Easter is approaching. Oddly, this means different things to different people. As for Jesus, He approached this season, and the culmination of final events in His life, very curiously and deliberately. ♦
Depending on your locale, sometime between Spring Break and Cesar Chavez Day, there is the celebration of the Easter holiday. This year Easter falls on March 27th. This of course is the Christian faith’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
According to research conducted by Barna Group, 2 out of every 3 Americans (67%) acknowledge Easter as some type of religious event. Common responses include describing it as a Christian holiday, a celebration of God or Jesus, a celebration of Passover, a holy day, or a special time for church or worship attendance.
Only 42% of Americans said that the meaning of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus or that it signifies Christ’s death and return to life. One out of every 50 adults (2%) said that they would describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith. Other Christian responses: 2% of Americans said that Easter is about the “birth of Christ”; another 2% indicated it was about the “rebirth of Jesus”; and 1% said it is a celebration of “the second coming of Jesus.”
Of the non-religious set, 8% of Americans said the holiday means nothing to them or that they do not celebrate the occasion. Other non-religious descriptions of Easter included: getting friends and family together (4%), Spring Break (3%), a symbol of new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal (2%), a time to dye and hide eggs (2%), an event for children to have fun (2%), the Easter bunny (1%), an occasion that is too commercialized (1%), and an opportunity to enjoy food and candy (1%).
Easter Views based on Politics, Age, and Church Affiliation
Showing a perceptual gap between political conservatives and liberals, those on the political “right” were nearly twice as likely as those on the political “left” to say that Easter is a celebration of the resurrection (53% versus 29%, respectively).
In terms of age, members of the Baby Boomer generation (73% ~ ages 50 to 69) and Gen Y generation (66% ~ ages 35 to 49), were among the most likely to describe Easter as a religious holiday. The young adult generation, Millennials (58% ~ ages 18 to 34), were the least likely age segment to say Easter is a religious holiday, reflecting the increasingly secular mindset of young adults.
Even denominational affiliation is telling. While 65% of Catholics said they celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, only 37% of Catholics see the resurrection as the meaning of the holiday. Overall, Protestants were more likely than Catholics both to view Easter as a religious holiday and to connect the occasion to Jesus’ awakening from death (78% and 51%, respectively).
No wonder religion is such a divisive subject!
Jesus Weighs In
Of course, Jesus never calls out Easter specifically. He does do some very significant things in the final days before the crucifixion. Yes, almost like He knew something of great import was occurring:
- Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. On the way to Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover holiday (for origins of Passover, see Exodus 12) Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. This confounds His disciples. (Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34)
- Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus specifically has the disciples secure a donkey for a triumphant entry into town, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19) He knew exactly who He was, the Messiah, and what was happening.
- Jesus predicts punishment for his detractors and destruction upon Jerusalem. After strongly rebuking the religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees, calling them “hypocrites, blind fools, serpents, and vipers” – what the naive today would call hate-speech – (Matthew 23:1-12, Mark 12:38-40, Luke,20:45-47), Jesus warns the disciples of the coming tribulation, judgment and demise, even obliteration, of the Temple and City within a generation of time. (Matthew 24:1-25, Mark 13, Luke 21) This warning of destruction is again foretold to 7 surrounding churches in symbolic imagery in the Book of Revelation. This judgment and destruction did occur as predicted in A.D. 70.
- Jesus recasts the Passover meal as the Lord’s Supper, a new covenant. Jesus connects the Jewish feast celebrating the saving of the Old Testament Hebrews to the sacrificial death for the saving of mankind through his blood which will soon be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:19-24) This is deep, highly symbolic imagery which shows amazing unity between the Old and New Testament scriptures.
- He goes like a lamb to slaughter. Jesus, as 100% God and 100% Man, agonized in prayer to God the Father the night of His arrest yet ultimately stays on mission and submits (“Your will be done”) to God and the human authorities like an innocent lamb taken to be slaughtered. (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22: 39-46, John 18:1)
All of this happens as the groundwork for that following Sunday, that first Easter.
What Do We Do With This?
Yes, it seems like Jesus Christ was much more than a carpenter, more than a religious teacher, certainly more than just another really nice guy. We’re not really left with the viable option to take this casually. It’s either true or not. We either believe it or not; accept or reject it. There’s not really a middle ground position here.
Fortunately, for whatever reason we are uninformed, misinformed, or staunch in our non-belief, it’s never too late to come to an understanding of just who Jesus was, what He really did and said, where He really came from, where He is today, and what He wants from us now.
Beyond the Biblical scriptures, His revelation is all around us. Millions of our fellow humans over history have relinquished to His authority and succumbed to belief and reliance in His Truth, not to that of fallible, created Man.
How about you?
Do you understand Easter and all that it signifies?
“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” – Acts 3:15