35 Easter Sermon Ideas

celebrate easter

I love being a preacher.  I love the variety.  But sometimes I feel stuck and pressured on special days like Easter.  How can I make this story interesting and engaging?  I don’t really feel this way because I think my congregation wants to hear something amazing on Easter.  I actually think that they come to hear the same story again every year.  I want new and fresh angles in my Easter preaching so that I stay excited about it–both for my own experience with Easter and so that I can preach with passion.  To that end, I did a lot of reading and thinking about the Easter story and compiled a list of Easter Sermon ideas so that I could use them over the next few years.  I decided to post them for any pastors out there needing some inspiration.  They are rough starts or vague ideas, but maybe they will spark something for the preachers out there.  Here are 35 in no particular order:

  1. Mary Magdalene’s back story is not well spelled out in the Gospels but we know enough to know why she loved Jesus so much.  See Ellsworth Kalas’ book below for a sermon on Mary’s experience at Easter.
  2. One of the Gospels says that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb “early in the morning” and “while it was still dark.”  Why say the same thing twice?  Might the darkness have more to do with a dead savior than the time of day?
  3. John and Peter race to the tomb.  The gospel of John makes a big deal out of the race.  John gets there first but doesn’t go in.  Peter does go in but it is John that believed.  Why all that detail?
  4. Jesus burial cloth was folded.  Why was it folded?  There is some evidence that when you left the table at a meal you would fold your napkin as a sign that you are going to return.
  5. The earthly life of Jesus has a cloth at both end–a burial cloth and swaddling cloth.  What is the connection between those 2 clothes.
  6. The story of redemption start in the garden of Eden and ends in this garden.  It would be interesting to compare these gardens.  It might be interesting to tie in the idea of an old Adam and a new Adam.
  7. Look at Old Testament prediction and foreshadowing of resurrection.
  8. Look at Jesus’ own predictions of His resurrection.
  9. Thomas gets a bad rap.  We call him Doubting Thomas.  We would probably doubt too.  Worst of all, the text says it was a whole week before he got to see Jesus. What would that week have been like?  What do we do with our doubts?
  10. A lot of people today doubt the Resurrection as a historical event.  I think every few years I am going to give  a historical defense of the Resurrection on Easter morning.
  11. Along the lines of #10, I think that the biggest evidence of the Resurrection is the change in the disciples and what they do next.  The live as an Easter People and are the best witnesses to the Resurrection.  What does it mean that we are Easter People too?
  12. Why does Jesus pop up every once in a while to a bunch of people for 40 Days?  What is the significance of 40 days?  There are a lot of references to 40 days and 40 years in the Bible.
  13. I am fascinated by the emotional roller-coaster of Holy Week.  There is the joy of Palm Sunday.  There is the sadness and disappointment of Maundy Thursday.  There is the anger and violence of Good Friday.  Might some of those same voices that cried “Hosanna” on Sunday have cried “Crucify Him” on Friday?  There is the silence of Saturday.  We know almost nothing about that Saturday.  Then there is the shock of Sunday.  Tracking this roller coaster might make the joy of Easter more special.
  14. The Bible makes a big deal about the reality that we have died with Christ and have been risen with Christ.  What does that mean?
  15. Paul describes the Resurrection of Jesus as “first fruits.”  We will be resurrected as well someday.  What does the resurrection of Jesus say about our own Resurrection?
  16. The Gospel makes a big deal that Jesus is physically resurrected. He is not just a Spirit.  People can recognize Jesus, touch Him, eat with him, and walk with him.  At the same time, they cannot always recognize with him, he can appear in locked rooms, and disappear.  Why is it important that his resurrection was physical? Why is it that his resurrected body was different?
  17. Paul said that if there is no resurrection then our faith and preaching are meaningless.  Why is the resurrection so critical to belief?  What if there are people in your congregation trying to be a Christian but do not believe in the resurrection?
  18. What is the effect of the resurrection?  In other words, we make a big deal about why Jesus had to die, but why did he have to resurrect?  Why was his death not enough?
  19. We have journeyed through Lent to this point and it began with Ash Wednesday.  What does Easter have to do with the ashes and dust of Ash Wednesday?
