Why do we celebrate Easter? If you go to church you know that it is because Jesus rose from the dead, but as incredible as that might be, why is it such a big deal? Easter is so wonderful, not just because Jesus rose from the dead, but because it is proof He had successfully accomplished what He came to earth to do.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)
The date of Passover varies from year to year, but the Christian church typically remembers Jesus celebrating His last Passover meal on the Thursday before Easter. This comes several days after Palm Sunday, and is immediately followed by Good Friday, when we remember Him dying on the cross. Yet these days seem to fade into the background, and it is Easter we remember and celebrate. The meaning of Easter, however, is radically enhanced when we understand the significance of Passover.
Many of us do not understand the duality of the feasts God commanded Israel in the Old Testament. When those in Judaism celebrate Passover, they do it to remember God leading their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. They remember how God commanded them to slaughter a lamb and smear the blood outside the door of their home so they would be spared when He passed through to judge the Egyptians.
Yet in the same way, those of us who have trusted Christ for forgiveness are also covered by, and have hope of judgment passing over us because of, blood—the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, identified as the One who takes away the sin of the world by John the Baptist in the passage above. Even though our ancestors may not have been enslaved in Egypt, Passover has meaning for us because before Christ, we all were in bondage to the sin nature we inherited from our ancestors:
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:18-20, NASB)
So what is the significance of Easter?
Easter—Christ’s resurrection from the dead—is the Father declaring Him to truly be the Son of God. “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:3-4) If Jesus had been anyone less than who He claimed to be, He would have died and stayed dead–His death on the cross would have been for His sins alone. By raising Him from the dead the Father further attested His acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.
Thus, Easter is evidence of the sufficiency of Christ’s work for the penalty of sin for those who come to Him, because, even as the blind man whom Jesus gave sight to understood, “…we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31) Because of Christ’s death, God accepts those who repent and follow Him. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
Easter is also a wake-up call to those who don’t know God. Many these days study the Ancient Greeks, because they have influenced our culture. Even the currently popular “Percy Jackson” books and movies try to help modern day children and teens learn more about Greek mythology. Yet the Greeks too, with all of their seeking, needed to hear about the resurrection:
“While Paul was waiting in Athens, he was upset to see all the idols in the city. He went to the Jewish meeting place to speak to the Jews and to anyone who worshiped with them. Day after day he also spoke to everyone he met in the market. Some of them were Epicureans [the Epicureans believed it was good to indulge earthly pleasures] and some were Stoics [the Stoics believed it was good to abstain from earthly pleasures], and they started arguing with him.
People were asking, “What is this know-it-all trying to say?”
Some even said, “Paul must be preaching about foreign gods! That’s what he means when he talks about Jesus and about people rising from death.”
They brought Paul before a council called the Areopagus, and said, “Tell us what your new teaching is all about. We have heard you say some strange things, and we want to know what you mean.”
More than anything else the people of Athens and the foreigners living there loved to hear and to talk about anything new. So Paul stood up in front of the council and said:
People of Athens, I see that you are very religious. As I was going through your city and looking at the things you worship, I found an altar with the words, “To an Unknown God.” You worship this God, but you don’t really know him. So I want to tell you about him. This God made the world and everything in it. He is Lord of heaven and earth, and he doesn’t live in temples built by human hands. He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be. God has done all this, so that we will look for him and reach out and find him. He isn’t far from any of us, and he gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. “We are his children,” just as some of your poets have said.
Since we are God’s children, we must not think that he is like an idol made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t like anything that humans have thought up and made. In the past, God forgave [overlooked, NKJV] all this because people did not know what they were doing. But now he says that everyone everywhere must turn to him [repent, NKJV]. He has set a day when he will judge the world’s people with fairness. And he has chosen the man Jesus to do the judging for him. God has given proof of this to all of us by raising Jesus from death.” (Acts 17:16-31, CEV)
The resurrection is also God’s proof to mankind that a day of judgment is coming. While some deny Him and many don’t care enough to bother finding out, His Word is true, and what He says will happen: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) God loves us, and has been interminably patient, but it is time to take Him seriously.
Lastly, we have incredible hope because of Easter: “And if Christ is in you [if we are His, if we have His Spirit in us], the body is dead because of sin [our bodies have an expiration date], but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:10-12) If we have the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead in us, He who raised Christ from the dead [God] will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who is in us. Because of Easter—because of the resurrection—we have the hope of a resurrection ourselves!
So what is the significance of Easter?
It is evidence that Christ was, indeed, the Son of God.
It is proof that the Father accepted His death in payment for our sins.
It is a warning to those who reject Christ and continue in sin.
It is our hope of a future with Him in eternity.
Thank You for what You did on our behalf. May we be covered by the blood of the Lamb! In Jesus’ name, Amen.