Easter All Year ’Round
Little Debbie, just turned four, went home from the children’s meeting, and began to tell her parents about the death of Jesus. Lying on the floor with her arms outstretched, she vividly demonstrated how the soldiers had nailed Him to the cross and lifted Him up to die.
Her young mind had been deeply impressed with the reality of Jesus’ death; but, sad to say, she had failed to realize that this was only part of the Easter story — indeed, only part of the Christian gospel!
The reason for this failure is obvious: she had been told only part of the Easter story! She had been taught only part of the Christian gospel!
Of course, during the Easter season this deficiency in our teaching of children is likely to be corrected in some measure at least. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes very prominent in our thinking at this time of the year, and our teaching is almost bound to reflect a more proportionate emphasis upon all of the basic gospel facts.
But what about the other fifty-one weeks of the year? Are we teaching our children the full Christian gospel at all times and in all seasons? Or are we only telling them again and again, “Believe that Jesus died for your sins, and you’ll be saved?”
No doubt the foregoing statement has its place as a part of Christian doctrine; but there is a very great difference between teaching one essential point of doctrine and teaching all essential points in their proper proportion.
Obviously, not every essential point of all Christian doctrine can be taught during each weekly lesson throughout the year. But at the same time, there is no good reason for mentioning the death of Jesus Christ more frequently than the resurrection of Jesus, for they both together make up the most basic essentials of all Christian doctrine.
In writing to the Corinthian Christians, Paul reminded them of the contents of the gospel which he had preached to them, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
The Lord’s Own Teaching
This was but an echo of the Lord’s own teaching; for time and time again as He told His disciples of His forthcoming death, He said that He would rise again (e.g., Matt. 16:21; 17:23).
We can scarcely over-emphasize the importance of giving due prominence to the resurrection of Jesus in all of our gospel teaching; for if we stress only or mainly the fact that He died, then our teaching in no wise distinguishes Him as a Man unique amongst men.
His uniqueness consists in His resurrection more than in any other experience or aspect of His life. Paul described himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ … set apart for the gospel of God … the gospel concerning His Son. Who was designated Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:1-4, R.S.V.)
It is because He rose from the dead that we are able to confidently trust in Him as the Son of God; and unless we present the gospel as an invitation to pledge one’s allegiance, loyalty, and devotion to Him as the Son of God, we are only inviting people to give to certain historical facts a kind of mental assent which can constitute nothing but a very shallow experience with God and His Word.
The Apostolic Ministry
Throughout their gospel ministry, the early apostles preached the resurrection repeatedly; not just on its anniversary, but over and over again at every opportunity the whole year round.
When a replacement was sought for the traitor Judas, the emphasis in apostolic witness was clearly intended to be the resurrection (Acts 1:20-22). And Peter exemplified this emphasis in his sermon on the day of Pentecost: “Jesus of Nazareth… being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it … This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:22-36).
In his next recorded sermon, Peter preached similar words, telling his audience that they had “killed the Prince of Life, Whom God hath raised from the dead … God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:15-26).
The effect of such preaching was evident, for the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees were “grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead”(Acts 4:2). When questioned about his preaching and the healing of the lame man, Peter boldly declared “that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole” (Acts 4:10).
Persistence and Power
Despite imprisonment and threats, however, the apostles continued to witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and this they did with great power and great grace (Acts 4:33). When brought again before the high priest, Peter told them once more, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly” (Acts 10:38-40).
Preaching in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, Paul too laid stress on both the death and the resurrection of the Saviour, Jesus: “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:23-41). He even went to some length in explaining how the resurrection of Jesus fulfilled some of the Davidic prophecies (Acts 13:32-37).
In the synagogue at Thessalonica, Paul “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead” (Acts 17:1-3). At Athens, too, “he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18,31).
As a prisoner before the Sanhedrin, Paul pressed home to his inquisitors that the hope and resurrection of the dead was the cardinal issue at stake (Acts 23:6). And then before Agrippa, he declared how “that Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23).
A Continuing Memorial
For the Sunday School teacher, the very day on which he meets with his class is a continuing memorial to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a constant, year-round opportunity to remind his pupils of the first Easter morn when the Saviour arose from the dead.
If the significance of the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, is clearly taught and continually reviewed, and if the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is stressed equally with His death, the results will surely be: first, a better appreciation of the person and work of our Saviour; and then, a fuller awareness of the might and majesty of the One Who would claim each child as His very own; and finally, a greater readiness to bow the knee and to yield the heart and life to Him Who alone is worthy!