Why Easter is Good For The Modern World

Title: Why Easter is Good For the Modern World

Text: Mark 4:17

Time: March 13th, 2012

 

Every year the Easter season comes and goes – and for worldly, secular, modern people it passes with a yawn and a shrug. But still, Easter is good for the world whether it realizes it or not. Now I’d love to say that Christians are never guilty of letting Easter pass by in apathy, but that would be wrong. Many Christians, like the unbelieving world, often view Easter as merely a holiday event on the calendar rather than an important season for thanks and praise. But for all the dosing off or sleeping during the Easter season or Easter service, nevertheless, Christians, the unbelieving world, and really all people, still need Easter and the message it brings. But before I say why Easter is still very important for believers and unbelievers alike, let me set the context. For the last couple hundred years, the Western World, and almost the entire world, has undergone a revolutionary change – from traditional society into modern society.  For example, in traditional societies, God was at the center of things, but in the modern society, man is the center of all things. In traditional societies faith was most important, but in modern societies human reason is supreme. In traditional societies church was a priority, but in modern societies education is exalted. This is only a short list, but I think we all get the picture. In the United States, the modern world has progressed from a few Enlightenment ideas discussed among intellectuals in the early days to today where it seems that only Enlightenment ideas are allowed in conversation. To bring in Christian doctrines or morals to the conversation one will likely get rebuked, “That’s just your opinion. Keep your private beliefs out of it.” This is totally different from traditional societies where faith was front and center in all discussions. Now today faith is pushed further and further to the side. We see this particularly in government and other large institutions. The result is that most nations of the Western World are secular today, some more, some less. For example, Europe is ahead of the United States in approaching a totally secular society, but we aren’t too far behind. Our government today is almost or nearly entirely secular — and with its expansion society becomes more and more secular as well. The point is, we live in a secular society where God and faith in God are pushed aside for other human, worldly priorities. Now why is the Easter season so important? Because it is one of the few occasions in our modern, secular world that points us all back to faith in God. Christmas does this and so does Easter. But more people attend churches at Easter time than any other time of the year. And while it isn’t as big a season as Christmas, it carries more theological and spiritual weight. People are reminded of such topics as life and death, and life after death. They are confronted with miracles and faith. So it’s really an important time of the year for all people. But let me explain further.

 

First, at Easter everyone is reminded of the supernatural. Matthew 28:5-6, “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” The Easter season confronts us all again with the supernatural reality of God. Why is this important? Because living in a modern, secular society we mostly ignore miracles and the supernatural. One of the results of the Enlightenment’s influence on modern life is the absence of belief in miracles and the supernatural of any kind. Modern education is almost totally void of any credible belief in the supernatural. In fact, at the university level, professors often take delight in deconstructing young students’ faith by debunking or discrediting all belief in the supernatural. Modern science today seems to be warring against all supernatural or miraculous belief. The assumption of the modern world is that miracles don’t happen or can’t happen; that the only thing that operates are the eternal laws of nature as uncovered by scientific inquiry. Any talk of the supernatural or miracles is simply ignorance of a truly scientific explanation. The modern society views miracles as something that one can believe only by faith, not by reason. In other words, there are plenty of people who still believe in miracles, yes, but they believe not with their minds but with their hearts, irrationally or for sentimental reasons. Isn’t this the message we get from most television documentaries on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel? Over in Europe, in England and France, it’s even worse; but it’s getting pretty bad in the United States also. There seems to be almost an outright attack on supernatural faith in the modern world today. People say, “Keep your religion in the churches and hold to it privately, but don’t bring it in public.” The result is that our population is becoming more secular, more godless and more unbelieving. While belief in God is about the same, people don’t take God as serious as they once did. People still pray, a little, once in a while, but not like before, when it meant a lot to one’s faith. People still read from the Bible, occasionally, but not like before, when it was the main source of faith and instruction for life. People still attend church, some still do, but not as much as before, when attending was important and essential for practicing the Christian faith. This is why Easter is so important each year, because it points a wayward and backslidden culture back to God – whether they want to be reminded or not! It forces people to think about the supernatural and miracles, whether they believe or not. In the above verse, we see a number of supernatural elements. We see an angel, a supernatural being; we see the claim Jesus rose from the dead, a supernatural event; and we see the reminder of Christ’s prophecy that he would rise, a reference to supernatural knowledge. Easter confronts us with these and other supernatural activities. Do we believe in miracles? Can we believe in them? And if so, what are the consequences? This is all really good for our secular souls. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

