Easter is right around the corner so of course, I have purchased jelly beans, candy for my kid’s Easter baskets, and put up bunny decorations throughout my house. The act of doing this brings back many memories of my own childhood. I can remember the blissful feeling of waking up to find a basket full of treats, enjoying Easter egg hunts, having delicious meals of baked ham with family, and getting all dressed up for the special day. To me, as a kid, Easter was really all about the treats, fun with cousins, the Easter Bunny, and Easter eggs. I really had no idea that Easter had anything to do with Jesus until I was a teenager, and even then, I didn’t come close to understanding it all. As an adult, however, my need to learn the Easter story and comprehend its meaning has heightened. It has taken a lot of studying, asking questions, and listening to people more educated than me, to get to where I am at today—and I know there is still so much more I have to learn! Because it took me until later in my life to begin to truly understand what Easter is all about, I can’t help but wonder how many others are out there who are just like me. How many of you know the full story of why we celebrate Easter? I wonder, what does Easter mean to you?
I bet many of you reading this post, have an amazing understanding of the Easter story and know way more than I—fantastic! But I am also betting there are many of you, who like me in the past, have a limited understanding of the story. I want you to know that I get it. No judgment at all! We all start from different places. Whether you know it all or if you are curious to learn more, please keep reading as I attempt to do my best to share what I have learned so far about the Easter Story and why it matters. I do this in full disclosure that I am not a preacher or a theologian, so please keep that in mind.
In the beginning, God created man and woman to be in a relationship with Him and to honor Him. At first, Adam and Eve were without flaws, just like their maker. They were surrounded by immeasurable beauty and a bounty of food to fill not only their tummies but also to bring satisfaction to their lips. God gave them all that they needed and more. He gave them a mind, emotions, and free will. At the start, they were perfect and that meant they could be in the presence of God. They probably walked with God in the Garden of Eden and chatted with Him on more than one occasion. Life was good and God was happy with His creation. Unfortunately, as we all know Adam and Eve disobeyed God when they ate the forbidden fruit, that Satan so awfully coerced them to do. Original sin was born and with it brought death. Not only was it a physical death we inherited, but death to being in God’s presence. Sin equals separation from God. God told Adam and Eve, that not only were they now separated from Him, but that all of their descendants would be too. Those descendants are you and me friends. When we were born, we were sadly born dead in our sin.
Ugh…does this make you feel hopeless? This story of original sin is tough, that is for sure. But luckily for us, the story doesn’t end there! Because God loves us so much He keeps trying to redeem us and find ways to be in a relationship with us. Throughout the Old Testament, you can find covenants God makes with His people to try to bring them back to Him. He speaks directly to prophets like Moses and Isaiah in order to share with the Jewish people of that time what God wanted for them and what they needed to do to be able to be close to Him. Back then, there was a lot of blood shed in sacrifices to make up for the sins of the Jewish people. If they wanted to be close to God they had to sacrifice animals like lambs in order to cleanse themselves from their sins (temporarily). It was an act to help purify them for God. It wasn’t pretty that is for sure, but neither is sin. Thankfully though, the Old Testament isn’t all about bloodshed. We are given hope throughout it about the coming of a Messiah who would one day be the ultimate sacrifice for us all! He would make us permanently clean. The sacrificing of animals would no longer be needed. Over and over again the Old Testament tells us this will occur and it also includes specific details of what to expect when it does. The Jewish people in those days waited in full anticipation of the day the Messiah, their King would come and save them.
