Easter – In this secular world we live in the true meaning of many of our Christian holidays have gotten lost in the shuffle. This day isn’t about baskets of chocolate bunnies, rabbits who bring brightly colored eggs, or any of the other worldly ways of observing this day. Sure, those things are fun . . . but not what it truly is all about.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! This is the most special day of the year for Christ Followers! Yes, His birth is very important, for none of the rest of it could have happened without it, but His resurrection offers us the hope of life everlasting, of forgiveness for our sins, and the assurance that we are forever His because of His sacrifice on our behalf. There is no greater love that has ever been shown than this!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the true meaning of this day, following is a copy and paste of the story of the Crucifixion from the Book of Matthew, Chapter 27, Verses 32 – 66; and the Resurrection – Matthew, Chapter 28, Verses 1-10
The Crucifixion of Jesus
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b] 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” 55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
The Burial of Jesus
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Jesus Has Risen
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Jesus went through horrifying torment, for love of us. His supreme sacrifice and subsequent triumph over the grave, gives us hope for life eternally with Him. By accepting His birth, death and resurrection, and asking Him into our lives as our personal Savior, we can know the joy of His forgiveness and presence in our lives, and look toward a future with Him in heaven. To a secular world, this is unrealistic, but He came into a sinful, secular world to save it. Praise God for that!
So, where did the Easter Bunny, colored eggs, jelly beans, chocolate and all the other stuff come from and why is it associated with Easter? This is something that not many bother asking, and honestly I didn’t either for all of my life. We got up and went to church, we believe and celebrate because of the resurrection of Christ, but we would go home to our baskets and the egg hunts and all of that stuff too. Why though?
The Easter Bunny – The Easter Bunny has nothing to do with religion. This celebration can be traced back to the 16th century in Eastern France and Western Germany, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Easter Bunny, known as the Osterhase or Oster Hawse, was a mythical creature, sort of like Santa Claus, who came to visit good children and bring them eggs, candy and occasionally toys. When people from those regions moved to the United States, they brought their traditions with them. This was in the late 1700’s.
So why Rabbits and Eggs? Well, in the ancient world, these two things were symbols of fertility. The egg is a symbol of life. It was something that could be touched and held, knowing there was life growing inside of it. Rabbits are known for being quick to procreate. Even though there is no direct connection to rabbits and eggs, since rabbits give birth to litters, they both represented that winter was gone and everything would soon come alive again. Which leads us to the Easter Basket – eggs are laid in nests. When the bunny would bring the gifts to the children, much like Santa with the stockings, the gifts would be left in nest-like holders, which eventually changed to straw hats, and at some point to woven baskets filled with grass to represent the nests. And the colored eggs? I thought this was quite interesting! Have you ever boiled an egg and noticed the sometimes strong odor? Well, in ancient times the people would add spring flowers to the water while the eggs were boiling and it would tint the eggs the color of the flowers. To make the colors brighter they’d add a little alcohol . . . buy why waste alcohol? So they used vinegar instead. And the brightly colored Easter Egg was born. In Persia and the ancient far east, eggs would often be painted red to represent Christ’s shed blood, which further connected the egg to the resurrection and subsequently the Easter Celebration.
So how do the Christian celebration of the Resurrection connect with mythical fertility beliefs? Well, Christ was crucified and resurrected to pay for our sins. Rebirth or resurrection is a big part of spring, with the trees growing new leaves after a long winter, flowers blooming crops beginning to grow and a fertile time for the animals. Ancient beliefs go hand in hand with religious beliefs, so it actually isn’t a big stretch of the imagination to figure out how these two have been merged into one holiday. It’s easy for me, as a life long Christ Follower to separate the spiritual reasons I celebrate, with the fun ones that the secular world celebrate, and not confuse the two. I hope that this information today gives the same clarity to some of you who may be unfamiliar with the history behind both parts of the celebration today.
I have deliberately NOT included silly side holidays to today’s real celebration. It’s too important to focus on Christ today, and not on the other stuff.