March 23 is Easter Sunday this year. It is the earliest Easter in my lifetime and is early because Easter is set on a lunar calender (rather than the solar one we usually use). Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon that follows the first day of Spring. By various celestial coincidences Thursday was the first day of Spring, Friday was the full moon and so Sunday is Easter. (That's probably TMI but there you go.)
At my church we have taken a lot of time and energy this past week to live through and remember the last week of Jesus earthly life. We celebrated with the crowds on Palm Sunday, we felt the pain of betrayal on Wednesday, we gathered and recalled the Last Supper on Thursday and through walking the Stations of the Cross, Tennebrae and a service of Reconciliation we remembered the events of Jesus crucifixion, death and burial on Good Friday.
All of those events are preliminaries. Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday would be meaningless without Easter. In fact, without Resurrection Day, we would not remember the events of those other days. Palm Sunday would be just another "false deliverer" event. Holy Thursday just another bad night for a group of friends. Good Friday would have been just another Roman execution. Life was cheap and in those days the Romans crucified hundreds if not thousands of people.
I am convinced that without the resurrection we would never have heard of nor never known about Jesus. But something happened that turned a band of broken, disheartened and despairing group of Jesus followers into a group of heroic and courageous leaders. Something happened that left these men and women so convinced that Jesus was alive that most of them, but reliable historical accounts, were martyred rather than deny that Jesus was their Lord. That something was Easter. That something was the dead and buried Jesus rising from the dead!
There is one more thing, it is a bit personal but here goes. I believe the resurrection is the central historical FACT of Jesus life because I have met Jesus. I know him as I might know any other living being. It is not that I know about him, like I might know about Helen of Troy or Francis of Assisi, but that we actually have a relationship. This relationship is dynamic, growing, and life changing. I believe in the resurrection because Jesus is alive and strong and seeks to bring life, healing and hope to any and all who will call upon him.
Have a most blessed Resurrection Day. Those of us who know Jesus rejoice in remembering that he was dead and is now alive. Those of us who do not know Jesus, Easter is a great day to begin!