By Kimion Tagwirei
Countless Christians in Zimbabwe and across the world celebrate Easter from this Friday hitherto Monday, albeit mostly in virtual ways, observing government and World Health Organization (WHO) restrictions set in attempts to curb the spread of the tragic Coronavirus. The virus which reportedly started in Wuhan late 2019 has killed more than 1.6 million, sickened more than 70 million people globally to-date.
This article reflects on transforming good news about the newness of life from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ outshining endless debates on Easter name, dates, origins and related historical matters.
Traditionally marked by massive Church conferences, family get–togethers’, travels and outings, Easter has remained widely celebrated.
What is the meaning of Easter?
While those who critique Easter from pagan origins and related misgivings condemn it, the value of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ keeps undeniably important and worthy continuous reflections and celebrations.
To my concurrence, New Testament scholar Dr Taremeredzwa Bishau once spoke through Sunday Mail (16 April 2017) that “historians concerned themselves with dates and venues, but New Testament scholars know that for early Christians, dates were not as important as the events that were celebrated. What happened was that Jesus was transforming already existing Jewish feasts which were celebrated on specific dates following the Jewish calendar giving them new meaning in the light of his advent. He transformed the Passover celebrations into celebrations about his sacrifice on the cross. He gave the Passover meal a new meaning and called it the new covenant. That is what was important for the early Christians. Just like with the birth of Jesus, the early Christians never specified the actual date of birth because what was critical and therefore what was celebrated was the Epiphany itself”.
Concurringly, various theological scholars find no problems with differences about dates, places and direct their focus on the meaning as well as relevance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter can be understood from Pesach (Passover), which Biblically speaks to the spilling of blood for liberation of sinners, which foreshadowed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that redeemed humanity, not only Christians, but all human beings from fatal enslavement of sin to holistic freedom in Jesus Christ. While the term Easter was historically associated with an ancient goddess, it can be rightly used today, as dates and names are given meanings, value and relevance by people for intended purposes. According to Fairchild (2021), Easter is about celebrating the life–bearing death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, well accounted in Matthew 27:27–63; Mark 15:16–47; Luke 23:26–56; and John 19:16–42.
Is it therefore wrong to celebrate Easter? Arguably as it is not wrong to remember the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, it is commendable for all human beings to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ without any pagan influence, but with biblical inspiration and conviction. Similarly, as the Bible does not mention eggs, bunnies and chicks as connected to his death and resurrection, the way we celebrate Easter as Christians must not spiritualize the unbiblical.
Reflecting on New life from the Cross
Has attending Easter conference, family gatherings, outings, enjoying special meals and meeting people meant anything important since time immemorial? Is Easter significant to you and me today? These questions sound critical if we deepen and widen thoughts about Easter, and this article uncovers part of the essentials. The lifetime significance of Easter is Jesus Christ’s victory over death. His resurrection means eternal life granted to everyone who believes in Him. The purpose of Easter celebration therefore stems from the accomplishment of Jesus Christ’s three–year ministry – expression and fulfillment of God’s love, grace and salvation of humanity.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel. As Paul observes, if Christ is not raised from the dead, our preaching and hope lie in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14). Essentially, without the resurrection, Christian preaching and faith would be empty. The death and resurrection affirm Jesus of Nazareth beyond being the prophesied Messiah of Israel to being the King and Lord of humanity on earth and in heaven.
Consequently, Easter celebrations glorify Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and His transformative assurance of eternal life for all who believe in Him. Few of several inspiring Bible verses about Easter include; 1 Peter 1:3,“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. This reflects that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ delivered us from our old dirty, sinful and shameful ways of living into our new clean, righteous and glorious life in Christ.
Additionally, John 11:25, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” also assures that while we may suffer and die on earth, we are guaranteed of eternal life free of earthly troubles in heaven. Realizing this inspires faith in God, and endurance on earth for a guaranteed life beyond the grave.
There are several other Biblical references indicating what we got from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which deserve reflection and celebration, mostly rooting on the fact that Jesus Christ brought us new life. As Spurgeon (1891) once voiced, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is glorious in contrast with his humiliation. It has sufficient redemptive glory from the painful shame of his crucifixion. Mathew 20:18–19 says that he was to be betrayed, condemned to death, delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, scourged, and crucified; but remarkably all gloom of that tragedy got dismissed by his resurrection. Great victory overtook sorrow as death succumbed to resurrection.
Jesus Christ freed us from the deadly bondage of sin (John 3:16), and fulfilled God’s redemptive word (Isaiah 53:4–12). It is so apt to reflect on newness of life during this Easter period. Rethinking that when we are born again in Him, we become new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), old things pass away, everything becomes new and we experience new living inspired and guided by God’s word – showcasing celebratory new life. Scriptures portray it like a turn around, manifesting through a dramatic shift of lifestyle, values, relations with God and other people.
Remembering Jesus Christ’s new commandment for us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34–35) cements the foundation of newness. When we love each other as Jesus loved us, we mature into new talks and walks of life. We become real disciples of Jesus Christ who live in love, grace and peace – further depicting a sweet new life. It leads us to loving ourselves, loving others, caring for ourselves, caring for others, reaching out to others with the gospel and taking part in the transformative Great Commission presented through Mathew 28:19–20.
More–so, this new life beams with new hope that defies death. Remembering the cross pictures God offloading our burdens, as Jesus Christ carried our sins. As Jesus Christ questioned, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mathew 27:46), He endured being forsaken by God to redeem you and me from our sins. The cross staged inexplicable love, grace and care of God for us. It transferred us from pain to gain, sorrow to celebration and enslavement to liberation – sin to righteousness, forgiveness to sanctification as well as hopelessness and helplessness to hopefulness and helpfulness in Jesus Christ.
We now live-in high hope in His promises. Regardless of various spiritual, social, economic and political challenges we face today, we can now always hold on to the hope in our loving, gracious and caring God, as His word assures answers to our needs and eternity (1 John 5:13–14 and 1 Peter 1:3–6).
Conclusively, nothing beats the joy of holistic liberation from the bondage of sin that could haunt our lives forever down to burning hell. This article unapologetically submitted that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bedrock of Christian Easter celebration without any pagan influences, with Biblical inspiration and conviction well reflected herein for us to celebrate new life graciously freed from our old sinful lives.