a cross, because when we sin against God it is very serious and God says we must die for our sin. But instead Jesus dies in our place. And he cleans us up and takes away all that black stuff in our hearts. And if we trust in what Jesus has done for us, then our hearts are washed clean and forgiven. (Slide 19- Gold heart) It doesn’t mean we are perfect, but we are forgiven. And when God looks on our hearts, he sees forgiven, washed clean hearts. To him there is now nothing wrong, because Jesus has died in our place where we should have died.
Now that is actually fantastic news, because the most important thing in the whole world is to be friends with God. Because he made us and he loves us and life is for living with God at the centre. And what happened at Easter time makes that possible. And although this is a message we hear again and again, yet let us never ever get tired of hearing it. Because it’s the best news in the world. It means we must not allow guilt to eat away at our hearts, because we know we’re forgiven. And it guarantees that when we see God face to face, we’ll meet him as a friend and not as an enemy!
But there’s one other thing that Paul talks about when he talks about Easter. (Slide 20- Title 2) And that is that Easter is such good news because Easter is about real hope. Because Jesus did not stay dead. He rose again from the dead. He is alive today! And that is why Paul talks about all the different people who have seen Jesus alive. He says in verse 4 that "Jesus was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve disciples. And after that he appeared to more than five hundred people at the same time." (Slide 21- Jesus alive) So just a few days after Jesus’ friends had seen him die and be buried, they saw him alive again! And they were amazed! And Jesus says that even 500 people saw Jesus alive!
Now that is amazing, and to help us understand this a little better, I’m going to do something amazing in your presence, right here this morning! You see sometimes, we might wonder did Jesus really rise from the dead. I mean it doesn’t often happen does it. So how can we be sure it really did happen. Well because Paul says lots of people saw it happen. Now all the way through the service, my trusty assistant Gary has been doing something. He’s been cooking me a cheese toastie! Yes, here in St. John’s Gary has been cooking me a toastie. I often get a bit peckish during the services, and I can’t really eat when I’m preaching or leading the service, as people might just spot me. But this morning is different! I thought I’d do it. So here we go- Eat toastie! And it’s very tasty!
Now when you go home or talk to friends about what you did today, they might ask you what happened in church. And you’ll have to say that Nathan cooked and ate a toastie! And your friends and family will say: "What? In church? That’s outrageous! You can’t do that! I don’t believe you!" But it really did happen, and there are two hundred people here this morning who have seen it happen. We are not all mad. We have really seen it with our own eyes and if you really wanted to, you could come up and touch me and the toastie to make sure I wasn’t faking it!
Now just because something is hard to believe does not mean it is untrue. And it’s the same when Jesus rose from the dead. Just because it’s unusual does not mean it didn’t happen! It did and Paul says five hundred people and lots of others saw Jesus! But notice in verse 2, what Paul says. Because the resurrection of Jesus is not just a historical fact. It is also something that has very big implications. It means that we can be saved, but we must hold firmly to this truth. (Slide 22- Jesus is king!) It means you see that Jesus has defeated death and is alive again. And that means we need not worry about the future! Because we know that whatever happens to us we are with Jesus forever! He has won and he is the King of kings. It means we have a real solid hope of being with Jesus forever in his perfect place!
So why is Easter such good news? Well because it’s about real forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross for us. And we can know his forgiveness even today. And it’s about real hope. Jesus rose again and defeated sin and death. And it means we have a wonderful future to look forward, which begins now when we trust in him!
2) Easter is such good news because Easter is about real hope
1) Easter is such good news because Easter is about real forgiveness
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