Isn’t it strange how one holiday can bring about so many differing feelings? You are elated over what you are celebrating, yet you are sad about what led to your celebration. And in addition you are very sad for those who do not celebrate what you hold so dear, or they celebrate the day for totally the wrong reasons. How perplexing.
I am pretty sure many of the holidays we often celebrate in this nation can fall into the category I just described: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, even St. Patrick’s Day. But the day I have in mind, the day that will be celebrated around the world in about a week and a half, is the day known as Easter, or to many as Resurrection Sunday.
How does Easter Sunday bring about the various types of emotions I mentioned? Well, if you are a Christian, then certainly you are very excited about what the resurrection of Christ made possible.
In Romans 4:25 God says about Christ, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” In other words, Jesus was crucified in order to pay for our sins, but He rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death, so that those who repent and put their faith in Him alone will be justified, which means to be declared no longer guilty of sin.
How exciting that is. We who deserve to be cast out of God’s Presence because of our sinful nature can be forgiven of all our sin, and given the gracious gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. I don’t know about you, but to me such a reality is not only exciting beyond words, but is worth shouting about from the rooftops for all to hear.
When you repent and put your faith in Christ alone, God changes you. Second Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way; “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Through faith in Christ I become a born-again child of God, and I am His forever. That is what the resurrection did for me. What a wonderful and glorious thought.
So what is there to be sad about? Although I am elated to be born-again through faith in Christ, when I stop and ponder what had to occur in order for me to receive that gift, I am sad. Jesus, God the Son, the Creator of all things, had to become sin on the cross for my sins to be paid for (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Consider that. Because of my selfish sins (and yours) the sinless One had to become sin so that I could receive the righteousness of Christ so that I could dwell in God’s Presence forever. I am eternally glad He did so for me, but if I am honest I must say that the price of the gift of our salvation and eternal life was too high.
But I am also sad because so many people see this holiday in completely the wrong light. Many people in our society see it as a time of “spring renewal,” or getting family together for food and fun, especially for Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies.
It is not that any of those things are bad, but when you consider what the real import of Easter is, and that it is clearly tied to the brutal crucifixion of Christ — our Lord, Savior, and Creator of all that is — then it seems that Easter egg hunts, and jelly bean cups simply diminish the focus, especially when those things often end up being the real focus.
Lastly, the time of Easter can also bring about a sadness when you stop and consider how many people not only don’t know the true meaning of Easter, but even more, they have never truly repented of sin, asking Christ to forgive them, and then trusting that what Christ did on the cross paid for all their sins, thereby putting their faith completely and only in Him, and in so doing receiving the gift of salvation and eternal life from and through Christ alone.
As God says in Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Understand, I am not trying to be the Grinch who stole Easter. Rather I am saying that if you are going to truly celebrate that holiday that you can only do so in a truly meaningful way by knowing who Jesus actually is — the Eternal God the Son, and by realizing what He did for you on the cross — as the sinless Lamb of God doing for you what you could never do for yourself, the One rising victorious from the grave so that you can be forgiven — not based on what you might be able to do, but based on what He alone can do and has done.
Over 5 billion people in the world have not yet put their faith in Christ, and many religious people who claim to be Christians actually believe that they must work to receive eternal life, or to remain saved. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 7:21-23 that that is just not true, that it is not works, but faith in Him that gains you eternal life.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many mighty works?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
As we approach Easter this year, I encourage you to consider how to appropriately honor the One who this holiday is all about, considering well what He did for you. If you already know Jesus, celebrate what He has done, and tell others about Him.
If you do not yet know Christ, I greatly encourage you to learn about what Jesus did, and why He did it, and then turn to Him in repentance and faith.
Choose life; choose Christ.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.