Second, at Easter everyone is reminded that God has a plan. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We don’t often think about this verse, this most popular and famous verse in the whole New Testament, in terms of revealing a plan, God’s plan, but it does. This verse often pops up, oddly enough, at football games and other sporting events. It actually has nothing to do with football or any other sport. It’s seen in stadiums because somebody, the guy who used to bring a sign with “John 3:16” on it, thought that he could get the Word of God out by doing so. And he did get attention from people. It’s world famous. But what we don’t realize is the verse reveals a plan from God for humanity. It reveals that God loved people enough to come up with a plan to save them from their sins by sending Jesus to die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice. Then, according to the plan, by placing our faith in Jesus for salvation, we are in fact saved from punishment and saved to eternal life with God in heaven. That’s the plan. Now this part of Easter, the cross, shows that God has a plan for men and women in the modern world. He hasn’t forgotten about us. Around the time of the founding of our nation, back in the late 18th century, Deism was a popular religious belief. It taught that God created the world, but then left it to its own natural course. It’s a little like the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. We came, we set up democratic governments, now we are leaving to let the people run things on their own. That may not be a very good illustration, but you get the point. According to Deism, God started everything but then left it to run naturally on its own. And that’s about how most people think and act in respect to God today. For most people God is a distant entity. The Bible talks about God’s intervention, but that isn’t the reality that most people today operate under. So in our modern, secular world, most people operate at best as deists and at worst as atheists. But Christianity teaches something entirely different. It teaches that God has a plan for us and also that he is working out that plan. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are key parts to the plan of God. Easter draws our attention once again to the plan of God for the salvation of men and women. It’s a good witness to the salvation plan of God, called the gospel, because it leads people to ask, “What is Easter all about? What is this Easter?” In a world that has largely given up on any ultimate meaning or purpose – secularism teaches that we are merely the product of forces and bangs and collisions and chance occurrences of nature – Easter interjects meaning and purpose from beyond into our lives. Again, we are confronted either to believe it or not. This is good and healthy for us Americans today.

 

Third, at Easter everyone is reminded that God cares. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Returning to John 3:16 again, we notice that it says, “For God so loved the world” – or in other words, God cares. Easter is part of God’s supernatural plan because God cares about us, our lives, how things turn out. It’s a supernatural plan because a natural plan wouldn’t cut it, wouldn’t accomplish the outcome God is seeking, that is, to save people to heaven. If it were all up to nature, the laws of nature, we’d die and that would be the end of it. That’s what a lot of people think today in our modern, secular, nearly atheistic world. In England and Europe, the category “non-religious” is pretty high, nearly 30% of the people. In the United States it isn’t that high, but it’s going up. Why? Because people are thinking more and more that maybe nature is ultimate, that maybe only the laws of nature rule, not God, not the supernatural. But Easter is a time when we are reminded again that God rules, not nature. The laws of nature must yield to the supernatural God of heaven. God has a plan because he loves us. His plan calls for the overruling of natural laws in the resurrection of Christ. This demonstrates that God is God; he’s in charge of things not nature. Now it’s perfectly natural to die, all living things die eventually. But it’s supernatural to come back to life like Christ did. And it’s perfectly natural for all of us to die one day; and when they place us in the ground, it’s perfectly natural for our bodies to rot and decompose. But it’s supernatural for our soul to rise and join God in heaven forever. But that’s the plan of God because he loves us. He hasn’t forgotten about us down here on earth. He isn’t off at some distant place working on something else, with his mind on other things, forgetting us on earth. No. He cares about us; he has a plan to rescue us. The death and resurrection of Christ was an important part in the plan, but we also have an important role to play in God’s plan. We must trust that Jesus did die for our sins and did forgive us and pay our sin debt. We must trust in his promise to save us and take us to eternal life after our time is done here on earth. Yes, the resurrection helps us in our faith because it demonstrates the power of God over the natural death process. It shows us that God can overrule nature if that’s his plan, but we still must do our part, and play our role by believing. Do you believe this morning? Can you trust in God through Jesus Christ today? That’s our part in God’s plan, each of our part. Easter is a time of year to think seriously about such things, if we haven’t done so already. Easter gives us a basis for hope, for meaning and purpose in this life, and in continued life in the world to come. Can you embrace that hope?

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