What is Easter?
It's that time of year again when little children start painting boiled eggs and gluing cotton balls on little bunny rabbits all in celebration of ... Easter?
I'm not really sure how a bunny and a bunch of colored eggs fit into the whole resurrection thing but that is what we do. We run around buying candy and plastic grass to fill bright plastic woven baskets that we, as parents, stay up late on Easter-eve to hide somewhere in the house. Little children wake up Easter morning excited to find their baskets and wonder what kind of candy they got this year or what neat new toy is in there.
When I was younger my basket was always in the bathtub and always had lots of jelly-beans, peeps, and chocolate bunnies that you just had to bite the ears off of first. And of course there was always some type of toy usually designed for playing outside with after a long cold winter stuck inside. Baskets weren't overly expensive but they rarely had any thing to do with our Lord Jesus Christ and his Resurrection. The closest we came to Jesus on Easter was to get dressed up in our "Easter Best" and to attend Mass and receive communion. Then it was off to Grandma's house for a big Easter Dinner and one of the few times we prayed before our meal.
Now that I am older and have embraced the Lord with all of my heart and soul, I wanted to know what the true meaning of Easter is. I mean I have a basic idea of the whole "Crucified, Died and Rose again" thing but I felt that it was much deeper than that. So after much research and, of course, many prayers I think I finally have a better understanding of the meaning of Easter.
Obviously, Easter is the Christian holiday celebration commemorating the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Easter Sunday or Resurrection Day is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year for Christian churches.
But, to put the matter directly, Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus and his appearances to his disciples shortly thereafter. There are those who disagree that this was an historical event, but the evidence is pretty convincing. The gospels tell us that the inner circle of disciples denied, betrayed, and deserted Jesus in his hour of greatest need. They tell us that his death was basically witnessed by a few female disciples, and that it was these women who first went to the tomb and encountered the risen Jesus.
Several things must be said about this: 1) According to all accounts, Jesus died by crucifixion--the most shameful and public way to die back then. In an honor-and-shame culture, Jesus' death by crucifixion should have put an end to his following and stopped any trumpeting about Jesus being the messiah or savior (see Luke 24.19-21: "We had hoped [past tense] he would be the one to redeem Israel"). It is very difficult for historians to explain the transformation of the inner circle of Jesus from cowards to some of the most courageous people of their time if Jesus did not arise and appear to them. 2) No evangelistic religion in its right mind, operating in a highly male dominated world, would make up the idea that the chief witnesses to the heart of their creed (death, burial, empty tomb, risen Lord) were women. The witness of women was considered suspect throughout the Greco-Roman world, including Judea. 3) In the context of early Judaism, resurrection meant something that happened to a body. It was not seen as a purely spiritual or visionary matter, which is one reason why the Gospel accounts stress that the risen Jesus could be touched and could eat. These accounts, which were written with such detail, were obviously not intended to be symbolic. They are a record of a world-changing physical miracle: the return to life of a previously-dead man.
When Christ was resurrected His body became immortal, never to die again. He still lives and is with our Eternal Father in Heaven.
Easter, in the Christian world, represents the resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate every year in the Spring. Because of the Atonement death is not the end. We may not be resurrected after three days, like Jesus was, but someday we will all be resurrected and have a perfect body.
Easter is an especially important holiday to celebrate because remembering Christ's atonement and resurrection brings hope and faith. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He suffered and died for each of us. I know He was resurrected and lives. Easter is a beautiful holiday when we can remember Jesus Christ and worship Him as the Son of God and as our Savior and Redeemer.
Jesus' resurrection was a true miracle that changed the world and set it on a course that we still see being played out today. In my view, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the fulcrum of human history and the key to its interpretation.
The Easter miracle transformed women and men from doubters to believers 2,000 years ago, and has continued to do so ever since.
To me Easter is all about the fact that God's "yes" to life is louder than death's "no," and the ultimate proof of this is that God raised his Son from the dead. Easter is not just about an isolated miracle 2,000 years ago that chiefly affected one person. Easter is all about the fact that miracles do still happen. Christ's story is the Christian's destiny. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul calls Jesus' resurrection the first fruits of the resurrection, and he speaks of a day when, upon Jesus' return, the dead in Christ will be raised.
In an age of realism and practicality, the resurrection of Jesus challenges modern assumptions that miracles are impossible. I increasingly look forward to my own physical existence coming up for renewal when Jesus returns. Because the Son rose, this daughter will also one day rise.