Easter is just around the corner. How can you preach the Easter story yet again with creativity, insight and inspiration? Sometimes all it takes is a good illustration or story. Below are some Easter illustrations that have been very useful to me. I hope they will be useful to you and ease the burden of preparing an Easter sermon.
The Sound of Easter
I love an Easter tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church. You know what they do on Easter and the day after Easter? They tell jokes and laugh their hearts out. They are imitating the cosmic joke God pulled on Satan in the resurrection. Satan thought he had won and was smug in his victory. God said, “Not so fast!” God raised Jesus from the dead and life and salvation for all became the last word. So the sound of Easter is not a giggle. It is not a chuckle. It is a big, hearty belly laugh! Why? Because God has the last word! They say the sound of heaven is not singing or harps but laughter (source: Conrad Hyers, “And God Created Laughter”).
Don’t Quit on Life
Ever heard the great story about the pianist Ignace Paderewski? Paderewski was Poland’s most famous pianist and Prime Minister. During his long and illustrious career, Paderewski scheduled a concert in a small village to cultivate the arts in Poland. A young mother bought tickets for the Paderewski performance. Her young son had just started taking piano lessons, and she wanted to expose him to one of the greatest piano players in the world.
When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall. The mother spotted a friend nearby and began to chat. As she turned back from her visit, she was stunned to see that her little boy was not in his seat. He had slipped out of sight. Just then the house lights came down and the spotlight came up. It was at that moment that everyone knew where the little 10-year-old boy had run off to. He was seated at the concert piano on stage innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
His mother was mortified. The stagehands ran out to grab the boy, but suddenly Paderewski appeared on stage and waved them away. Paderewski quickly moved to the piano and standing behind the little boy, he whispered into his ear, “Don’t quit! Keep playing! Don’t stop!” Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side of the boy, and he played another part. Together, the old master and the young novice mesmerized the crowd with beautiful music. They did it together (source: Darrel L. Anderson, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 2.).
You know what Easter is all about? Easter is about the risen Lord coming alongside of you and whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit on life. Don’t quit on yourself. Don’t give up on me. I’m here to help you rise above anything. We will do it together. I will have the last word. The worst thing will never be the last thing.” Whatever you may be going through today yield to God’s power and love and the worst thing will never be the last thing. God will see you through it because Easter means God has the last word.
I Know Where I Am Going
A few years ago, Billy Graham was invited to attend a luncheon in his honor in his hometown of Charlotte, NC. He was hesitant to go because of his Parkinson’s. But leaders said, “We don’t expect a major address, just let us honor you.” He agreed.
After they said wonderful things about him, Billy Graham stepped up to the podium and said, “I am reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist. Einstein was once traveling by train, and the conductor came down the aisle, punching tickets. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached into his vest pocket, and he could not find his ticket, so he reached into his other pocket. It was not there. He looked in his briefcase, and it was not there. He looked all around and he could not find it. The conductor said, ‘Don’t worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. Don’t worry about it.’ Einstein said thank you.
The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets and he looked back and saw Einstein on his hands and knees looking for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Don’t worry Dr. Einstein. I know who you are. Don’t worry.’ Einstein replied, ‘Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I am going!’”
After telling that story Billy Graham said to the crowd, “See this suit I am wearing? It is a brand new suit. My family said I needed a new one. So I bought one for this occasion and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit I am going to be buried in. But when you hear that I am dead, don’t remember the suit I am wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I am going” (source: John Huffman, “Who Are You, and Where Are You Going?” Preaching Conference 2002).
Easter means that life wins over death. Easter means good wins over evil. Easter means God wins over sin. Easter means we know where we are going! Easter means hope. Easter means life.
I like the story Dr. David E. Leininger tells of the Sunday School teacher who had just finished telling her third graders about how Jesus was crucified. She told the boys and girls how Jesus was placed in a tomb with a great stone sealing off the only way in or out. Wanting to share the excitement of the resurrection, and the surprise of Easter morning, she asked: “And what do you think were Jesus’ first words when he came bursting out of that tomb alive.” A hand shot up into the air from the rear of the classroom. It belonged to an enthusiastic little girl. Leaping out of her chair she shouted out excitedly, “I know, I know, I know.” “Good,” said the teacher, “Tell us.” Extending her arms high in the air she sang out: “TA – DA!” (source: “He Rose Again”).
Yearning to Soar
Deep down, the human soul yearns for joy, yearns to soar. It’s just like the movie Mary Poppins, a movie I watched over and over again as a kid. Without a doubt my favorite scene is the one where Uncle Albert starts laughing in that lifeless, sterile bank vault. As he laughs with joy, he begins to float up to the ceiling. Susan Sparks reminds us that the laughter and life and passion Uncle Albert feels brings him a lightness that makes him float. And everyone around him begins to laugh and float up as well (source: Susan Sparks, “Resurrection Biscuits”).
That scene gets to the root of a deep human truth: We all have a soul that yearns for joy and lightness – a soul that yearns to soar. We all have been made for greatness. We know that deep within us. But the distractions of life so often get in the way. And then we begin to seek the living among the dead, and slowly we can become the living dead – no life, no purpose, no joy, no passion, no vision – all because we forget the truth of this glorious day. All because we forget where real life is found.
The Power of Easter
I like what John Ortberg says about Easter: “Imagine that you were a Martian looking down on the world in the first century. Who would you think was more likely to survive: Christianity or the Roman Empire? You would not bet on a ragtag group of a few hundred people claiming that some obscure carpenter had risen from the grave. Yet that movement was so successful that today we give our children names like “Peter,” “Paul,” or “Mary,” and we name our dogs “Caesar” and “Nero.'” So how in the world did that happen?” I’ll tell you how it happened. God raised Jesus from the dead and that resurrection power was given to his followers who in turn went out and changed the course of human history (source: Ortberg, “Sunday Changed Everything”).
Leaning On Jesus
Recently I read a fascinating story about the missionary John Paton. He was serving on the Island of Tanna, seeking to share the gospel with the natives there. They happened to be cannibals. They didn’t trust anyone, not even one another. So, one day John was working in his home on the translation of John’s Gospel—puzzling over John’s favorite expression pisteuo eis, to “believe in” or to “trust in” Jesus Christ, a phrase which occurs first in John 1:12. “How can I translate it?” Paton wondered. The islanders were cannibals; nobody trusted anybody else. There was no word for “trust” in their language. His native servant came in. “What am I doing?” Paton asked him. “Sitting at your desk,” the man replied. Paton then raised both feet off the floor and sat back on his chair. “What am I doing now?” In reply, Paton’s servant used a verb which means “to lean your whole weight upon.” That’s the phrase Paton used throughout John’s Gospel to translate to “believe in” (source: ccbiblestudy.net).
Have your leaned your whole weight upon Jesus? I know many of you need to do that today. You have tried to carry the weight of your life on your own and it has dragged you down. The weight of all the heart ache, pain, disappointment, sin and discouragement has taken its toll. It is time to stop doing it on your own and start leaning on Jesus. It is time to look beyond custom, evidence and positive symbolism and trust in Jesus. He is alive. He is alive. Believe me, he is alive! He is still forgiving sin. He is still giving people a new purpose and identity. He is still giving people a new reason to live. He is still giving people hope beyond death. He can do that for you today. Respond to him personally and put your whole weight upon him.