In a world growing more secular by the day there seems to be a serious decline in the understanding of what makes Easter so significant.
A quick Google search about the “facts” of Easter reveals stunning statistics on how many chocolate eggs are consumed, how much fake grass is purchased and how many dollars are spent on baskets and bunnies.
But hiding behind the commercialized accounting of Easter are real disturbing numbers about Easter itself.
A 2014 survey by the Bible Society reveals that only one in four school-aged children can explain Easter.
In fact, 71 percent of parents with children ages 2-16 did not even think their children had ever read, seen or heard the story of Easter.
Perhaps the reason the kids aren’t getting it is because adults are losing their faith in record numbers.
A Rasmussen report of a poll repeated every Easter season indicates that belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ is dropping at a rate of roughly 15% per year since 2012.
And chew on this: each Easter season 1.5 billion Peeps are consumed — and there are now roughly 2.2 billion Christians worldwide.
Clearly the idea, acceptance and meaning of Easter is shifting – and being replaced by meaningless seasonal icons and crass merchandising.
Like Christmas, Easter is growing secularly and declining spiritually.
Lost in the sales, the commercialism, and the shallow celebration of formerly holy days is the history spread across many cultures of significant spiritual meaning to generations of people over many millennia of time.
Google and Wikipedia cannot fully and rightfully explain the true meanings of Christmas and Easter.
Christmas and Easter are unavoidably connected – and you cannot have one without the other.
Easter’s decline in understanding has taken hundreds of years through a slow combination of poor religious teaching, misinterpretation of scripture, and secularized homogenization of seasonal symbols.
In cultures all over the world Easter is marked by events that glorify the death of Jesus Christ and highlight his physical agony.
From Puerto Rico to the Philippines re-enactments of the bloody crucifixion of Christ parades through the streets.
This is not what Easter is all about.
It is not the celebration of the cross, the betrayal by Judas, the scourging of Christ, or the washing of Pilate’s hands.
Forgotten about Easter is the mount of transfiguration, the submission and acceptance in Gethsemane, and the miracle of the garden tomb.
Easter is about who Christ was and what he did.
Christmas is about Christ coming to do it.
Both events were foretold, taught and celebrated.
Both events still need to be taught and celebrated.
“Christ” is not a name. It is a title. It means “anointed one”.
To anoint someone is to set them apart for a certain purpose – for something that will come to pass.
Jesus himself makes reference to his anointing during what is known as the great intercessory prayer in the book of John when he said, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
Jesus was not on a mission that he knew nothing about. It had been known to him – and to millions for thousands of years before it happened.
Death is so very commonly highlighted at Easter because it is – besides birth – the only act held in common by every human. None of us can avoid it. It necessarily occupies much of the wonder about who we are and what our purpose is on earth.
But many misunderstand the death of Christ. Christ did not die because they crucified him. He should have been dead long before that.
A great many people have an idea that when Jesus was on the cross, and nails were driven into his hands and feet, that was his great suffering.
His great suffering was before he ever was placed upon the cross.
It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the blood oozed from the pores of his body: ‘Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—“
Later, as he bore his cross and was brutally scourged in public, he still did not die – though many other men before him had done so.
Later still, after hours on the cross, he suffered from faintness, fatigue, and maddening thirst to the point where he simply said, “I thirst.”
And he still did not die.
It was only after they had done all they could think of to do to him that he exclaimed in a loud voice – “It is finished”.
Then, and only then, did he willingly go by saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.
That, miraculous as it was, was not the end. Not even death ended the story of Christ.
In an event unparalleled in history, on the third day, just as he had prophesied, Christ arose from the garden tomb – and was witnessed by many.
Only a God could bring about this miracle of resurrection.
As a teacher of righteousness, Jesus could inspire souls to goodness; as a prophet, he could foreshadow the future; as an intelligent leader of men, he could organize a church; and as a possessor and magnifier of the priesthood, he could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, even raise other dead; but only as a God could he raise himself from the tomb, overcome death permanently, and bring incorruption in place of corruption, and replace mortality with immortality.
More than 500 unimpeachable witnesses had contact with him.
They walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, felt the flesh of his body and saw the wounds in his side and feet and hands; discussed with him the program which had been common to them, and him; and, by many infallible proofs knew and testified that he was risen, and that that last and most dreaded enemy, death, had been overcome.
Here was the greatest miracle of human history.
Earlier He had told them, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life’ (John 11:25).
But they had not understood.
Now they knew. He had died in misery and pain and loneliness. Now, on the third day, He arose in power and beauty and life, the firstfruits of all who slept, the assurance for men of all ages
that ‘as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’.
This is the essential message of both Christmas and Easter. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth – not that he was born but why he was born into this world. Easter is the celebration not of Christ’s death but why he overcame death.
The great and profound spiritual teachings cannot be understood or appreciated through shallow celebration marked by money and merchandising. They take a lifetime of study, pondering and prayer to appreciate, absorb and accept.