While I know this article will not be read until two days after the Easter celebration, I also know the commemoration is much too important to be reserved for a single day.
For many years on Easter Sunday as a pastor, I would lead our congregation in one of the few traditions we practiced. I would say, “He is Risen” to which the congregation would respond, “He is Risen Indeed!” This would be repeated a few times for emphasis with the volume increasing with each repetition. The practice was hardly new; it followed a centuries-old tradition practiced in Christian churches all over the world.
The resurrection of Christ is the point of history on which all Christianity rests. If He had not risen there is simply no Christian faith, since the entire system is based on the person of Christ. The fully God, fully man is arguably the most influential person in history, who without money, power or social standing, altered the course of human history. While the use of B.C. and A.D. as date markers have been sacrificed on the altar of “Political Correctness,” the influence of this carpenter teacher is undeniable.
Our modern culture tends to focus on bunnies and plastic eggs, an odd combination at best. But the basis of the observance we call Easter is one of sacrifice. The apostle John wrote quoting John the Baptist, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1: 29 NIV).
The purpose of three years of ministry that culminated in a cruel death on a cross did not end in defeat but rather victory over sin and death. The author of the letter to the Hebrews acknowledged the lack of effectiveness of historic animal sacrifices when he wrote, “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:3-4 NIV).
The shades of soft pastels that have become the palate of Easter cannot express the harsh colors of the events at a place called Golgotha, the rounded knoll outside the city of Jerusalem that looked like a skull. There on a cross, between two thieves, Jesus offered up His life for the two men to receive or reject the gift of eternal life He was purchasing that day. At the foot of the cross, His mother and the apostle John, who wrote the account, recorded the last words of the Savior. “When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30 NIV).
“It is finished” can also be translated to mean a debt paid in full. At the heart of the Easter story is a borrowed and empty tomb, a temporary resting place for the final confirmation of the promise of eternal life. You will note He “gave up his spirit,” His life given as offering a ransom for those who believe in Him. As Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “So that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21 NIV).
Easter is the one celebration with affects that last into eternity.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.