Jerry A. Collins
HISTORY OF EASTER
Of all the Christian holy days reduced to ‘holidays’, the only one with any real validity in the Bible, in terms of origin and time of year, is what we call Easter. What we probably should celebrate is the Passover that is what Jesus celebrated with enthusiasm and joy, and that is the valid source of our Easter celebrations. The Passover, the feast commemorating the passing over of the angel of death for those homes ‘under the blood of the Lamb’ is the oldest continually observed feast in history. The early Christians continued to celebrate the Passover after Jesus death, burial and resurrection. From the beginning, the Christians met every Sunday to celebrate the resurrection; and every year in springtime they celebrated the Passover. But there was no Easter. There was a Passover lamb but no rabbit. Somehow, Easter took center stage and the Passover disappeared. A Lamb was replaced by a rabbit. How did this happen?
Since the Resurrection took place in the spring, and since the pagans had for many centuries been celebrating new life, fertility and the return of growing things each year at the same time, the old pagan practices eased their way into this part of the life of the church. There was no Easter celebration as such but the springtime activities of paganism began to attach themselves to the annual time of the Passover and slowly Easter grew being finally embraced by the Church as an annual celebration of the resurrection
The name ‘Easter’ originates from the festival of Oestre pronounced ‘Eastruh’ which is the Goddess of Spring, fertility and New Life. So ‘Eastruh Time’ eventually became ‘Easter Time’. Since ancient times pagans have worshipped rabbits as sex and fertility gods looking upon them as symbols of reproduction and if you have ever had rabbits as pets you now know why. Likewise, eggs have always been an important feature of pagan springtime celebrations of new life and fertility. In many societies brightly colored eggs were and still are presented as gifts and charms to bring supernatural fertility and reproduction each spring. All of this comes together in our Easter customs in the pagan tradition of ‘Eastruh’ the Goddess of Spring. In this story there was a great bird that wanted to be a rabbit. The Goddess ‘Eastruh’ turned it into a rabbit and in gratitude the rabbit that could still remember how to lay bird eggs came each spring during this festival and laid beautiful eggs for the Goddess. This is how we have gotten a supernatural, egg-laying rabbit god in our Easter traditions we celebrate today. So since the pagan festival of ‘Eastruh’ coincided each spring with Passover, it is not difficult to see how these pagan beliefs and customs eased into the life of the Church and replaced the Passover.
MEANING OF EASTER
We are going to take the letters of the word "Easter" and illustrate the true meaning of Easter from God’s point of view.
(1)EMPTY TOMB Luke 24:1-12
All of the evidence that exists concerning the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus indicates that it was empty. This was the testimony of the disciples who carefully examined the tomb when they found the stone rolled away. The guard who was stationed there also reported the tomb empty. The opening of the tomb was not to allow Christ to come out but was a means of permitting others to enter and see the empty tomb. Only three explanations are possible: (1) That the disciples may have chanced upon the wrong tomb. But with the presence of angels and the testimony of the Roman guard indicate that it was the right place. (2) That soldiers suggested that someone had stolen the body while they slept. If so, they would have executed immediately. Instead Matthew recounts that they were given money to spread the false story that the body had been stolen 28:11-15. This was bribery to prevent the truth being told and protected the soldiers at the same time. (3) That Jesus was resurrected from the dead. There was no motive on part of disciples to steal the body and if enemies had taken it would have been in their interests to produce it when the accounts of the resurrection began to be circulated. So the empty tomb remains a silent but eloquent witness of the resurrection.
(2)ACCESS TO GOD Romans 5:1-2
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was proof positive of His deity and lordship. If Jesus had remained a prey to death, how could he save us? Since the resurrection demonstrates the power of God, then it follows that He is the doorway into the presence of our Father in heaven. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1) God the Father is said to have raised Christ from the dead in Acts 13:30 ‘God raised Him from the dead’ Romans 6:4; Ephesians 1:19-20. (2) Christ is also revealed as raising Himself from the dead in John 2:19 where Jesus states ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again’. (3) The Holy Spirit participated in the resurrection of Christ in Romans 8:11 "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead..." As a result of Jesus resurrection we now have peace with God the Father Romans 5:1; He serves as our advocate before the Father like a defense attorney taking up our case when we fail him and sin so that we can be restored and placed back into a useful position again 1 John 2:1; He becomes an intercessor for us as our great high priest of behalf of weak and tempted believers before the Father Hebrews 7:25. For instance, King Henry Vlll like all kings had people in his court he respected and had influence to intercede on behalf of others for good or ill as well as situations. So, too, we have one who has influence with our Heavenly Father. His resurrection makes this possible.
(3)SATISFIED GODS DEMANDS 1 John 2:2
1 John 2:2 tells us that Jesus work of salvation satisfied all of the demands of His Father by removing the barriers that existed between God and His sinful creatures. It is God who is ‘satisfied’ and He is satisfied that what Jesus did on the cross completely paid for sin. That’s different from the way it was in the Old Testament. God always required a blood sacrifice, but only the cross was a completely sufficient one. It was enough and nothing else is required. It seems that there is only one of three responses that can be made about this. (1) That there is no sin and so no need for this sacrifice. God says differently. (2) That there is no God and so no such thing as sin because sin is something we do against God. (3) That God says there is sin and there is provision for it in Christ. God says that provision is satisfactory to Him. It is ‘done’ and there is nothing else we have to ‘do’, just believe. Jesus resurrection is proof that He is the Savior and we can place our faith in His provision that God’s wrath is appeased by the sacrifice of His Son.
(4)TRUST CHRIST Ephesians 1:11-13
In order to be saved (that is rescued from the consequences of our sin) we need to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Personal Savior. It is sin that separates us from God, keeps us out of heaven, and more basically, keeps us from having any relationship with Him. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. To begin a relationship with God, a person must receive the payment God has already made through the death of Christ. It's like someone offering to pay off the entire mortgage of your house. You must receive the gift before you can stop making house payments. Such a decision can be made anywhere, anytime to invite Christ into your life. The resurrection of Christ assures this possibility.
(5)EXALT HIM Philippians 2:8-11
This passage argues that Christ is worthy of worship and exaltation by virtue of His resurrection, ascension and position before the Father in heaven. His name is above every name and every knee shall bow and acknowledge Him as Lord of all. His sovereign rule and position of authority will be in heaven, on earth and under the earth. In other words, there will be no place in all of the universe that will not acknowledge Christ as Lord. Every day of our lives is an opportunity to attribute worth to Christ as Lord by obeying Him. We do not attend worship services but instead live a lifestyle of worship. Christ is deserving of all of our affection, adoration and allegiance because He has been resurrected from the dead. None else has ever done that.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Christ has exchanged our sin for His righteousness. As a result (1) The penalty is remitted Romans 5:12-14. The penalty for sin is death, spiritual, physical and eternal. This penalty must be removed by Christ. (2) Restoration to favor John 3:36. Once out of favor with God, we become a friend of God and an heir in Christ. (3) Imputed with Righteousness of Christ Romans 4:5. We are now clothed in righteousness not our own but provided by Christ and accepted again into fellowship with God. Sin pardoned; penalty remitted; relationship restored.