(Note: the following is a shortened adaptation from EvanTell’s popular Easter tract “If Easter Could be Captured in Three Words, What Would They Be?”)

The Bible contains 66 books and over a thousand chapters. Yet the thrust of the entire Bible, the message God most wants everyone to hear, can be summarized in three words: Jesus saves sinners. This is the message of Easter, a message that has changed millions of lives.

Let’s consider that statement one word at a time starting with “sinners.”

Sinners

A poll taken in the U.S. included these questions: Do you think you’re going to heaven? Do you think your friends are?

Most people felt they had a good chance of going to heaven. Interestingly, most people felt their friends would not make it!

By nature, we are prideful. We believe that our good deeds outweigh our bad. But God’s standard is not goodness. It is perfection. To enter heaven and live forever with God, we must be as perfect as He is perfect (Matt. 5:48).

Measured by that standard, whether we have sinned once or a thousand times, we have all fallen short. The Bible declares, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Years ago, the city of Boston had a requirement that to enter the police force a man had to be six feet tall. It did not matter if he was 5'11". He was no better off than the man who was 4'11". Since the standard was six feet, both missed the mark and came short.

What is the consequence of falling short of God’s standard of perfection? A holy God cannot overlook sin. He must punish it. The Scriptures declare, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). That means because we have sinned, the punishment that we deserve is to be separated from God forever.

Jesus

How can one sentenced to death escape such punishment? Only if someone is willing to exchange places and be the substitute. But that someone must be perfect. A sinner cannot die for a sinner anymore than one criminal can take another criminal’s punishment.

The only one who met the requirement of perfection was Jesus Christ, who the Bible says, “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). He took our place by dying on a cross two thousand years ago. On the cross, He took the punishment you and I deserved. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Years ago, the nation was shocked by the tragic news of two young boys who opened fire on schoolchildren as they ran from their building in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Four children and a teacher were killed and five others were injured. The teacher died when she stepped forward to shield one of her sixth-graders. She saved the girl but lost her own life. The teacher became her substitute and died in her place.

Jesus Christ died as our substitute. Just as the teacher took the bullets for the young girl, He took the punishment for sin and died in our place. Jesus did what our good works could never do. We are saved by Christ’s dying, not by our doing.

Three days after His death, Christ came back to life. It is the resurrection of Christ that Easter morning celebrates. By rising from the grave on the third day, He proved He had conquered sin and death. Easter declares to the world that Christ is God and our salvation is in ONE person ¾ Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose the third day (1 Cor. 15:3–5).

Saves

Christ’s death was God’s payment for our sin problem. Thanks to what Christ did on the cross, salvation from our sin is available. We can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ: “For by grace (underserved favor) you have been saved (delivered from sin’s penalty) through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

How does one receive that gift? The Bible answers, “Believe!” Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life…whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26).

A man standing too close to the edge of a river lost his footing and fell in. It was soon obvious that the man could not swim. A strong swimmer in the crowd could have immediately jumped into the water to save him. Instead, he waited until the wild struggles of the drowning man subsided, then dove in and pulled him to safety. He explained, “I could only save him when he was too exhausted to try and save himself.”

As sinners, we must recognize that we cannot save ourselves by any amount of good works or even religious efforts. Instead, recognizing that Christ took the punishment for our sins and arose again, we must trust in Christ alone to save us. The moment we do, God forgives us of all our sins and gives us His gift of eternal life. We are His forever. As He promises, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

The Easter message of the Bible is not difficult to understand. It can be captured in just three words, “Jesus saves sinners.”

Would you like to receive His gift of eternal life? You can do so right now. Here is how you can tell God in prayer what you are doing:

Dear God, I come to You now.  I know I am a sinner.  Nothing I am or do makes me deserving of heaven.  I believe Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, died for me on a cross and rose again.  Right now I place my trust in Jesus Christ as my only way to heaven.  Thank you for the gift of everlasting life I have just received.  In Jesus' name, Amen."