This year will constitute the thirty-fourth time I have preached on Easter Sunday. I have felt four conflicting emotions each time.
One is excitement, of course, at the privilege of preaching on the resurrection to the largest crowds of the year.
There is no greater honor than to honor the risen Lord. And preaching to our biggest crowds is obviously an exciting experience.
A second is the pressure to perform, hoping to encourage those who come only on Easter to come back the next week.
Every church I know has members and attenders who come only at Christmas and Easter. Some call them “Creasters”—Christmas and Easter members. Others describe them as “P & L” Christians—poinsettia and lily believers. I wanted such attenders to like the sermon and the service enough to return the next week. However, each year I was disappointed when crowds quickly returned to pre-Easter size.
A third is the challenge of finding a new way to tell the same story.
When I taught at Southwestern Seminary, I told my students that if at the end of the service a long-time member says to you, “I never heard that before,” be afraid. We are not called to make up new truth but to tell the ancient truth in relevant ways. This is especially true of Easter. When everyone knows the story, how do we make it real this year?
A fourth emotion is a sense of inadequacy.
Who am I to announce the resurrection of Jesus Christ? How can I give the greatest miracle in human history the eloquence and passion it deserves?
The good news is that the good news is still good news. It doesn’t depend on me. The risen Christ is just as powerful today as when he first rose from the dead. My job is to point people to him, not to myself, knowing that he will do what only he can do in the hearts and souls of those who turn to him.
Charles Spurgeon famously said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” However, Spurgeon didn’t say these words.
He did, however, make the following statement in his 1886 sermon “Christ and His Co-Workers“:
“Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and fell that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself, and the best ‘apology’ for the gospel is to let the gospel out.”
As C. S. Lewis famously wrote, “Aslan is on the move.” The “Lion of the tribe of Judah . . . has conquered” (Revelation 5:5). Our job this Easter, and every time we preach, is to “let the gospel out.”
Andrew Murray noted, “A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.” If we point people to Jesus, we have done our jobs.
And we can trust him to do his.