This is where Jesus enters the picture. He was born of a virgin (as prophesied in the Old Testament) and lived a quiet life until He begins His teachings throughout Roman Judea and finally ending in Jerusalem. Throughout His time on earth, Jesus speaks of being THE Son of Man, THE Anointed One, and He also makes various I AM statements that lead us to know that He is God in human form. “I AM the Bread of Life” John 6:35,” I AM the Light of the World” John 8:12, “I AM the Door” John 10:7-9, “I AM the Good Shepherd” John 10:11-15, and “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” John 14:6—just to name a few. (See this article for more explanation regarding I AM statements http://bit.ly/3f8GFef) Jesus also goes on to complete various other prophecies from the Old Testament, performs miracles, and shares an understanding of God that no other human can come close to formulating or expressing. There were many, many witnesses to these things and people were left in awe! Unfortunately, many of the Jewish leaders of that day enjoyed their power and prestige so much that they resisted Jesus and who he said He was. They did not want to give up their status in society in order to make room for Jesus. This act of pride ultimately leads to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In those days, claiming to be God was considered blasphemy and was punishable by death, so they, along with large crowds of people, were able to get the Roman leader Pontius Pilate to order Jesus’s death.
Jesus went on to endure countless pain, first being beaten by Roman soldiers who used whips made of bones and metal that would hook into His skin and lacerate Him. After enduring the horrific beatings, a crown of thorns was placed on His head cutting into his skin, used as a way to torture Him but also to humiliate Him. Jesus was also made to carry his own cross (most likely weighing over 100 lbs.) This wooden cross was full of splinters that had to have dug into His already torn back as He walked, and finally, He had nails brutally hammered into His hands and feet in just the right places (piercing nerves) to cause the most amount of pain. He was then hung on the cross with a sign hung overhead mocking Him that read— Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Jesus was left there to die an agonizing death by asphyxiation. A long and torturous death where one has to pull themself up in order to take in a breath. A person could only do this so long before they would die. It is believed that Jesus’s death took about six hours.
Now if the story ended there people would be able to try and poke all kinds of holes into Jesus’s claims. They could say he died just like us mere mortals. Thankfully for us, there is such an exciting end to this story. Jesus rises from the dead!! Three days after his death, a small group of women including Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s mother went to visit his tomb. At the time it was closed off by a very large stone and it was under the watch of Roman soldiers. When the women arrived the large stone was moved by an angel of the Lord and the soldiers were knocked into a deep sleep. The women then saw that the tomb was empty. The cloths that Jesus’s body had been wrapped in were left just as if a body had still been lying in it. Mary Magdalene immediately ran to tell the disciples what had happened. In short order, the apostle Peter confirms what Mary has been witness to and Jesus appears to many of them on and off for forty days to prove to them that He has indeed risen from the dead. The bible tells us there were more than 500 witnesses of Jesus alive and walking among the people before he finally ascends to Heaven in front of 11 of the apostles. AMAZING!
So…what does this all mean you may ask? Why does it matter that Jesus has RISEN? It matters because it proves that Jesus is who he says He is. God in human form. It matters because we can look back at the Old Testament and find numerous prophecies of what the Messiah will one day do and see that Jesus completes them all. It matters because when Jesus died on the cross he was the final sacrificial lamb. His blood was shed for all of us. He, alone, saves us from our sin and allows us to go to Heaven to be with God. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. As Jesus proclaimed on the cross—“It is finished.” meaning that all debts have been paid. What a gift Jesus is to you and to me! God sent His only son to make things right for us. Jesus chose to go through extreme suffering to give us grace. There is a catch though…in order to be saved by Jesus, you must give your heart to Him. You must choose to believe in what He did for you and admit that only through your faith in Him are you acceptable to God. Once you surrender, your body will be filled with the Holy Spirit and you will want to live your life with and for Him. It absolutely humbles me whenever I think about this, as I pray it also humbles you.
So, friends, I hope this Easter story brings you great joy! I hope you see that it isn’t your good deeds or being a good person that gets you into Heaven. (What a relief! Because how does one measure that?) It is the belief in Jesus Christ alone that does that for us. The Bible is absolutely clear about this! It is THE GREATEST GIFT YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE! Have you surrendered to Him yet? Have you thanked Him and put your trust in Him? I pray and hope that each one of you will. He is ready and waiting to hear from you and I bet He is wondering…“What does Easter mean to you?”