The Meaning of Easter

The colors at the front of the church have changed from purple to white.   These colors mark the seasons of the church year, which are designed to help us remember and live in light of the story of Jesus’ life.  Having traveled through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent we come to the next chapter of the story—the climax of the story—the season called Easter.

After journeying through Lent by recounting the sufferings of Jesus that culminated in his death and burial, Easter is a season of celebration.  Easter is a time of joyfully retelling and remembering the true story that Jesus was not defeated by death, but rose again from the grave three days later (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20)!  This special celebration of Jesus’ resurrection continues for fifty days until Pentecost Sunday.

Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied… but in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19, 20).   Jesus’ resurrection was a real event that happened in history, and it has immeasurable and continuing importance for us.

First, the resurrection of Jesus means that anyone who has been united to Jesus because they believe in him will also one day be resurrected.  Christians will one day receive new bodies, eternally free from sin and its effects and never again subject to death.  In fact, this process of renewal has already begun by the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of anyone of who follows Jesus.  Though our bodies still decay and die, we are already spiritually resurrected by the work of the Holy Spirit when we first believe, and this spiritual resurrection is a guarantee of a full resurrection to come in the future.  This is what it means to be “born again” (John 3).

Second, the resurrection of Jesus is the first installment of the new creation.  Not only will the bodies of God’s people be made new, but the creation itself will also be renewed.  Heaven and earth will be brought together and the whole cosmos will come perfectly under the good reign of God to thrive forever as it was meant to (Revelation 21-22).  The resurrection of Jesus is the first installment and the guarantee of this new creation.

Our future hope is not to be snatched away to a vague and ethereal existence on some heavenly cloud.  Rather, we will receive real bodies in which we will live a real, material eternal life in a new creation.  For sure, our existence will be different and better than this one, but it will not be disembodied, and Jesus’ new body is proof of that.  In short, matter matters.  God will not ditch his good creation; he will redeem it starting with us.  N. T. Wright puts it this way, “The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”

For essays on the history and meaning of Easter as well as devotional resources for the season, see the Easter page at Worship Is Central.

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