But Easter is a lot like Christmas and other related holidays in this one big way: most people in the world tend to focus on the celebration rather than the reason for the celebration.
I'm definitely not saying that holidays shouldn't be fun. I mean, really, what's the point of a holiday if it isn't any fun? At the same time, though, I'd like to ask you a question...
...why do we celebrate what we celebrate?
Today's answer is pretty easy for the vast majority of people. We use Easter to celebrate Jesus, just like how we do on Christmas.
But is that all? Are we just celebrating Jesus? Or is there something else that should be added to that reason?
I would defend the belief that Easter is more than just celebrating Jesus, and to do that I'll have to go back in time a bit...
Once upon a time, there was God. Nothing else. Just God. Simply a just, merciful, perfect, eternal, loving God.
At some point in eternity, God decided to create a universe and, within that universe, He created a blue and green planet called Earth and populated it with animal, plant, and human life. This creation was perfect, so perfect that God even proclaimed it to be "good" (Genesis 1). The first two humans, named Adam and Eve, were also created perfectly and had a wonderful relationship with their Creator.
And then those two perfect humans decided to willfully disobey God's only rule in a vain effort to become like Him (Genesis 3). In a word, they rebelled. In trying to be like God, Adam and Eve ended up severing that perfectly wonderful relationship with their Creator and sinned, becoming completely imperfect. That's why we have sin in the world to this day.
God could have destroyed the world right then and there. He could have said, "Ok, they just broke My one rule that I explicitly told them not to break. Sucks to be them," and then destroyed His whole creation with a mere thought. Or God could have gotten extremely angry and said, "Alright, they want to break My rules? Then I'll break them," and then tortured His whole creation in every possible way. It would have been nothing less than what they would have deserved for rebelling against God.
But instead of destroying or severely punishing what He had made, God had compassion, love, and mercy. He had a plan of salvation, a way to save His creation from its sin and rebellion and to bring it back into His loving arms. He could have executed His divine judgement, but He didn't because He loved (and continues to love) us despite our heinous sins.
But the perfect relationship between God and humans had been completely decimated by our rebellion. How in the world could the perfect God and sinful humanity be reconciled? We needed a sacrifice, someone completely sinless who could take our sins to the grave for us. And since no human is sinless and could ever fit that bill, Jesus Christ (God the Son) came to earth to save us (Luke 2).
He became a human so He could empathize with us and so He could take our sins. He lived a completely sinless life on earth so He could be that perfect sacrifice. And then the perfectly sinless man (who was simultaneously fully God and fully human) was unjustly executed on a cross by His own corrupted creation, taking our sins down with Him to the grave (Luke 22-23). Christians call this day Good Friday.
The story could have ended there. If it had, then sin would have won. We, as totally depraved rebels, would have just killed our God. There would have been no salvation, none of our sins being forgiven or taken away. It would have just been us continuing to sin and be corrupted without a care.
But it didn't end there.
Jesus was buried in a tomb for three days, but on the third day something miraculously wonderful happened...
He destroyed death, broke the Devil's power, and proved that He was our only salvation. This Jesus, who we in our sinfulness had unjustly murdered, conquered death once and for all eternity and offers us the only true salvation from our sin and corruption.
And that's what Easter's really all about. It's about Jesus rising from the dead but, ultimately, it's about the reason why He died and about the salvation He continually offers us after his resurrection.
Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection gives us the opportunity to return to Him, to repent from our inherent sinfulness and run into His loving arms. He has repaired and restored our relationship with God and offers to bring each and every one of us back to Him.
But we're still sinful beings. And, honestly, many of us fall into the misguided belief that we have to do something ourselves to repair our relationship with God. We have to do this one particular thing, or we have to stop doing this one bad thing, or we have to say this particular prayer, or whatever. But while all of that is good, it's really not necessary.
Jesus Christ died once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).
There's literally nothing that any of us can do to earn any part of salvation. There's absolutely nothing we can do, or say, or think that will help us repair our relationship with God because Jesus Christ fixed the whole thing Himself by dying for our sins and rising from the dead. Anything we do to "earn merit" falls terribly short of what He did and, honestly, it's redundant; however, there is one thing that we are called to do.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, repaired the chasm that separates sinful us from perfect God, but the only way that we can cross that repaired chasm is by repenting of our sins, believing that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and by following the will of God all of the days of our lives (John 14:6). We're not just little robots and pawns that God moves around flippantly, like someone playing chess. He cares deeply for us, loves us like no one and nothing else ever could, and He gives us the freedom to follow or reject Him.
And that's the message of the Gospel, the truth about God's work of salvation. That's the reason why we celebrate Easter. Honestly, it's pretty amazing to realize and to know that God loved His sinful creation so much that He was more than willing to let His Son die for our sins on a cross and then rise again three days later and offer us eternal life, permanent salvation, and the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father.
I pray that none of us would ever forget the true meaning of Easter not only today but every day of the year. And if there are any of you out there who don't know Jesus Christ as your Savior, then I would totally encourage you to do some research (reading any of Lee Strobel's books - like The Case for Christ - will be helpful along with reading the Bible), to ask other Christians (including myself) hard questions, and to be willing to ask yourself hard questions about why you believe what you believe.
I hope you all had a very blessed Easter Week, and I pray that you would continue to follow God in all ways. He really is so very amazing.
Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Happy Easter! =D
- Edessa, signing off