Take Another Look At Easter

Across Canada we enjoy the long weekend that Easter brings, yet for many what Easter really means is unclear. For some it is just a time off from work and school, or chocolate bunnies in the stores, or the anticipation of spring and perhaps a gathering with family and friends. It is time for us to take another look at Easter.

1. When you look at Easter, look for the sacrifice.

Easter is when Christians remembering about Jesus dying on the cross. Today the cross is more popular than ever. Madonna used it on her tour in 2006 to cause a controversy and increase sales. It is often worn as a piece of jewelry with little thought given to the terrible death and suffering that occurred on it.

In the Dictionary of Symbolism, Hans Biedermann states that early Christians hesitated to use the cross as a symbol since it represented such a hideous form of execution. Only after the Roman emperor Constantine banned crucifixion in the fourth century did the cross become a popular Christian symbol representing victory over death. In The Jesus I Never Knew, writer Philip Yancey cites C.S. Lewis’ keen observation that “the crucifixion did not become common in art until all who had seen a real one died off”.

Every other religion expects you to sacrifice. At the cross, Jesus sacrificed for us. Instead of do – it is done. The religions of the world share a lot of common basic values and morals, but there are some significant differences between them and Christianity. Every other religion is based on people doing something, through struggling to somehow earn favor with God. Jesus taught that none of our sacrifices could merit us heaven.

In Galatians 1:4 we read: We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue.

Every other religion expects you to sacrifice. At the cross, Jesus sacrificed for us. Instead of do – it is done.

2. When you look at Easter, look for royalty.

In order to find the royalty in the Easter story you will have to get past the manmade traditions that have been attached to this holiday.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Easter was named after a pagan goddess of the Anglo-Saxons named Eostre, the goddess of the dawn. Others say Easter is from Ishtar, the goddess of fertility and immortality. Others write that the Roman emperor Constantine forced the Christians to change the name of the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ from “The Feast of First Fruits” to Easter.

The Whole Earth Holiday Book connects the rabbit and colored eggs with the story of a poor woman who could afford no sweets for her children on Easter.She colored some eggs and hid them in a nest for her children to find. During the hunt, the children spotted a large hare in the bushes. They told their friends the bunny had left the eggs, and so the Easter bunny story began.

Instead of calling it “Easter Sunday”, it would be more appropriate for Christians to call it “Resurrection Sunday”. It is the day believers celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after His death on the cross. Above the cross Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect, posted a sign that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Jesus was indeed royalty, He was, and is, the King of Kings, the Lord of lords, the Great I Am, the Son of God.

Philip Ryken in his message “Long Live the King!” writes: “Most kingdoms do anything they can to protect their king. This is the unspoken premise of the game of chess, for example. When the king falls, the kingdom is lost. Therefore, the king must be protected at all costs. Another notable example comes from the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill desperately wanted to join the expeditionary forces and watch the invasion from the bridge of a battleship in the English Channel. U.S. General Dwight David Eisenhower was desperate to stop him, for fear that the Prime Minister might be killed in battle. When it became apparent that Churchill would not be dissuaded, Eisenhower appealed to a higher authority: King George VI. The king went and told Churchill that if it was the Prime Minister’s duty to witness the invasion, he could only conclude that it was also his own duty as king to join him on the battleship. At this point Churchill reluctantly agreed to back down, for he knew that he could never expose the King of England to such danger.

King Jesus did exactly the opposite. With royal courage he surrendered his body to be crucified. On the cross he offered a king’s ransom: his life for the life of his people. He would die for all the wrong things that we had ever done and would do, completely atoning for all our sins. The crown of thorns that was meant to make a mockery of his royal claims actually proclaimed his kingly dignity, even in death.”

When Paul wrote from prison to the church in Philippi he makes it clear that Jesus was indeed royalty and that His name is above all others. “And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:8-11

3. When you look at Easter, look for changed lives. 

The message of Easter has the power to change lives. One of the most profound examples is the hardened Roman centurion who oversaw the execution of Jesus. At the cross he found proof. (Matthew 27:54) He reasoned, like all Romans, that if the gods of the land they conquered were unable to keep the land from Rome’s grasp, then the Roman gods were superior. It was the soldiers under his command that had mocked Jesus. They had given Jesus sour wine to drink when Jesus had exclaimed “I thirst”. The centurion then joined the crowd by saying “If you are the King save yourself.” He was used to the victims cursing him and his ears were calloused to the condemnations. Never had he heard the gentle words of a victim pray for those who killed him. “Father forgive them…” While he heard these words the sky when dark for three hours and this was no eclipse. This was followed by an earthquake. He recognizes this is no ordinary man and he exclaims; “Truly this was the Son of God!”

When you look at the Easter story you will find that not only did a Roman pantheist have his life changed at the cross, but so did the thief who hung beside Jesus. He too, had observed that Jesus was no ordinary man.

However, it would be the empty tomb that would have the biggest impact in changing lives. It is one thing to be moved by the way Jesus died, but it is another to see He conquered death and rose again from an empty tomb. When Mary Magdalene found her resurrected Lord, He told her, “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”

It is one thing to be moved by the way Jesus died, but it is another to see He conquered death and rose again from an empty tomb.

This first witness raced back to tell the others and when they too discovered the evidence of the empty tomb, their lives where forever changed. As they believed and embraced the sacrifice Christ had made for their sins, the life of Jesus filled their hearts. And from that point on millions of others have discovered the life changing power in the message of Easter. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

4. When you look at Easter, look for freedom. 

For many Easter is just a yearly statutory holiday where they can enjoy freedom from work or school. But if you take a close look at Easter you will find that there is a much greater freedom attached to this day. This freedom is from sin and death. It is profound, but it is true! Jesus conquered sin and death so sin would no longer control our lives here on earth, and it could not hold us back from spending an eternity with God.

Earlier Jesus had made this statement, “No one takes my life from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” Anybody who says something like this either has some serious mental problems or is indeed God. Jesus was claiming to have authority from inside death itself, as a dead man, He could take life back again, when He wanted to. What is harder, to control when you die, or to give yourself life again once you are dead?Jesus conquered sin and death so sin would no longer control our lives here on earth, and it could not hold us back from spending an eternity with God.

The answer is obvious. If Jesus could, and indeed He did, take His life back again from the dead, then He was free beyond any freedom anyone else has ever experienced. If He could control when He came out of the tomb, then He certainly controlled when He went to the grave. The resurrection of Jesus is given to us as the evidence that He was indeed free in laying down his life for us. And so, the resurrection is the absolute proof Jesus had the power to freely love us. A love that took Him to the cross to bear the punishment for our sins and promise us eternal life.

This Easter I challenge to take another look at the greatest moment in history, the day God loved you so much that He sent His Son to die for you.