Leader's Insight: What Difference Does Easter Make?
A lot of people say, "I believe in the resurrection; I just don't understand it." Pollster George Gallup said even 84 percent of people who never go to church believe Jesus rose from the dead. It is historical fact; it wasn't done in secret. The whole city of Jerusalem and the whole Roman Empire knew about it. It was news. If CNN had been there, they would have had it live.
There are at least 15 historical references to Jesus meeting people, touching people, and talking with people after he had been crucified. One time he cooked breakfast for some people. One time he talked to about 500 people after he had risen from the dead. A lot of people saw him.
Jesus did rise, he is who he said he was, he has the power he said he had, and he keeps the promises he makes. So what? Why does the resurrection matter? What difference does it make? It matters for three reasons.
1. My past can be forgiven.
That's good news. Have you ever been halfway through a project and wished you could start over? A lot of times people feel that way about life. They get halfway through and wish they could start over. We have all done things we wish we hadn't done, said things we wish we hadn't said, and thought things we wish we hadn't thought. We all have regrets. We all feel bad about things. We all have guilt.
A fellow pastor received this letter:
"I'm 31 years old and divorced, though I fought the divorce bitterly. I feel bad. I have no hope for my future. Often I go home and cry, but there's no one holding me when I cry. Nobody cares. Nothing changes, and I continue to fail. I'm stressed our emotionally, and I feel I'm on the verge of a collapse. Something is very wrong. But I feel so hurt and embittered that I can scarcely react or relate to others anymore. I feel as if I'm going to have to sit out the rest of my life in the penalty box."
The tragedy is, I know a lot of people like that. They can't get on with the present and the future because they're stuck in the past. Some guilt or regret has tied them down. Sometimes they're letting a former relationship mess up their current relationship. They say, "I guess I'll just have to live with this the rest of my life."
Here's the good news. Colossians 2:14 says: "He has forgiven all our sins and canceled every debt we owe. Christ has done away with it by nailing it to the cross."
This is God's pardon program. Jesus nailed it all to the cross. He paid for my guilt. That means I don't have to pay for it. He was hung for my hand-ups. Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, so I can quit nailing myself to the cross. He wants to forgive your past. He wants to cancel every debt you owe—emotional debts, relational debts, sins. All canceled.
2. My present problems can be managed.
The number one complaint I hear from people today is this: "My life is out of control." I hear it a thousand times:
I feel powerless to change the situation…
I feel powerless to break a bad habit…
I feel powerless to save a relationship…
I feel powerless to get out of debt…
Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.