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Thursday, April 13, 2017

DENNIS PATRICK: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EASTER

JIM’S TRUCKS

 

 

Easter celebrates the most important occasion in the Christian year. Most Americans know Easter as a Christian holiday that usually falls in the month of April marking the season of spring. Beyond that, knowledge of the holiday varies by individual.

Christmas, too, is an important Holy Day, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. However, for the true believer, Christmas is overshadowed by the defeat of death brought about by the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity.

One could regard Easter as just another time for fun and food. Bunnies, eggs and candy tend to mask the essential reason for celebration.

Explicitly, as any true Christian knows, the holiday celebrates the return to life of Jesus Christ from the dead to reconcile a broken and rebellious humanity to their Creator. This belief is central to the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus the man, His life and death would be an ordinary event bearing little significance. There would be nothing unique about His moral teaching. Similar teachings had been spoken by sages before and after Him. Beyond the historic fact of His resurrection, borne out by a multitude of witnesses, His claims would be outrageous. Only a madman would claim He was the Son of God. By any historical account, however, He was not mad. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity, no overcoming of death, no rebirth, no reconciliation with God the Creator.

As Christianity flourished, it appropriated traditions from the cultures it encountered. In this way, Christianity was able to convey an intelligible message of salvation.

The origin of the term “Easter” is not certain. Some maintain that the term comes from the ancient Middle East and means “something from the East.” Others accept the explanation that it probably came from the name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. The Saxons celebrated her festival at the vernal equinox. Early Christians, encountering these legends, substituted the finished work of Christ for the older understandings of paganism.

Associated with the goddess of spring is the rabbit. Originally a symbol of fertility representing the pagan goddess, this tradition comes to us as the “Easter Bunny.”

Easter eggs, too, originated in legend. One such Eastern legend speaks of a very large egg that fell from heaven long, long ago. It came to rest on the Euphrates River. There, doves descended and hatched it. Substituting life from a shell with resurrection from the grave is an easy transition. Painting eggs with bright colors represents the sunlight of spring.

Much controversy arose in the early church over the date of Easter. Christ was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover and soon afterward arose from the dead. Christians of Jewish origin celebrated the resurrection following Passover. Based on the Babylonian lunar calendar, which the Jews followed, Easter fell on different days of the week over the years. Christians of Gentile origin celebrated the resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week. By their reckoning, Easter occurred on the same day of the week but on different dates year after year. In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea settled the matter. By decree, Easter celebration was set for the Sunday after the full moon following March 21. This coincides with the Jewish Paschal moon and the vernal equinox and may occur on varying dates between March 22 and April 25. For this reason it is called a movable feast.

Christians have always invoked the Biblical admonition, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Inspired by the risen Christ, deeply held Christian beliefs shaped the character of believers and impelled them to action. Some of the most notable contributions to western culture flowed from Christian precepts. Hospitals; universities and centers of learning; the foundation of representative government and legal system; the economic basis of free-enterprise; the genesis of civil liberties; the foundation of modern science; the codification of the world’s languages; and the inspiration of the world’s greatest music, art and literature and more all had roots as an influence of Christianity.

Sad but true, on the basis of the improbable miracle of the resurrection non-believers reject Jesus Christ. Any notion of the resurrection is foolishness to non-believers. This is the story of the ages and is no different today.

Equally sad but true, Christians are increasingly discriminated against today. There is no need for a pubic policy of hostility toward Christianity. The effect is already seen in the workplace, schools, media and entertainment. Ironically, academic fads of diversity and multiculturalism must surely recognize Christianity with the same sensitivity as other cultural beliefs or else risk the scourge of hypocrisy.

Regardless of the prevailing circumstances and attitudes, Christian believers will always celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  They did at the first Easter, they have every Easter since, and they will until Christ returns.

But that is another story.

 

Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at P. O. Box 337, Stanley, ND 58784 or (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

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