I love candy. My wife’s a chocolate person, but I’m particularly drawn to candy. So I love Easter with all the jelly beans and such. Of course I like the chocolate too. Everyone loves a chocolate rabbit in their Easter basket. And sure as shooting we’ll all be digging into Easter baskets in our home on Easter Sunday. But, that’ll come after the important part. Because no matter how good candy is, it’s not better than Christ.
Yet the world is full of people who want to associate the timing of Easter with pagan fertility celebrations around the time of spring. Hence rabbits and eggs. Yet, Christians have utilized the symbol of the egg since the beginning of the earliest Christian communities as a symbol of the resurrection, and the timing of the celebration has coincided with the lunar paschal calendar (i.e., following the Jewish Passover). So, Easter has been celebrated in various forms in generally the same time period since the very resurrection of Jesus that the event celebrates.
But, that’s all beside the point. My point is, that while candy and chocolate and rabbits are good, they can obscure the main point of the holiday: that Jesus Christ died and was buried and rose again on the third day to new life. At this point, Christianity stands or falls, and therefore, is of supreme significance in the life of the church. Easter, is, and should be, the greatest holiday in the church’s calendar. And the attempt of modern advertisers to take a Christian holiday and turn it into a commercial success notwithstanding, the holiday still is about Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 reminds us that without the resurrection there is no Christianity. He writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Christians know there is life after death, and Jesus’ resurrection confirms this for us. If Jesus was not resurrected then we would be a people without hope, still lost and condemned in our sin, awaiting judgment at the end of the line. But the beauty of Easter is that Christ has conquered death. It could not hold him, and therefore, those who trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation have hope of living eternally with him. So, like Paul then, when faced with death the Christian can exclaim, “’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
This is why Paul spends time arguing that the resurrection was verifiable. He tells the Corinthians that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to Peter, the other apostles, and more than 500 believers who were still alive at the time. Paul’s point? You could go out and ask for firsthand accounts that Jesus truly was alive. This meant that Jesus truly was God that his death had meaning for forgiving sins, and that God’s forgiveness of our sins resulted in what was originally supposed to be ours from the beginning: life forever with God in paradise. What joy and comfort there is in this life knowing that there is no fear in death, for I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That’s what Easter does. It reminds us that we have hope that because Jesus lives, we will live too.
Whether Easter is connected to fertility rights from pagan times is beside the point. What’s not beside the point, is that the pagan gods died in winter and rose again in spring, only to die over and over again. Jesus died once, for all, the just for the unjust to bring you forgiveness and by his rising again, to bring you eternal life. That’s a much more powerful message that the world’s view of Easter. Candy and rabbits? I can take them or leave them. Christ’s death and resurrection? I cannot live without them.