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The History of Easter
Easter is the considered the principal festival of the Christian faith.
I bet you thought it was Christmas. Nope!
While Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after His crucifixion and burial. It is, therefore, considered the principal feast. Why? Because, without the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith would be in vain (more about that later).
Notice in the comments above I said Christian faith not religion. Why?
Religion is man centered.
Religion is, by definition, man centered. It usually involves a set of dos and don’ts in the hope (without any assurance) that somehow the good we've done will be greater than and outweigh our bad so that when we die, we might reach heaven. It is man’s way of trying to get to heaven without God. There are no guarantees as there is no way of keeping score plus, it never succeeds. You can never have enough of the good to outweigh the bad.
Why is this important? Read on.
Christianity is God-centered.
The basic tenants of the Christian faith states that God loves us, despite our sin and rebellion against Him. Because of our fallen, sinful nature, God knew we would never be able to be good enough on our own. We could never live a perfect life. Our good deeds would never outweigh our bad.
God is holy, holy, holy. He is spotless and sin cannot abide where He is.
Sin is rebellion against God. God's holiness demands perfection. You cannot have committed any sin and be in a relationship with Him. Sin and rebellion must be punished because it is evil. Scripture says that: "The wages (punishment) of sin is death."
Prior to the fall of man in the garden, death was non-existent. Death came into the world because of man’s rebellion against God. Every human being is sinful. Scripture says: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." [God’s words, not mine].
So, because He loves us so much and didn’t want to be without us, He made a way to restore the relationship in the only way it could be done, by Him, not us.
Therefore, He sent His only son, Jesus (fully God and fully human, but sinless), to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. If by faith you receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, and turn your life over to Him, then you receive, by the grace (the undeserved gift) of God. This is called redemption. This means your account is marked paid in full and your sin account is canceled. It is this faith in the redeeming power of Jesus that allows you to enter heaven and have fellowship with God for all eternity. God gave us His assurance by giving us Jesus.
Ever hear the old Gospel hymn Blessed Assurance? The words go: Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine.
No religion offers this iron clad assurance. It's religion (man centered) versus Faith in God (God centered). See the difference?
The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus is probably the oldest observance in the Christian faith, other than the observance of the Sabbath (the 7th day of creation and the day of rest). As the faith developed, the Sabbath came to be regarded, and still is, as a weekly celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday morning; therefore, the weekly celebration of His resurrection was moved to Sunday.
Jesus is both fully God and fully human. His life and ministry were the fulfillment of God's promise to restore humans to their rightful place after the fall of man in the garden. Those promises are contained throughout the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments). God is always as good as His Word. Jesus is the Word of God.
God wasn't doing a new thing and creating a new religion with Jesus. Jesus was there in the beginning creating everything along with God and the Holy Spirit. All three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) have been present throughout the history of mankind. This is the concept of the Triune God or the “Three in One.” Christian’s don’t worship three “gods,” just one God in three persons. I can’t explain it any better than that (and neither can the theologians – it’s a mystery).
When God discerned the time was right, He sent Jesus into the world for our sake to redeem us.
Jesus was born into a Jewish family. Throughout His life on earth and during the 3 years of His earthly ministry, Jesus observed all Jewish customs and holidays including the “Pascha” or “Passover.” The Passover was (and still is) a Jewish festival remembering the time God “passed over” the Jews and spared their first born from the plague that killed all the first born in the land of Egypt.
The Jews were instructed to slay a lamb and put the blood on their door posts and lintels (e.g., door frame) so that the Angel of Death would know to “pass over” them. Because of this plague, the Egyptians finally released the Jews from slavery and sent them out of their land. This is known as the Exodus. This was a foreshadowing (God’s show and tell) of what Jesus (the Lamb of God) would do by shedding His blood for us centuries later.
On the night before He was betrayed and crucified, Jesus observed the Pascha/Passover with His disciples one last time. He took the bread and wine and blessed them. He told His disciples that the bread represented His body broken for them and the wine was His blood shed on their behalf (which took place the following day when He was crucified). He instructed them to continue to observe the feast in remembrance of Him. This is what we call the Eucharist or Mass. It is a Sacrament.
Because Jesus (who was sinless) voluntarily shed His blood and died on our behalf (Good Friday), paying the penalty for our sin, we are freed from slavery (living a sinful life displeasing to God and permanent death, death of the spirit. Sin and death no longer have control over us. That is why Jesus is referred to as the “Pascal Lamb” of God who takes away the sin of the world.
After His death, Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb. The tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. However, on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead (despite all of man’s attempts to prevent it). He was subsequently seen alive by many thousands of eyewitnesses, including His disciples. He was not a ghost, but had a physical body that could eat, talk, walk and be touched.
Prior to returning to heaven (Ascension), Jesus told His disciples to continue the work He began until His return. The date of His return would be unknown even to Him. It is a date and time yet to be specified known only to God the Father. Jeus told His followers to return to town until they received the “gift from on high” from the Father. This gift is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all believers. This event took place and is known as Pentecost.
After His Ascension, the promised gift (the Holy Spirit) was received by all believers in Jesus on the day known as Pentecost. The disciples (meaning students) were now referred to as the apostles (those who are sent). They were sent to tell the entire world about Jesus and what He did. This is called the Great Commission. The disciples were commanded to Baptize those who accepted Jesus as their Savior. Why?
Jesus desires everyone be rescued and escape the slavery of sin and death and have a relationship with God here on earth and forever for all eternity.
Jesus promised that, in the interim between His ascension and His return (Second Coming), He would be preparing a place for His people. When the time was right, Jesus promised He would come again and take His people (those who believe in Him and what He did) to be with Him forever.
While it is important that Jesus was born, it is more important that He paid the price for our sins so that our relationship with God could be restored and we can be with Him always. That is why, without the crucifixion and resurrection, we would still be dead to God and a slave to our sins.
The resurrection of Jesus is proof that we are no longer under the dominion of death and the power of sin. We are now alive in God because of what Jesus did. Jesus’ resurrection was proof that those who have faith in Him will be raised in glory and power with a spiritual body like his. Prior to His ascension, Jesus showed us what a resurrected, everlasting body looked like and gave us His final instructions. That is why I said earlier that, without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the Christian faith would be in vain. The history of Easter is the most important day in the history of the Church.
Remember, history is only "His story!"
While many cultural historians might claim that Christianity is a new religion that super-imposed it’s holidays over so-called “older” pagan religions, let me state emphatically, baloney! The first four words of any Christian Bible say: “In the beginning, God . . .” it doesn’t get any older than that!
I’m not a theologian and, hopefully, I explained the history of Easter so you can understand it. If you would like to explore these ideas further, you can go to the following website for more information:
Hallelujah He is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed. Hallelujah!
Happy Easter and God bless!
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