Last Updated: February 2017
Our faith is useless without the resurrection. Through Jesus Christ, our greatest problem of sin and facing eternal judgment has been solved, and because of His resurrection, the solution of His perfect sacrifice has been established. If the church had to pick one event to put time and effort into and rally the most enthusiasm around, it would have to be the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What is Easter Sunday?
Why is it called “Easter”?
There are vast differences in opinion whether the name “Easter” has roots from the pagan goddess Eastre, or from the Greek word Pascha (derived from the Hebrew word Pesach meaning Passover). It doesn’t surprise me that, with an event as important as Jesus’ resurrection, there are some serious contentions. While the message of the Gospel precedes all of history (Revelation 13:8), Satan has been trekking right along bastardizing it with another gospel since his rebellion, the resulting confusion is his playground. The question is not whether we should call it Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day, or even if we should celebrate it at all, but the question is, what gospel do we follow? One thing is certain, whenever the Gospel is preached, remembered or celebrated, the enemy will produce his own version; and whenever the enemy presents his “gospel”, the people of God will seek to reclaim the culture he turns, with the Truth. That being said, we have an opportunity on Easter Sunday to worship God and express the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ like no other day on the calendar. Celebrate new life through Christ and the power of His resurrection.
When is Easter?
Unlike Christmas, the date for Easter changes each year. Whether the Gregorian calendar (standard calendar of today) or the Julian calendar (“old calendar” but still used by some Orthodox churches) is regarded in determining the dates, the appointment for Easter Sunday is basically calculated using the same formula. The early church believed that the celebration of “Easter” should follow the Jewish Passover since Jesus died and rose again the Sunday after the Passover. And since the Jewish calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, the same had to be done in determining the celebration of His resurrection. The Passovers falls on the full paschal moon. Years ago, astronomers were able to approximate the full paschal moon after each vernal equinox (when the sun crosses directly over the earth’s equator) and the Western Church used these dates to assign Easter; then recorded them for the church’s use today. Since the vernal equinox can fall on different days, the early church set the date of the vernal equinox to March 21 (even though it can also fall on March 20). Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Ascension Day, and Pentecost are all based on the calculations of this one date.
The Significance of Easter
Our finite minds cannot resolve the bitter complexity of our fallen condition. We are creatures, implying that we have been created, and must rely on someone greater than ourselves to fill in the holes of our understanding. Jesus Christ, God in flesh, came to bridge the gap of lost relationship between God and man. Jesus made radical claims, asserting himself to be God and the long awaited Messiah. His profound offers of forgiveness and hope are summarized in His words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Then, according to His own word and in accordance with prophecy, He gave himself up to be crucified. But if that were the end of the story, Christ’s bold claims and great sacrifice would be meaningless.
The great commentator, Albert Barnes, said, “There is no one truth that will have greater power over us, when properly believed, than the truth that Christ has risen from the dead (Notes on the Bible, Philippians)”. This is why the apostle Paul would pay any price and abandon every last thing in his life “to know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). Without God, our search for hope and purpose turns up empty and we are ultimately left to carry the burden of sin alone, to live out our lives searching for meaning with no reassurance that we have come up with any real solution to our depravity. I can offer you an Easter bunny, some jelly beans, and a couple Cadbury eggs, but chances are you will only feel better for mere moments before the sugar rush wears off and you are left empty, searching for another good-time holiday. The good news is that the Gospel lends a hopeful twist to the Easter Sunday tradition. He is risen! Celebrate the resurrected Christ like you celebrate nothing else. It is the central event to everything the Christian holds dear.