  20. Paul talked about so many witnesses that he had talked to 1 Corinthians 15.  Imagine talking to one of them and hearing the story first hand.  How might the discussion go?  Do we witness with that kind of emotion?
  21. When someone dies we say that they are with us “in spirit.”  We mean that they are with us in our thoughts and our actions as we think about them and live out their influence.  The disciples claimed to have Jesus’ Spirit with them.  He even breathes it on them right after the Resurrection, but it is not until Pentecost that Spirit moves in such a mighty way.
  22. Revelation 21 talk about a new heaven and a new earth and makes a big deal that death will be no more.  Easter morning has been called “The Death of Death.”  How does Easter change death?  Why do we still die?
  23. I like to preach images and metaphors. One of the interesting images in the story is the Stone.  What is the significance of the stone?  I once heard Timothy Keller say in a sermon that the stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out but to let us in.  What do you think he meant by that?
  24. In the Gospel of John the Resurrection of Jesus is foreshadowed in the raising of Lazarus.  Compare and contrast these stories.  What is the same?  What is different?
  25. The angels are often skipped in Easter preaching.  We don’t like to deal with issues of angels and demons from the pulpit.  Yet there they are in the story.  What is their role?  What do they say and do?
  26. The Bible makes a big deal about Jesus being raised on the Third Day.  In our understanding of time it is not really 3 days.  It is only Friday night through Sunday morning making it not even 48 hours.  Jews in those days counted time differently, but there are also a number of other references to “the 3rd day” in the Old Testament.  Jesus even talks about tearing down the temple and rebuilding it in 3 days. There is plenty there to play with in a sermon.
  27. One of the big themes in the resurrection accounts is Recognize.  Sometimes the disciples recognize Jesus.  Other times Jesus has to open their minds.
  28. One of the ways that Jesus gets the people to recognize him is by breaking bread.  There is definitely a connection between communion the Resurrection stories.  This also makes Easter Sunday a great communion Sunday though most churches I have been around do not do it then.
  29. Mark has a short ending and a long ending.  What are the strengths of both endings in connection with Easter morning?
  30. There is an interesting story in the Gospels about the guards at the tomb.  The run away, report to the authorities, and then take a bribe to say that the body was stolen.  Not a really uplifting story. Why does the Bible include this?
  31. The story of the road to Emmaus is rich with preaching ideas.  Who are these people?  Why are they walking?  What Old Testament passages does Jesus show them?  I have also read a description of this story as the model for a traditional (particularly reformed) worship service.  Have you ever thought of it that way?
  32. Emmaus also shows the importance of hospitality.  Had they never invited this stranger on the road to a meal they may never have known it was Jesus.  How often do we miss Jesus opportunities in our lives because we have lost hospitality?
  33. Why are the first witnesses to the Resurrection women.  In those days, women were not well respected.  They could not be witnesses in court.  Surely this was not made up this way.  It helps prove the accuracy of the Gospel accounts.  But might it also say something about equality of the genders and the reality that Jesus’ resurrection is for everybody?
  34. Another homiletically pregnant passage is Peter being reinstated.  He dives off the boat to see Jesus after apparently putting clothes on.  Jesus challenges Peter’s love and asks him to care for his sheep.  In the Greek there is some interesting something going on there.  I have always wondered if Peter had told everybody about his denials or if he had been silently and grumpily carrying that failure.  What do we do with our own failures to follow Jesus?  Do we really love Jesus?  How are we doing with the lambs in our world?
  35. Jesus has a strange encounter with Peter and John.  The sum of it is that Peter will die for his faith but John will not.  Why is that in the passage?  Is there some kind of rivalry between the two?  Perhaps the race to the tomb also shows this.  What does it mean that John was the disciple that Jesus loved?  What does it mean that we are loved?

Books I recommend for Easter Sermon preparation: Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Easter from the Backside by J. Ellsworth Kalas, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel, The Challenge of Jesus by NT Wright, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, and Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears.

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