Growing up, I never understood the purpose of Easter or what the holiday was celebrating. I know I enjoyed the day very much. My parents would hide an Easter basket at our house in Kent, WA. Excitedly, I would arise Easter morning and proceed with my hunt around the house for the elusive prize. Upon discovery of the basket, I would find plastic eggs with edible treats inside, favorite candy bars and often a brand new video game for my Nintendo or Super Nintendo system.
As a child, my parents would tell me that the Easter bunny visited like Santa Claus does at Christmas. A smile extending across my face, I would welcome any mythical being who would gift to me candy bars and Nintendo games. Not only that, but my family would fix an elaborate feast and extended family members would come over. Easter has been and is always associated with pleasant memories including of people- grandparents and an uncle- that I miss dearly.
Becoming a Christian as a teenager, I discovered that Easter had a vastly more significant meaning to everybody and really, to all of reality. At church I learned that Easter was the celebration of Jesus Christ raising from the dead, the Conqueror who dealt a blow to sin and death and laid the most crucial cornerstone of his now and coming Kingdom. Easter had become something even more profoundly significant. The happy times with family, which still continue to this day, were now infused with a transcendent hope.
Dead people are supposed to stay in the grave. Loved ones and dear friends, when they pass, are supposed to only exist in memory. Our lives, experiences and senses preach this cold fact to us. With Easter, Jesus is the contradiction. When he arose, up from the grave, everything was changed.
The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the entire Christian faith. Nothing else about the teachings and works of a homeless Jewish Peasant would have lasted if the stone had not been rolled away on that glorious morning.
That is why the Apostle Paul, the early convert and rabid adherent to Christianity taught the following early apologetic to his church plants:
“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.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive…
Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
‘Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.'”
-1 Corinthians 15:12-22,29-32 NIV
Without the resurrection of Jesus, faith is futile. With the resurrection of Jesus, hope transcends the plague of sin and sin’s consequences observable throughout our world.
Easter, here, becomes not just family time but a worldview. An outlook that can realistically assess a fallen world but also witness the curing affects of redemption all around. Redemption started with Christ laying a fatal blow to our sadistic enemy- death. Because of Jesus and from this faith perspective, we can be filled with joyful hope as we cling to the promise of God’s endgame on the basis of what He has accomplished.
Philip Yancey in “The Jesus I Never Knew” writes poignantly about the vantage point we are offered with the unveiling of the meaning of Easter. This is my favorite passage on the resurrection outside of Scripture:
“There are two ways to look at human history, I have concluded. One way is to focus on the wars and violence, the squalor, the pain and tragedy and death. From such a point of view, Easter seems a fairy-tale exception, a stunning contradiction in the name of God. That gives some solace, although I confess that when my friends died, grief was so overpowering that any hope in an afterlife seemed somehow thin and insubstantial.
There is another way to look at the world. If I take Easter as the starting point, the one incontrovertible fact about how God treats those whom He loves, then human history becomes the contradiction and Easter a preview of ultimate reality. Hope then flows like lava beneath the crust of daily life.
This, perhaps, describes the change in the disciples’ perspective as the sat in locked rooms discussing the incomprehensible events of Easter Sunday. In one sense nothing had changed: Rome still occupied Palestine, religious authorities still had a bounty on their heads, death and evil still reigned outside. Gradually, however, the shock of recognition gave way to a long slow undertow of joy. If God could do that…” pages 219-220