Painted eggs, chocolate bunnies, and colorful baskets. These are the images that come to mind when many people think about celebrating Easter.
For many people, especially in America, Easter day is filled with egg hunts and enjoying candy prizes. Although these events are fun and not necessarily wrong, Easter is not about eggs, candy, or bunnies.
True symbols of Easter are a cross and an empty tomb. There were no egg hunts, candy, or tales of the “Easter Bunny” on the first Easter. Instead, people were talking about the most important event in history: The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today, Christians observe Easter or Resurrection Sunday in celebration of the risen Christ, who died for the sins of all and was resurrected on the third day following His death (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Easter Sunday, like other Sundays of church gatherings, should be a time of joyful commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, the foundation of the believer’s faith.
Understanding the True Meaning of Easter
On the Friday before the resurrection occurred, Christ was crucified and died. On the cross, He bore the sins of all people and the wrath of God (1 Peter 2:24).
During that time, when the sky was physically darkened, Christ experienced intense suffering as the Father looked away from Him because of the sins He bore for the world (Mark 15:33-34).
After completing His mission of bearing the punishment of sin for mankind, He willingly gave up His life and died (John 19:30).
Although some would resist the idea that the day of Christ’s death should be called “Good Friday,” ultimately the day was good because of what He accomplished.
As Colossians 2:13-14 says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (NIV).
Individuals can be forgiven of their sin and rebellion against God because of what Jesus, God the Son, did on the cross by dying in place of sinful man.
One of the reasons Christians celebrate Easter is because Christ died for them. His death was not an accident, tragedy, or what some skeptics claim as an example of “divine child abuse.”
The Stone Was Rolled Away
As much as the cross is a central symbol of Christianity, the message of the gospel would not be complete without the empty tomb.
After Jesus gave up His life and willingly died, Joseph of Arimathea took the body down from the cross and, with the help of Nicodemus, laid him in a newly cut tomb (John 19:38-42).
These two followers of Jesus carefully, but quickly, prepared the body using spices and wrapped the body in cloth.
After this was done, they quickly rolled the stone over the entrance to the tomb, since the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday evening (Luke 23:53-54).
On the first day of the week, Sunday, the women went to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ (Mark 16:1). When the women (Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome) arrived at the place of the tomb, to their surprise they found the stone already rolled away and Jesus’ body gone (Mark 16:2-5; Luke 24:1-3).
Angels appeared to the women, declaring the good news that “He has risen!” (Mark 16:6, NIV). Following the instructions of the angelic messengers, the women ran to the disciples and told them what they had seen (Luke 24:9-10).
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other women, the disciples, to a crowd of over 500 people, James the half-brother of Christ, and later to Paul (Matthew 28:8-10; John 20:11-18; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
Christ’s resurrection proved His own claims about His identity (John 20:27-29), His personal prophecies of His resurrection (John 2:19), and demonstrated His power over death (Acts 2:24). Christians celebrate and honor Easter, or more properly, Resurrection Sunday, because of Jesus’ resurrection.
The Foundation of Christianity
The event of Jesus’ resurrection is of utmost importance to His identity and to the Christian faith. As theologian John Walvoord eloquently stated in his academic and theological article,
The resurrection of Christ is at once an apologetic for His deity and His substitutionary death on the cross, and at the same time is substantiating evidence of the important place of the future resurrection of saints in the eschatological program of God (“The Person and Work of Christ Part XV: Christ in His Resurrection, Bibliotheca Sacra).
Placing faith in Christ’s death and resurrection is what imparts saving grace to individuals. Nothing and no one else can save a person (Acts 4:12). Salvation and the entirety of the Christian faith rest on the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
As Paul explained in his letter to the Corinthians, the Christian faith is futile if Christ had not been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:17). There would be no hope of salvation without Jesus’ resurrection.
Furthermore, Christ is the first fruit of the resurrection of the dead, for He is the first person who was ever permanently raised in a glorified physical body (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Believers will one day follow in Christ’s footsteps and be bodily raised from the dead into eternal glorified bodies.
In the early church, the resurrection of Christ was so important and life-changing that believers chose to meet for weekly gatherings on Sunday, the day He rose from the dead. This was a change from the Jewish Sabbath observance on Saturdays when they would gather for worship.
Although the Sabbath did not change, Christians chose instead to meet on the day of the week of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 20:7). This day became known as the “Lord’s day,” further showing the significance of the resurrection (Revelation 1:10).
A Joyful Celebration
Therefore, regardless of how Christians may choose to celebrate Easter (with or without egg hunts and bunnies), all Christians can joyfully commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection. These events are at the core of the gospel message and the foundation of the Christian faith.
Remembering the truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection provides joy in the Christian heart because of the salvation the Savior secured as well as hope for the future day when believers will be raised into resurrection bodies at Christ’s call (1 Corinthians 15:52).
Although egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, and colorful weaved baskets may be fun and whimsical, nothing can compare to the real meaning of Easter: Jesus Christ. He is far more important than an Easter hare bringing gifts, as Jesus offers the gift of salvation to all who believe (John 3:16-18).
Christians all around the world join in the wonderful celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the foundation of the Christian faith. Like the angels at the empty tomb, they joyfully exclaim: “He is risen!” (Mark 16:6).
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.