Easter Sunday (B)
I Corinthians 15:1-11
March 31, 2024

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle from Saint Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.

There’s a story about a Christian missionary sent to East Asia to a tribe who had never heard of Jesus.  He started by showing them a Jesus movie.  They so quickly became engrossed in the story, that when Jesus was arrested and beaten, they became outraged and loudly protested.  The man who had adored the children and the so-called sinners, the one who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead was being treated unjustly.  The missionary calmed them by telling them that there was more to the story.  At the crucifixion of Jesus the people were wailing, crying, and carrying on, so again he told them the story wasn’t over.  When the scene shifted to the resurrection, the tribe went absolutely bonkers.  They danced and laughed, hugged, slapped each other on the back, and shed tears of joy.  It was like they were eyewitnesses to the first Easter Day!  What an incredible turn of events!  He is risen!  What a joyful phrase!  It’s more than a phrase, it’s a confession!  Our Lord and Savior, crucified for our sins, is alive!  There’s no greater news!  And it’s in this incredible news that we rejoice today.

It is a joyful day, isn’t it?  The church is decorated, the hymns are powerful, the lilies have bloomed, new Easter outfits abound, and soon there will be family dinners and egg hunts.  And even though the sun’s not shining, it’s a beautiful day.  He’s risen and we rejoice.

It’s easy to be happy on Easter but Easter joy isn’t found in the lilies or the other trappings.  It certainly isn’t found in Easter baskets or bunnies, chocolate or furry.  Christian joy is found in the Risen Lord, and the trick is to hold on to this joy when the holiday is over, and everything gets back to normal.  It’s here that Saint Paul’s words fit so well.  He says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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.”  This Easter news, what Paul calls the most important thing, is something that we can’t forget or take for granted.  It shapes our lives by reminding us of Jesus’ acts to save us.  It gives us hope when in His resurrection, we find our own resurrection.  Sin is paid for, Satan and Death are defeated, sins are forgiven, eternal life is assured.  This simple formula should fill us with joy!

The author Steven Covey says that “the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”  In other words, whatever you deem to be the most important thing in your life, you must work to keep it the main thing.  If your family is your main thing, don’t let work replace them.  The main thing about Easter, the most important event in the history of ever, is to be the main thing every day of your life.  There will be never a day, not even a second, when Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t the main thing.  We Christians though don’t hold on to that main thing like we should.

The important thing gets pushed to the side and out of the way by work, extracurricular activities for the kids, hobbies, sloth, ambivalence.  Too many days we barely think about Him, let alone consider Him to be the most important.  What happens to our Easter joy?  I suppose it’s because most days are nothing special or perhaps you think you’re too busy to have much time for Jesus.  Perhaps the days bring nothing new, just the same old, same old stuff.  So little purpose for life.  So little importance for Jesus.

Now you might be thinking “But Pastor I can’t be joyful, I don’t want to be joyful, I’m sick, I’m hurting, my life is a mess, and I’m stressed to the max.  Give me one reason to joyful!”  You’re right, you might not be happy, but you can be joyful.  What’s the difference, you may ask.  Happiness is an emotion.  Joy is a condition.  Saint Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  This is what happens when you hold on to the most important thing.  You don’t have to celebrate your struggles and heartaches, but you find joy in the hope that comes from God.  You can look to the risen Christ and trust that He who conquered Sin and Death has conquered what you’re experiencing right now.  Have peace knowing that He who died for you also rose for you and will one day bring you to Himself.  Joy and peace come from God’s promises fulfilled by and in Jesus.  How do you know God loves you, look at Jesus.  How do you know God hasn’t forgotten you, look at Jesus.  He is the one who gives you joy in the midst of unhappiness.

Paul goes on to say, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.”  Believe the joyful news of the Gospel!  Trust that the life and work of Jesus is how you are saved!  I’m giving you the astonishing news that you’re forgiven!  Right here, right now.  The Gospel is preached to you and when you believe it, you hold on to it tightly so you don’t lose it.  Squeeze that Easter joy to your chest and never let it go!  Because it is life changing!

If you blend the Easter accounts from all four Gospels, you will get a pretty good idea of the emotional upheaval among the disciples.  The horribly depressing events of Friday.  The Saturday spent hiding from the Jews, so they’re not treated the same way.  The sleepless nights and the inability to eat.  The women heading to the tomb wondering who was going to move the stone away.  Mary Magdalene asking the gardener where Jesus’ body is.

But then what happens?  The women find the empty tomb and hear the word of angels.  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.”  Peter and John race to the tomb to see if it’s really empty.  The women seeing Jesus.  Mary Magdalene hearing Him speak her name.  The disciples Sunday night when Jesus just appears in the room.  Do you think they may have been a little joyful?  Of course they were, and we need to have that same joy also.

Jesus was dead, now He’s alive.  He was dead for us, now He’s alive for us.  In His resurrection sadness is turned to joy, tears to laughter, painful darkness to eternal light!  This is why we rejoice!  The main thing changes everything!  Battered by your sins and guilt?  Cling to the risen Savior.  Broken down by life?  Fall at His nail scarred feet.  Health collapsing, look at Him who conquers all things.   Everything is different than it was before, so rejoice in Christ!  There is so much that makes us unhappy, but there’s nothing that the joyful news of the resurrection can’t top or promise.

Cling to the joy when you leave here.  Keep the main thing, your main thing. It’s going to be hard at times, but when the most important thing is your main thing, you’re not alone.  The risen Savior is with you wherever you go!  Supporting you, leading you, encouraging you, forgiving you!  The crucified and risen Savior will never run off on you, He’ll never turn His back on you.  Rejoice for He is risen!

For many around us, Easter is just another Sunday, but for the faithful, it’s not.  It’s a day to praise the Lord, sing our Alleluias, and rejoice in our salvation. It’s a day to celebrate, hug, slap each other on the back!  Yes, I know you’ve heard the Easter story too many times to count, and I know that it’s tempting to consider it stale news which isn’t all that important because you know it.  Is this the truth!  Not at all!  And when Christians consider Easter just another day, they need to repent!  It’s not just another day.

Rejoice!  Don’t sit there all gloomy, try smiling!  Don’t leave here with you head hung low.  Rejoice for the main thing has delivered you from sin and death.  He who was dead is now alive.  He who was dead now sits at the right hand of the Father. He who ascended into Heaven will never leave you alone!  Is there any better reason to rejoice?  I don’t think so!  Let’s sing our alleluias, praise our Lord, and sing our hymns for the main thing, the most important thing is Jesus, and the joy He gives lasts all year long, because He is risen!


Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen