Easter

Preaching and Worship Resources about Easter

Easter is the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection.

In Scripture

My redeemer lives "'For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God'" (Job 19:25 - 26).

Ransom "But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me" (Ps. 49:15).

God's rule "The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting" (Ps. 93:1 - 2).

God redeems people and land "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south" (Ps. 107:2 - 3).

God's faithfulness "Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!" (Ps. 117:1-2).

God's salvation "I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (Ps. 118:21 - 22).

God's redemptive work in history "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever" (Ps. 136:1).

God destroys death "He will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken" (Isa. 25:8).

The ransomed of the Lord "So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isa. 51:11).

New creation promised "For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind" (Isa. 65:17).

God gathers his people "Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jer. 31:2 - 3).

Christ given dominion "As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13 - 14).

Zechariah's vision of a redeemed future "'Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch. For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day'" (Zech. 3:8 - 9).

Mathew's resurrection story "The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay'" (Matt. 28:5 - 6).

Mark's resurrection story "As [the women] entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, `Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him'" (Mark 16:5 - 6).

Luke's resurrection story "The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen'" (Luke 24:5).

Jesus predicts his resurrection "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews then said, 'This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?' But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken" (John 2:19 - 22).

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die'" (John 11:25 - 26).

John's resurrection story "Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed" (John 20:6 - 8).

Peter proclaims the resurrection to the Gentiles "'God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead'" (Acts 10:40 - 41).

Dying and rising with Christ "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his" (Rom. 6:5).

The Spirit of Christ "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).

Resurrection hope for all "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." (1 Cor. 15:20 - 22).

Life in Christ "And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13 - 14).

A living hope "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).

Points to Ponder

Joy, celebration, renewal The Easter morning service is for joy, celebration, and renewal. Even churches that do not customarily follow the church year celebrate this day as the culmination of the gospel. "The hopes and fears of all the years" culminate in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, making Easter the most celebrative day of the church year.

Worship space should be bright and celebratory Easter's liturgical colors are white and gold. In contrast to the somber starkness of Holy Week, on Easter the worship space should be bright and celebratory. Music and songs reflect the full joy of the Christian faith because of Christ's victorious resurrection.

Eastertide Because the good news of Easter can hardly be contained in a single day's celebration, Easter is only the first of fifty days of Eastertide, the "Great Fifty Days" that lead up to Pentecost. This season is designed for extended celebration, for exploring the ramifications of Easter for the redemption of all creation, and for joyful Christian living.

Easter Vigil Some traditions begin their Easter celebration with an Easter Vigil service, either late Saturday evening or very early Sunday morning. The vigil recapitulates the biblical theme of redemption history through readings, helping worshipers see the powerful sweep of God's actions throughout history. In this way it provides the entrance into Easter. The vigil usually begins outside, in darkness, and opens with a processional into the worship space. Historically, the baptism of persons instructed in the faith took place (and still does) as part of this vigil. Traditional readings for Easter Vigil services include passages from the Old Testament that recount the history of salvation (Gen. 1:1 - 2:2; 7:1 - 5; 8:6 - 18; 9:8 - 13; 22:1 - 18; Ex. 14:10 - 15:1; Isa. 54:5 - 14; 55:1 - 11; Ezek. 36:24 - 28; 37:1 - 14; Zeph. 3:14 - 20) as well as Psalm 114, Romans 6:3 - 11, and one of the gospel accounts of the resurrection (Matt. 28:1 - 10; Mark 16:1 - 8; or Luke 24:1 - 12).

Jesus Christ's resurrection is the central event of the Christian religion and of all human history. Christians who make this confession are talking not about the resurrection of faith in the disciples, or of hope in the women at the tomb, or of tulips in the spring. They are confessing the real resurrection of a horribly dead Jesus. As the Apostles' Creed says pointedly, "he was crucified, died, and was buried."

The first message of the gospel But on the third day, in a spectacular miracle, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and changed the history of the world. The first message of the gospel, a message with power to straighten the spine of every believer, is simply this: "The Lord is risen." "He is risen indeed!" Preaching, sacraments, evangelism, Christian social action — even worship on Sunday instead of on Saturday — all center on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To the desperate and bewildered, Christians say, "The Lord is risen." To doubters, Christians say, "The Lord is risen." To martyrs who sing to God while their enemies set them on fire, "The Lord is risen." To the poor of the world who first suffer the indignity of their poverty, and then the desolation of being blown out of their houses by hurricanes or washed out by flood — all because they are too poor to build anything on habitable land — to these people, Christians say, "The Lord is risen."

The platform for Christian action Proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus isn't nearly everything Christians have to offer the world, but it's the platform for everything they have to offer. Every Christian hospital, college, orphanage, media ministry, counseling service, political party, relief agency, and AIDS clinic builds on this platform. Christian hope builds on this platform. In fact, a Christian's hope rises with Christ because Christians see in his resurrection that God's grace cannot be defeated, not even by death itself.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.