I was recently asked, “What’s so good about Good Friday?” It’s a great question and it sparked good discussion.
Today is Good Friday. The original day of Christ’s crucifixion is a pivot point of history. Sin died on that day. Death was overcome days later. Without Easter, Good Friday is incomplete. But, without Good Friday, Easter is powerless to save. Perhaps that is why scripture encapsulates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as a singular message: the gospel.
Many pastors who have preaching responsibilities this Easter have finished their sermons while others are preparing to wrap them up. Each faces the challenge of preaching the most familiar texts besides the Christmas story in a way that does not sound too familiar. Yet, familiarity is expected by most who attend. A tithing sermon on Easter might get the side-eye from the same person who has never responded to “Hallelujah, he is risen!”
In many places around the world attendance will be higher than normal, while in other places there will be little or no change. We pray for people to believe, for their lives to be eternally changed. Some churches see many come to faith; others see none.
Some pastors enter the pulpit under pressure, much of it self-induced, but none of it necessary. Before you preach this Easter, remember:
1. The thing preached is more important than the person preaching.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. The message has priority over the messenger. The truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is more important than who is telling the story.
2. Someone in attendance will not be alive to hear your next Easter message.
The old quote, “Preach like a dying man to dying men” comes to mind. The sense of urgency from the preacher should be palpable. You may not yell like your hair is on fire, but those listening should believe that you believe the gospel with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is likely that someone hearing your message will not be alive next Easter. Don’t let their “almost” be due to the preacher being bored with his own Easter sermon.
3. Be prepared for distractions.
Easter may dress people up, but it does not clean people up. People will talk, kids will chatter, more phones than normal will ring. Don’t be mad; don’t get exasperated; but, be prepared. Do not look in the direction of the distraction; keep your eyes on the prize. If possible, move to the side of the stage opposite the distraction. Moving will encourage people to look toward you rather than at the distraction on aisle 2. Keep your mind engaged and the sermon going.
4. The burden is not yours; trust the Word and the Spirit.
For many Easter is a ritual. Pastors know it isn’t, but we struggle in our own way. Many of us grade ourselves as pass/fail on Easter Sunday. Subconsciously we assume a burden that is not ours to bear—the burden of changed lives.
Pastor, remember with me: the gospel is sufficient for Easter Sunday and for every Sunday. It is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. As we preach we depend on the Spirit’s power and after we have finished we should depend on his continued work.
Be encouraged, pastor. Preach Christ and him crucified and you cannot fail.
He is risen! Yes, he is risen indeed.