Like most people I know, I love Easter weekend. It is a joyous time of year.
I love the coming of spring and warmer days. I enjoy getting out in the yard and getting it ready for a new season; seeing the scilla and crocuses and narcissus and daffodils and tulips begin to poke through the soil; going for walks with my wife; getting my bike ready for action.
I also love the special foods that we associate with the season. When I was a child we used to decorate Easter eggs which my parents would then hide for an egg hunt. It was great fun, and I still think Easter eggs somehow taste better than ordinary hard-boiled eggs. Chocolate is good too, and I love the fruit bread that my wife makes every Easter.
As a child I used to enjoy going to church with my family at Good Friday and Easter. As a music lover, I loved the range of expression in the music of the season. Both the sad Good Friday hymns and the joyous Resurrection hymns moved me deeply. I knew somehow that they conveyed a very important message, but I didn’t really “get it” until much later in life.
What has made Easter a truly happy season for me – and the reason I now believe it is worth celebrating – has nothing to do with bunnies, or chocolate, or eggs, or warm weather, or even going to church. It has everything to do with the incredibly powerful event that took place on the first Easter. Although I had heard the message before, I didn’t really “get it” until the age of 34 when I surrendered my independence and yielded control of my life to Jesus Christ. At that point, all the things I had heard about Jesus began to make sense.
To put the story in a nutshell, Jesus came to earth and lived a human life as God’s representative on earth. After living a quiet life and working as a village carpenter until the age of 30, he was baptized and for three years he travelled throughout Galilee and Judea (both in present-day Israel), preaching and teaching and healing. He announced God’s coming Kingdom and fulfilled the ancient prophecies of a coming Messiah. Amazingly, in his lifetime Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies that had been given by a variety of people over hundreds of years, including 29 on a single day – the day of his death.
At the height of the annual Passover festival he was flogged and then crucified by the Romans after an illegal trial at the hands of the Jewish ruling council. During the Passover meal the night before he died, he told his disciples that his death was an offering for their sins. Both the Roman officer who oversaw his crucifixion and one of the thieves who was crucified with him recognized that he was innocent and believed in His identity. On the third day he rose from death, in fulfilment of prophecy, to break the power of death forever. His resurrection was a powerful sign of a coming new Kingdom which he had begun to announce during his years of preaching, teaching and healing.
I am now a member of His Kingdom, and though I live on earth, I live as a citizen of heaven. I know that my sins have been forgiven and I have a new identity as a child of God. I know that God is my Father who loves me and has a glorious destiny for me. I know that I was made for a divine purpose and that after the good news has been proclaimed to every nation on earth, Jesus will return to initiate His kingdom on earth. I know that if I am faithful, though I will go through many tests, I will share in the final resurrection and the coming of a new world.
This is what Easter is all about! It’s not just a nice spring weekend with bunnies, chocolates and flowers – even though there’s nothing wrong with any of those things. It’s about hope, true hope. Because of that hope, the turmoil in our present world doesn’t surprise, discourage or dismay me; it was prophesied that troubles would increase in the years prior to the Lord’s return. Because of that hope, I can live free from worries and fears, and look forward to the day when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom that will have no end.
P.S. An Ottawa area church is putting on a great live presentation of the Good Friday/Easter story this weekend. The Crucifixion has been playing in Ottawa since 1985. Check it out here.