What’s so special about Easter?
“Then Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to come into the land in the spring of the year. Once, as the Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a raiding party, so they threw the man into Elisha’s tomb. When he touched Elisha’s bones, the man revived and stood up! (2 Kings 13:20-21)”
That’s the passage for my sermon this coming Sunday. Weird, I know.
We’ve been preaching through 1 and 2 Kings at Revolve. The books cover the monarchy of Israel from the death of David until the exile into Babylon. Every time a new king steps onto the throne, you sense a collective deep breath as the people of Israel wonder if he will be a good king, and then a collective exasperated sigh as he shows himself to be just as bad than the king before. Kings is all about Israel waiting for a king like David, a king who would restore Israel to their united glory, but he never shows up.
Instead, we see lots of bad kings and two major prophetic figures - Elijah and Elisha. These men were a lot like us - normal people - who God used in a big way. Their lives meant something, and - apparently - even Elisha’s death meant quite a big deal!
But Jesus’ life and death meant a whole lot more. After all, he wasn’t just a prophet or even just a man. Jesus is the GodMan - 100% God, 100% Man, 100% melt your brain if you think about it too hard.
Jesus’ life meant something.
Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons from the oppressed, fed the hungry via miraculous means, championed for the poor, and stood up against corrupt power structures of the day. All of that would make you a good man in any culture under the sun, but that’s not what made Jesus’ life truly unique. Jesus' life was impactful first and foremost because Jesus was perfect, without sin, obedient to God in every respect.
Jesus, God among us, stepped into human skin, having the appearance of sinful flesh, but never engaging in sin. He was tempted by the same core idolatries and tendencies which haunt our days, yet never once stumbled or was weak in his nature.
Because of Jesus’ perfect life, his death was significant.
The religious power structure of the day couldn’t deal with Jesus. He flew in the face of their security and hierarchy. He spoke directly against their traditions, calling them empty and dead. In their eyes, they had to kill him - and that’s what they did. They rallied together a kangaroo court, made up some charges that were so ludicrous nobody believed them, and leveraged their mob until the local governor gave into their demands for his crucifixion.
What they didn’t realize, however, was that this was all part of God’s plan. If a man, guilty of rebellion and sin, were executed, his death would be just. Jesus, however, was innocent in every way and that paved the way for something only the prophets saw coming, but everyone else missed. Jesus would die as a substitute for sinful man. The perfect God, clothed in human flesh, would die so that sinful man, clothed in robes designed to cover his shame, could be declared not guilty.
On that cross, Jesus didn’t just die. God the Father poured out all of his stored up wrath on God the Son for crimes he didn’t commit. Jesus took the fall. He was crushed, pierced, stabbed, beaten, and despised - everything sinful mankind deserves - so that the guilty could walk away exonerated.
But Jesus didn’t stay dead.
God didn’t want to just cancel the debt of sin, he wanted to do something even more miraculous - he wanted to crush death and conquer it once and for all. When Jesus rose from the dead, that Easter morning all those years ago, he wasn’t just coming back to life, he was coming back to life in the form of something new - a first fruit of a new people cut from a different cloth, a different essence.
The resurrection is what procurs that newness, paves the way for it. He was the first of many to be resurrected, not to come back to life and die again, but to come to life and live forever.
This is why Easter and the resurrection is so important. It’s not just about some dead guy coming back to life. That’s what happened in 2 Kings 13. It would be more akin to the Moabite raiders, on their way back from slaughtering a village, stumbling upon secret that not only purged them of their guilt, but changed them forever, and turned them into sons of the Creator God. That’s the power of Easter.