Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege of attending a networking event hosted by Ott Farms and Vineyard in Ellijay, GA. The weather was a flawless spring afternoon; the property was gorgeous. The only things more encouraging than the pristine setting were the stories of success that were shared among our community’s business leaders. God is truly blessing the people of our community with a growing population, a sustainable tourism industry, a renaissance of flourishing local businesses, and more.
As I networked with these leaders, my conversations typically ended something like this: “I’m looking forward to following-up with you, but it probably won’t be until after Easter.”
Almost universally, I received the following response: “I completely understand. This week is probably like your Super Bowl.”
In one sense, this week is like Super Bowl week: for me, for our church, and likely for churches around the world. We feel the urgent weight of proclaiming the gospel message throughout our community. We are keenly aware of the many preparations which have yet to be completed. And we sense that this Easter weekend will be a momentous step forward in the life of our growing church family.
I imagine that a team preparing to play in the Super Bowl feels just about the same way: burdened by the weight of what lies ahead, and yet teeming with the energy of expectant anticipation.
Even so, I’m very reluctant to refer to this week as “Super Bowl” week.
The Super Bowl’s Slippery Slope of Uncertainty
In the world of professional football, the Super Bowl is a contest between two teams which have worked incredibly hard, and which have overcome various adversities throughout the season (usually both on and off the field). Both teams are usually deserving of recognition, of trophies, and of parades in their hometown. Yet only one team will receive those honors; the other will fade into the annuls of anonymity (or, as my fellow Atlanta sports fans know all too well, into the annuls of infamy!) Which team wins, and which team loses, isn’t decided until the 4th Quarter scoreboard reads 0:00 (or until a 28-3 comeback is completed in overtime…)
This level of pressure and uncertainty has little to do with Easter. For Christians, for ministers, and for churches alike, the gospel message is much sweeter than a high-stakes football contest.
Victory in Jesus
A football team arrives to the Super Bowl solely on the basis of its hard work and accomplishment. As believers, we are invited to gaze in faith at the empty tomb of our Savior: not on the basis of what we have or haven’t done in life, but solely on the basis of what Jesus has accomplished for us. The death and resurrection of Jesus do more than afford us an opportunity at eternal life that we may or may not botch. Because Christ died and rose again, God the Father already views believers as being seated in heaven (just see Ephesians 2:4-6). Our eternal life is secure.
Only one team from the Super Bowl will be honored and praised. Yet all who hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus will be treated as royalty by God the Father himself – not just for a moment, but for each and every moment (and ultimately, for eternity). Ephesians 2:7 describes that God’s purpose in killing Jesus for JV-Squad rebels like me and you was to make us one with the crucified and risen Savior…in order that God might love on us forever in the exact same ways that he has been loving on Jesus from eternity past.
Yes. You read that correctly. God the Father nailed his Son to a cross and raised him back to life because he is delighted to enjoy, nourish, cherish, and bless people like me and you – forever. That victory is ours, and it is held secure for us by the unclenching fist made by King Jesus’ nail-scarred, resurrected hand.
And if that wasn’t enough…there’s more.
In his last address to his followers before ascending back into heaven (recorded in Luke 24:44-49), Jesus connects his death and resurrection with the Old Testament promise of God to bless all the families of the earth through the offspring of Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3).
Because Jesus died and rose again, the Holy Spirit lives and moves among the people of God.
Because Jesus died and rose again, people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language are guaranteed to respond to the gospel message with saving faith.
Because Jesus died and rose again, the gospel message will gain a hearing with everyone whom the Lord God calls to himself.
Rest and Hope for Christians who are Weary from Easter
So, to everyone who is already weary with Easter-related ministry – every children’s ministry volunteer, every person who is giving up valuable weekend time for community outreach, every Passion Play performer, every preacher who is struggling to find time for sermon preparation in a hectic Holy Week schedule – hear these holy words of gospel rest.
Easter isn’t the Super Bowl. It’s more like the post-Super Bowl victory parade.
Yes – preparation is required for Championship parades; so is careful planning, publicity, and lots of hard work. But Championship parades don’t determine whether or not there will be victory. They happen only because the victory is securely in-hand.
So, believer: as we carefully plan our Easter services this season, and as we wear ourselves out in the glorious service of King Jesus, remember this. We’re not working for victory, but from victory. No matter how many people attend our gatherings; no matter how many people respond to the gospel with saving faith; no matter how many new members are received into the fellowship of our churches – the following will remain true.
The tomb of Christ is empty.
Those whom he loves are already seated with him in heaven.
His banquet table has seats reserved for folks from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language.
Let’s invite the world to that victory parade. Starting this Easter weekend.