What is Easter all about? Perhaps you most associate Easter with the frenzied search for some hidden eggs. It could be that for you Easter consists of consuming far more chocolate than you should, and then feeling guilty about it afterwards. Or maybe Easter is a time when you, with great anticipation (or dread), look forward to family dinners and time with loved ones. While all of these things may be good, truthfully Easter is about so much more! The real meaning behind Easter has little to do with bunnies, eggs, chocolate, or family. It has everything to do with one unique Man, Jesus Christ.
To really understand the meaning behind Easter, we must first go back to consider the significance of Christmas. Christmas, as you are likely aware, is when the world remembers the birth of the Lord Jesus. Just as Christmas commemorates Jesus’ birth, Easter commemorates His resurrection. Now it doesn't take a deep and insightful theologian to look at these two statements and say, “Something else must have happened in between”. Before someone can be resurrected they must die. And that is the critical reality that underlies Easter - the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The most obvious question to ask is “Why did Jesus have to die?” Has it ever struck you as ironic that the Man renowned for His good works - feeding the poor, befriending the marginalized, and healing the sick - is also best known for dying on a cross? If you've never considered that irony before, then pause to think long and hard about it now. In our society we generally think that good works should be rewarded and kind deeds should be celebrated and honoured. Few would think it appropriate that a person whose life was characterized by incredible, unceasing, immeasurable acts of kindness would have His life cut off through the shameful, horrific experience of crucifixion. So as we consider the death of Jesus Christ this Easter, the question we must all face is: “Why was He killed by the people of that day?”
The accusation that was brought against Jesus by the religious leaders of His day was, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”(John 10:33). This statement was based on one remarkable claim that Jesus made with crystal clarity and unmistakable meaning – and its significance was simply too much for the religious leaders of that day to stomach. He claimed to be God! He didn't claim to be just a great teacher, or a moral leader, or a kind benefactor or a religious head – He claimed to be God. The reason, therefore, that Jesus was taken to a cross was not because He fed the poor, healed the sick, and befriended the marginalized. It was because He claimed to be God.
So why is Easter so important relative to this claim? What is the connection? Quite simply - if Jesus Christ is still dead then He deserved to die. Claiming to be God is a claim so bold that very few have ever made it. The founders of many world religions have claimed to have a special connection with God; however none has claimed to be God incarnate. But the man known as Jesus of Nazareth did! Now, if that was a lie then He is the most damnable liar that ever lived. But if it is true then Jesus Christ truly is Lord and deserves our worship.
Ultimately, everything hinges on the resurrection of Christ – and that is what Easter is truly all about. Did Jesus truly rise from the dead?
The great apostle Paul said "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain."(1 Corinthians 15:14). The events that Easter represents are absolutely critical to all of the Christian faith. Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive today, we know that His claims are true and that He has all power! Not only does He have power over His own life – He truly has the power to change your life!
This power was abundantly evident in the change the resurrection of Christ produced in the lives of the men who followed Him during His earthly life. When the Lord Jesus died on the cross, all of those disciples were terrified – as little children might be scared when lost in a large airport. Peter, one of the more notable disciples, was watching from a distance as Jesus was on trial, and when approached by a teenage girl he was so afraid that he denied emphatically that he even knew Jesus. Not exactly a great picture of loyalty and strength! And Peter was not alone in his failure – all of the disciples were gripped with fear, defeat, and weakness. In fact, the scene on the very first “Easter Sunday” (three days after Jesus’ death on the cross) was one of defeat, sorrow, and despair. The disciples had locked themselves in a room out of fear. Their leader was dead, and they anxiously anticipated that they would be next. But then everything changed!
What made the change was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those disciples saw the risen Christ and their lives were transformed. They got out of that room and started preaching boldly the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the message of how Christ Jesus died for sin, rose in power, and offers salvation freely to all who will come to Him. The apostle Paul says, the gospel is "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day"(1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That is why Easter is such a big deal. Easter reminds us that the death of Jesus Christ was not defeat but victory. It was not the end but in many senses it was the beginning. The Lord Jesus promised that, after He returned to heaven, He was going to build His church. The fact that this Easter millions of Christians will celebrate His resurrection is proof that He is good for His word.
When considering the fact that “Christ died for sin” – have you ever personally considered that He died because of your sins? His death was not an accident. The authorities did not trick Him. It wasn't the trickery of Judas, nor the power of Pilate the Roman governor, nor the cruel treatment of the crowd that caused His death. Rather, it was God's sovereign plan to provide salvation for us (Acts 4.28). The Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross because He loves you and wants to save you. He knew full well that our sins require punishment, so on the cross He took the punishment for our sins on Himself. So when Paul wrote "Christ died for our sin" it literally means that Jesus died in our place, bearing our punishment so that we could be forgiven and go free.
Just before Jesus died He cried, "It is finished!" (John 19.31). That was not a cry of defeat but one of mighty victory. It is the cry a gladiator would shout as he triumphed over his foe in a Roman coliseum. It was the stamp placed on a settled debt when the final payment had been made. It was the shout of a conqueror when the battle was over and he had been victorious. There on the cross, in the midst of all the suffering and shame and agony, Jesus won the greatest war human history will ever know; He paid the great debt of our sin, and He accomplished everything necessary for your salvation. And Easter is the time of year when we remember that He rose again to prove it!
Easter is about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ – but Easter is also all about His triumphant resurrection! Jesus lives! Jesus Christ is Lord! Jesus saves!
For those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, Easter represents a time of great joy. If you have never accepted the Lord Jesus, then Easter should cause you to think soberly and honestly about these things. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead proves that He truly is Lord of all. He demands and deserves your worship. The Bible says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36).
We would urge you to face the reality of your sins – and accept the truth of the gospel how that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again. This Easter, we would love you to rejoice with us as we remember the One who loved us, died for us, and lives to save us.