Easter

What Is Easter? A Deep Dive Into Its Significance


Easter is one of the most important holidays of the Christian faith, as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus three days after His death on the cross. Jesus’ resurrection serves as confirmation of all He claimed to be throughout His ministry on earth. Though He was executed in the most violent and shameful way, and declared to be certainly dead, Jesus rose to life and defeated humanity’s opponent — death.

The origins of the word “Easter” are uncertain, but for centuries this word has been used to refer to the springtime celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. The earliest celebrations among the first century church and apostles likely would have mirrored the Jewish Passover feast that Jesus shared with His disciples before His arrest — the meal now known as the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Easter began to take on its own distinct traditions and cultural customs separate from Passover during the second century.


WHAT IS GOOD FRIDAY AND WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO DIE?

 

Good Friday is when Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ death on the cross was as puzzling to the ancient world as it still is today. In the first century, non-Jewish people (called Gentiles) wondered why Christians would worship a God who was killed by His enemies. The Jews expected a Messiah to come and overthrow their enemies, namely the Roman Empire. If Jesus was God’s Anointed One, why would He come to such a tragic end? Why was Jesus crucified?

Because no other sacrifice was enough to restore humanity’s broken relationship with God, caused by our sin and rebellion against God. As Hebrews 10 points out, the law that the Jews had been following for centuries could not repair the brokenness of humanity.

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:1-4, NIV).

The brokenness of humanity was, and still is, the greatest barrier to having a relationship with God. The Bible calls this broken nature “sin” and says that all people have sinned (Romans 3:23). Our sin — active rebellion or passive indifference toward God — causes each human to be separated from God (Romans 6:23). But because Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice — being infinitely good, sinless and in right standing with God — His sacrificial death was enough to restore humanity’s relationship with God.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:21-23, NIV).

This is why it had to be Jesus, the Son of God, who died for our brokenness and sin. And He willingly made this sacrifice because of His great love for you.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8, NIV).

Jesus’ death created a bridge to God. It allows humans to find peace and forgiveness with God. This selfless act was performed on behalf of humankind — all of whom were God’s enemies! This forgiveness is a gift given to those who accept it through faith.


 

EASTER'S CONNECTION TO PASSOVER AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE

 

At the first Passover, God instructed the Israelites, who were captive in Egypt at the time, to sacrifice a special lamb and apply its blood to the doorframes of their homes. God explains why in Exodus 12:12-13.

On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt (NLT).

During this first Passover, the Israelites needed to believe God’s declaration and apply the blood to their doorframes. The plague of death passed over those who believed and acted in faith.

In Luke 22:20, during Jesus’ Passover meal with His disciples, known as the Last Supper, Jesus describes Himself as the true Passover sacrifice.

After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you (NLT).

Just as the Israelites had to believe in God’s promised provision for their sin, followers of Jesus in this new covenant must believe God’s declaration that the blood of Jesus covers all of their sins. It is through trust in Jesus that you turn from your sins in repentance and, in faith, apply His blood to your life (1 John 1:7-9). Just like the plague of death in Exodus 12, spiritual death and judgment pass over those who place their trust in Jesus.


 

WHAT IS THE RESURRECTION?

 

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is at the very core of the gospel. Without it, the whole message falls apart. If Jesus had remained dead, what victory would there be to celebrate?

Jesus’ resurrection immediately legitimized His ministry. The Pharisees were religious teachers who often disagreed with Jesus and who became jealous of His popularity. By putting Him to death, they hoped to put an end to His influence. The Pharisees understood the impact that resurrection would have on Jesus’ message.

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:62-65, NIV).

But just as Jesus foretold, He did in fact rise from the grave (Matthew 28:1-10). This wasn’t a metaphor. He physically rose from the dead! When Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ followers, first saw Him in the garden, she mistook Him for the gardener (John 20:15). Later, He appeared to other disciples (John 20:19-20, 26-27) and showed them the scars on His body from His crucifixion. Jesus ensured the disciples understood He wasn’t a ghost or apparition. He was the same Jesus who had spent the last three years with them, and He had conquered death.

