What Are We Celebrating?
We’re celebrating the most important event in Jesus’ life and all human history up until now. We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. Easter is the day that Jesus, three days after dying on the cross, rose from the dead to live forever more; and offer us eternal life.
Meaning of the Word Easter
The English word Easter comes from the name of a Germanic (early European) goddess of roughly the same name. It may sound strange to name this holiday after a pagan goddess, but it’s not so far-fetched. Because paganism was the prevailing religion of European culture before 500 AD, many cultural norms were established around their worship. The month of April in our Gregorian calendar that most closely resembles the ancient Germanic’s month happens to have been called “Eostre” or in modern English, “Easter”.
What this means is that the English word Easter is not paying homage to a pagan goddess, but because Easter is actually a 50-day season and not just a day, when the early Anglo Christians began to celebrate this day, they named it after the month in their calendar when it took place. In fact, by the time they named the season Easter, most Anglos no longer worshipped the goddess by that name, or any other pagan deities. (“Anglo” being the ancient European people that English came from)
Reason We Celebrate When We Do
Because Jesus crucifixion happened during the Jewish Passover feast, Easter and the events surrounding it are celebrated in connection to Passover. The first council of Nicaea decided that the holiday would fall on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. Sounds complicated? That’s because most ancient cultures used a lunar calendar instead of a solar calendar like what we use today. That meant that the phases of the moon was how they judged their months. The ancient Jewish calendar was a hybrid lunar-solar calendar, which makes things even more complicated! What it means is that Easter falls on the first Sunday after a full moon after the first day of spring (March 21). That means it can be anywhere from the beginning of April to the beginning of May.
Why Easter Eggs?
Lenten is an ancient Christian tradition of fasting from certain foods for 40 days prior to Easter. Because most Christian traditions fasted from meat and dairy (including eggs), Easter Sunday would be the first day in over 40 anyone would enjoy an egg. Christians long ago took up the Easter feast by decorating the eggs. The earliest tradition was to die the eggs red to symbolize Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for us–to remember the reason for Easter in the first place. As many traditions go, much artistic license has been taken since that time. The Easter bunny, is just one of those. He has nothing to do with Easter; he’s pure “Hallmark”.
Did Jesus Really Raise to Life From the Dead?
Yes. The Bible has proven itself over and over again in its historic accuracy. Anyone who claims the Bible is not historically accurate is not being academically honest. Of all ancient literature, it is the most well-preserved document by a factor of hundreds. When it comes to its accuracy, it has never been proven wrong. There are many details in scripture that have not (yet) been corroborated through secular research and archaeology, but nothing has been proven incorrect. So, with such an overwhelming burden of proof on the Bible’s side, we should certainly take its accounts seriously.
(As a side note, the Bible was the textbook on archaeology in Israel from the beginning of archaeology itself. It wasn’t until the Nazis took an interest in Holy Land excavations did the Bible fall out of the graces of the academic world, and the reason for that was nothing more than a careless scholarship of details in the Bible. The rift actually came when the Nazi archaeologists were looking for Israel’s conquering of Jericho and because of sloppy dating on the Nazi’s part, they couldn’t find what the Bible said should be there and thus concluded the Bible was wrong. In fact, it was their scholarship of the biblical texts that were wrong, but that’s for another day…)
So what the Bible says about Jesus’ resurrection is quite interesting. The religious ruling Jews (the ones who’d had Jesus sentenced to death) knew that they’d made a martyr out of Him. They also knew that He had predicted His own death and that He would rise from the dead. They were terrified of Jesus’ disciples stealing His body from the tomb to claim that He’d raised from the dead, so they petitioned to have Roman guards stationed at the tomb to guard it from body-snatchers.
Read Matthew 27:62-28:15
We can be sure that the information provided in Matthew about the plot to keep Jesus’ body isn’t just conspiracy theory because of how many of the Sanhedrin and priests (that religious ruling Jewish body) later became Christians as outlined in Acts (see Acts 6:7)
So what happened here is that the ruling Jews bribed the guards with the promise that if the guards lied to Pilate, they would bribe him too so he wouldn’t kill the guards. It was the usual custom that if you were a guard and your prisoner escaped, you were put to death for losing your prisoner.
Why Would Jesus’ Resurrection Be Important?
The resurrection of the dead is the main tenet of the Christian faith. Without that, every single person, when we die, we cease to exist. We’re gone. As Christians, our great hope is that we will live forever with God on the earth; that we will be physically resurrected and given new eternal bodies to experience eternity in. Outside of that, our faith is useless.
So Jesus, then, has to have been resurrected from the dead or our faith is of no value. Paul says just that in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. The resurrection of the dead to eternal life with God IS what Jesus has offered to us through His death and resurrection. His death has freed us from our sins and His resurrection has given us eternal life. We are not people that live mainly for this age, but an age to come where we will live forever.
Our culture wants us to feel strange for thinking about anything beyond this life. We live in a secular, physical-minded world where everything must be seen and touched now to be real. But we have been offered the hope of eternal life–and not a “spiritual” eternal life–but one just as physical and real as what we have now. We must only have faith that it will actually take place. That’s why Paul says in Romans 10:9 that believing the God raised Christ Jesus from the dead is necessary for salvation. We’re not Christians if we don’t truly believe that.
The Gospel’s telling of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection:
Matthew 26-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24
Read This Week
1 Corinthians 15: Paul explains the resurrection and its importance to our faith
Romans 10: Paul explains how we are saved and what we must do with our salvation
[Disclaimer: These notes are not meant to be academic in nature, but informative, so I’ve not listed references to sources of extra-biblical information here to save space. If you feel so inclined, I encourage you to research these topics yourself. There is a wealth of information readily available]