Easter is with us again, and it’s never been more relevant. Ukraine is devastated by war; our nation continues to move away from its ‘Christian’ past to neo-paganism. Christians and the Christian faith are being pushed more and more to the margins of society while hostility towards Christian teaching and practice, especially in the public square, is on the increase. And sickness, suffering and death are with us still; the marvels of modern medical science and care give relief and assist healing, and we are grateful – but sooner or later everyone dies; death is universal and so is grief.
However, Easter gives hope, for Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Every Lord’s Day, every ‘first day of the week’, is a celebration of his resurrection – but from at least the 2nd century, Christians have also celebrated the resurrection of Jesus annually. We call that celebration ‘Easter’. The origin of the word ‘Easter’ is obscure – it may ultimately originate in Indo-European words meaning ‘dawn’ – perhaps because ‘very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen’, the women found his tomb empty, except for a young man, dressed in white robes, who said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
Easter is both the beginning of God’s triumph and the guarantee of the certain completion of that triumph, for it celebrates Christ’s victory over the sin and misery and death that plagues humanity. The Bible makes it very clear that these things were not part of God’s ‘very good’ creation, but entered the world when Adam, the father of our race, sinned against God: ‘sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.’ In sentencing our first parents, God promised a Saviour – and Jesus is that Saviour; he came ‘to save his people from their sins’, and he did this by his death.
The prophets looked forward to his saving work: Isaiah wrote, ‘he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ Jesus said he would pay the price of sin; he said he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And his followers declared that he had done what the prophets had predicted and what Jesus had promised: ‘he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.’
However, without his resurrection his ‘cross work’ would have been incomplete; he ‘was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.’ Or, as Matthew Henry puts it, ‘He died to make atonement for our sins, to expiate our guilt, to satisfy divine justice. He was raised again for our justification, for the perfecting and completing of our justification. By the merit of his death he paid our debt, in his resurrection he took out our acquittance. When he was buried he lay a prisoner in execution for our debt, which as a surety he had undertaken to pay; on the third day an angel was sent to roll away the stone, and so to discharge the prisoner, which was the greatest assurance possible that divine justice was satisfied, the debt paid, or else he would never have released the prisoner: and therefore the apostle puts a special emphasis on Christ’s resurrection; it is Christ that died, yea, rather that has risen again.’
The ‘good news’ of Easter is the gospel, ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ – but even better (if ‘better’ is possible) is that we receive the benefits of Jesus saving work by faith, by believing, not by good works. When ‘doubting’ Thomas believed that Jesus was raised from the dead, and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And so the scripture says, ‘if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’
So here is hope: the apostle Peter writes: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.’ Here is hope to lift the spirits, hope to cure discouragement and despair, hope to bring us through the trials and troubles and disappointments of life safe at last into God’s nearer presence with joy – and it is for all who will believe in Jesus.
Furthermore, in this world where there is much injustice which often escapes just punishment and where evil and evil people often flourish while good people endure adversity and too often Christians are persecuted for their faith, the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that God will at the end of history do perfect justice for all: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Keeping this ‘day’ in view will help us trust God through injustice and even persecution; keeping this day in view will help us rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus our risen Saviour, for on that day the only safe place will be in him who died for us and rose again, for we have no righteousness of our own to stand before God in the judgment and not be condemned: our only certainty of safety then is to have the hope that is fixed in Jesus now, to be able to say with Edward Mote:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found:
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
 Mark 16:6
 Romans 5:12
 Genesis 3:15
 Matthew 1:21
 Isaiah 53:5-6
 Mark 10:45
 Hebrews 9:26
 Romans 4:25 – ‘justification’ = forgiveness of sins and the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to the believer.
 Matthew Henry, commentary on the text of Romans 4:25.
 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
 Romans 10:9
 1 Peter 1:3-5
 Acts 17:30-31
 Edward Mote, hymn, ‘My hope is built on nothing less’