When it comes to the Christian faith and the good news of the gospel, Jesus’ resurrection is non-negotiable.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, NIV)

Paul makes it clear that you cannot deny that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and still claim to be one of His followers. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then His gospel isn’t really good news.


 

WHY DOES EASTER MATTER TODAY?

 

Though much of what Christians celebrate at Easter has to do with the eternal hope of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Easter also offers hope to you today in whatever struggles you’re currently facing.

It can be challenging to reconcile why God’s perfect plan to restore humanity’s relationship with Him required such a violent, unjust execution of Jesus. Surely, if Jesus hadn’t risen from the grave, His death would have remained a dark moment in human history. But because He did rise from the dead — and because He overcame and won the fight against sin, brokenness and death — Christians can remember the darkness of the Cross with the hope and knowledge that the story doesn’t end there.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5, NIV).

That same hope applies to the struggles you face today.

When you put your faith in Jesus, you can trust that whatever darkness you may experience now will one day be flooded with light. Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12), overcame the darkest moment in history when He rose from the dead. Nothing is too dark or too far gone for God to restore.

Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more (Psalm 71:20-21, NIV).

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5, NIV).


 

WHY DOES IT MATTER THAT JESUS SUFFERED?

 

Jesus' suffering is actually a reason for hope. Jesus was rejected by the people He showed love to. He was abandoned by His closest friends. He was given an unfair trial and accused of crimes He did not commit. He was tortured and executed by His enemies, with His own mother as a witness, having done nothing wrong Himself.

Jesus experienced intense suffering. He is God in the flesh, meaning God cannot be thought of as distant from suffering. Jesus chose to suffer so that He could one day bring an end to suffering and offer comfort and peace right now.

Therefore, it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:17-18, NLT).

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT).

This present comfort offered freely through Jesus is the everyday hope of Easter. Christians celebrate Easter because Jesus’ death and resurrection demonstrate God’s commitment to drawing near to human suffering and restoring His people.


 

WHEN IS EASTER?

 

The date of Easter changes from year to year because it depends on the lunar calendar. Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or following the spring equinox. To make this calculation easier, the Christian church uses March 21 as the spring equinox date, even though, technically, the astronomical date can shift by a day or so. Using March 21 as a guide, Easter can fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. For those who follow Eastern Orthodox traditions and calendars, rather than Western, this moon-and-equinox calculation places Easter on a Sunday between April 4 and May 8.


 

LENT TRADITIONS AND EASTER CELEBRATIONS

 

Easter celebrations look different depending on where you are in the world. Many celebrations include some variation of an Easter Bunny that delivers eggs to children, both of which are traditional symbols of spring. Other countries fly kites to symbolize Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. Australia and the United Kingdom have Easter bonnet parades, where children decorate and showcase their own bonnet. Candy and sweets are popular gifts in Western cultures, which first began as a way to celebrate the end of Lent — a historically-observed season of anticipating Easter.

Lent is 40 days long (not including Sundays) and extends from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter. Traditionally, Lent is a time of preparation and an opportunity to go deeper with God, often through personal reflection that prepares people’s hearts and minds for Good Friday and Easter.

You can participate in Lent in many ways to anticipate and prepare for Easter. Some people choose to give up a kind of food, an activity or a bad habit. Or you might observe Lent by attending special church services, committing to pray, giving to others, or spending time reading the Bible or a devotional.


 

EASTER OUTREACH IDEAS

 

If you’re looking for a way to leverage your Easter celebrations to connect with people and share your faith, consider these 10 ideas to help people see Jesus in Easter this spring

Learn how to have conversations about Jesus with the people you care about by downloading the GodTools® app. This app provides articles, faith-sharing tools and conversation starters that can make talking about your faith easier.

 


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