"But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died."
Easter is an interesting holiday. It does not get nearly the hype that Christmas does. Stores ignore the religious aspects of the holiday and have done everything that they can to push the Easter Bunny to the forefront of the holiday, just as Santa is pushed to the forefront of Christmas. The meaning of Christmas, however diluted it has become, though, is still understood to be the birth of Jesus. Even though, in many circles, the Christian aspect of Christmas has been removed, most people in the West retain an understanding that Christmas is ultimately about Jesus.
Easter is very different, though. While the Baby of Christmas is pretty non-threatening, the uncommercialized version of Easter brings many disturbing and uncomfortable ideas to the forefront:
1. Why was Jesus executed and where is the honor in celebrating that?
2. What do the Christians mean when they talk about Jesus being "resurrected?" Do they believe that He actually came back to life after His crucifixion?
3. If the Easter Story is true, what does that mean for the world? If God really did raise Jesus from the dead, never to die again, what does that mean for me?
To really examine Easter forces one to examine the foundation of Christianity. Was Jesus just a misunderstood Jewish rabbi that ran afoul of the Romans? Make no mistake, messiahs were a dime a dozen in First Century Palestine. Jesus was not the first messiah that the Romans had put to death and He was certainly not the last. The interesting thing about these other dead messiahs is that no one can remember who they were. When they were executed, their followers just faded away.
The Resurrection changed everything. Instead of Jesus' followers quietly going back to their former occupations, they began boldly proclaiming, "He is alive!" Men who just weeks before had been hiding in the dark out of the fear of being arrested as one of Jesus' followers, now began to stand up in public and preach the message of the risen Jesus.
The men and women who were witnesses of the Risen Christ had a message to share and they were infused with a boldness that could not be suppressed. Their fear of being arrested was now replaced with a passion and zeal that began to spill over wherever they went. The arrest, beating, and even death that many early Christians suffered did not stop, or even slow the message of the resurrection down.
The Resurrection of Jesus is the defining moment of history. The theological implications are many. The basic message of the resurrection to the world, however, was that just as God raised Christ from the dead, there will be a day when He will also raise His followers to the same kind of new life that Christ now experiences. That calls for a celebration this Easter Sunday! And maybe a chocolate egg or two!
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