What is Easter all about?

What comes to mind when you think about Easter – perhaps eggs or bunnies or daffodils or bank holidays or start of warmer spring and summer days?

For Christians, Easter is a time to remember the most stupendous events in all of history – events so remarkable as to be almost beyond belief – but events that have enormous implications for the whole of humanity.

Death on a Cross

On Good Friday we are reminded of an execution by crucifixion on a Roman cross. Not so remarkable you may think since the Roman Empire crucified thousands of criminals. But this execution was very different:

First, the man who was crucified wasn't a criminal. In fact he had never done anything wrong. He was crucified because he insisted on preaching love, mercy, humility, honesty, mercy and a host of other values that the religious and political authorities did not like. He was an inconvenience and so they found a way to silence him.

However, even that is not so remarkable. Many people throughout history have been imprisoned and executed for political reasons and it still happens today.

What is truly remarkable about the man who was crucified on the first Good Friday is that he was much more than a man. It was the God-Man who we know as Jesus Christ – The Son of God who adopted the form of a man.

So with connections in such high places, how come he was crucified? It's a long story but briefly:

Problem of Sin

The bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve, every man, woman and child has been afflicted by wrong attitudes, thoughts and behaviours. The bible calls it sin and we see the evidence all around us in the form of wars, genocide, criminality, famine, man-made disasters, greed, selfishness and no end of anti-social behaviour. It's the reason we spend so much on armies, weapons, law courts, police forces and prisons. It's why we are all obsessed with locks, alarms, passwords and insurance.

Sooner or later there has to be a reckoning for all the injustice in the world and that will happen when each of us passes from this life into the next and we face judgement before God. There are only two possible outcomes – either you are found completely innocent (that's not very likely) or guilty and the bible says the penalty for sin is 'death'. That's not annihilation but it means being shut out of the presence of God and all His blessings forever.

Fable or Fact?

Many dismiss all this as fable but on what evidence other than subjective opinion?

Jesus, on the other hand, took the matter so seriously that he did something about it at a cost that is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

The bible teaches us that Jesus Christ – the God-Man – died in every sense of the word to bear a punishment he did not deserve, but a punishment everyone else does deserve.

It's like a wealthy benefactor paying your fine for some offence like shoplifting when you don't have the means to pay it yourself. What Jesus Christ did, however was on an infinitely greater scale.

That indicates just how seriously Jesus takes the issue of our sin and judgement. Equally amazing is that it also demonstrates God's love for us that He would bear the penalty for sin on our behalf.

That was the real reason why Jesus Christ was crucified. The antagonism of the religious and political authorities was merely the circumstance used to bring it all about. How ironic that amongst those for whom Jesus Christ died were the very people who nailed him to the cross. The bible records his words,
"Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

But There's More – Much More

Empty Tomb

Good Friday is when we remember the death of Jesus Christ – severely beaten, nailed to a cross, left to hang for hours and then, to make doubly sure he was dead, he had a spear thrust into his side. Finally, his body was sealed inside a tomb. That was the first day.

The following day – day two – was the Sabbath, a Jewish holy day when people were not allowed to work so little or nothing apparently happened.

The third day also started quite normally. Very early in the morning some women who had loved Jesus dearly bought some spices and set off to anoint his body. But then, the most extraordinary things began to happen.

The records are quite confused but suffice it to say that there was an earthquake and sightings of angels. In spite of being sealed and heavily guarded, the stone was moved away from the entrance to the tomb and, most surprising of all, there was no dead body.

They took some persuading but eventually the disciples of Jesus became convinced that he had risen from the dead. Unbelievable though that may sound, the disciples were so convinced it was true that they spent the rest of their lives proclaiming the fact and with one possible exception they were willing to be martyred in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

It's the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It demonstrated conclusively that he fully and completely paid the penalty for sin and consequently death had no more hold over him than a common cold has over you.

Implications for You and Me

All of this is tremendous news for everyone who accepts they are sinners – that their lives are not what they should be but they are incapable of doing much about it.

Because he has paid the penalty for sin, Jesus is able to offer forgiveness to you and me. In other words, simply by asking him and trusting him, we can be saved from the penalty of our own sin.

But there's more. Jesus calls us to surrender our lives into his control. That means we seek to live the way he wants us to and gradually he will free us from the power that sin has always used to dominate our lives.

And then there's even more, much more. In fact we have only covered the beginning – the first step. This is the start of something big, but that is a much bigger story.

Perhaps this helps you to appreciate why Easter celebrations mean so much to Christians. Chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies are not what Easter is all about. It's about infinite love, leading to transformed lives that have an eternal future ahead of them.

How good is that?

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