Will the real meaning of Easter please stand up?

What an odd mixture of Easter symbols we have in America...and probably all over the world. Bunnies, butterflies, baby chicks, eggs, flowers and green Blog. Easter bunny. 3.16 (2017_08_21 00_15_50 UTC)grass, chocolates in foil wrappings.

And once in awhile, a picture of a man hanging on a wooden cross.

But hey, isn't Easter really all about Spring and everything greening up, blooming, growing?

No, not really.

The deeper meaning of Easter

Easter traces back to the life and death of a man called Jesus, who was impaled on a wooden cross on a hill outside Jerusalem.

Heavy nails had been pounded through his hands and his feet. Blood trickled down his face, the intended result from Roman soldiers twisting together some thorny branches to make a crown, then pressing it down on his head.

Blood seeped from the wounds on his back, too, the result of being mercilessly whipped by soldiers with leather whips that featured bits of bone and rock imbedded on the ends.  

Onlookers moaned and wept to see the suffering of this man.  

But the story doesn't end there

Jesus said little during the nine hours he spent on the cross. Near the end, he cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Matthew 27:45)

Not long after, once again he called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  (Luke 23:46)

At this point, for one who had been hanging on the cross for nine hours to be able to say anything in a loud voice was remarkable. A few breaths more and Jesus gave up his life as a human being.  

One of Jesus' followers found courage to ask permission to take down Jesus' body from the cross before sundown and Roman rulers permitted it. So Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish ruling council, took it down, then wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a new tomb cut in stone. The women at the cross followed and saw where Jesus' body was laid. 

Then because sundown ushered in the Sabbath, they hurried home so they could observe it properly.    

The sad day Jesus died became known as "Good Friday," because it led up to Easter 

Early on Sunday morning followers of Jesus went to his grave, ready to embalm his body properly. They pondered how they could move the heavy stone Roman guards set in place to block the entrance, then sealed it around the edges with sealing wax. What's more, Pilate, the Roman ruler, had told the soldiers to stand guard, day and night.

They tried to think how they could manage those barriers.  

Matthew 28 tells us when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrived at the tomb there was a violent earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled back the stone, then sat on it. The Roman guards were so afraid of him that they shook and passed out.

When these grieving friends looked into the tomb they saw it was empty, with only the cloth death-wrappings left behind.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid...He is not here; he has risen, just as he said...Go quickly and tell his disciples..."

What could this mean?                                

Who could know what it meant to "rise from the dead?" Every person alive, now or then, knows that dead means dead.

They hurried away from the tomb, headed for Galilee. Then suddenly (Matthew 28:9) Jesus himself stood before them and said, "Greetings."

Filled with joy, they clasped his feet and worshiped him. Jesus said, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

They could not explain it, but Jesus did not stay dead. This was not a ghost, not a spirit, this truly was Jesustheir friend and teacher. 

Jesus, fully human, born of Mary, was--and is--true God, as well

Now his followers saw and touched the same loved friend they had watched die on the cross, very much alive and in the flesh. He spoke with them. He ate with them. How could this be?

Jesus told them again how much he loved them and promised they would receive power to carry on his ministry. How would this happen? Through the power of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised to send them. (And he did, just read the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament.)

Even today, the same indwelling Holy Spirit lives within the hearts of everyone who believes what the Bible says and trusts in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Says who? Why should I take your word for anything?"

Please don't. Check it out for yourself. Pick up a Bible and read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (Don't miss John 3:16-17.) They all tell the story of Jesus and his life.

Each Gospel has a slightly different "flavor," since each was transcribed by a different individual. Matthew and Luke begin with his birth. Each one winds up with the sequence of events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. 

It's worth reading the book of Romans, too, especially chapter 8, verses 1-4 and also verse 31 to the end of the chapter. 

How could one sum up the Easter story? John's Gospel, Chapter 3:16-17 lays it all out for us:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Are you looking for a more modern explanation?

One I think says it well goes something like this: 

Jesus had to be true man, because God cannot die for the sins of the world. God cannot die for any reason. He is eternal, without beginning and without end.

Jesus had to be true God because man cannot forgive sins or pay the price of sin for the world. Only God.

So what's the big deal about Easter? Just this: New life for the world. New life for each of us--eternally--free for the taking. 

Look around. Every new leaf, every bud and bloom, points back to the Source of life that never ends: Jesus Christ. 

All it costs is taking Jesus at his word.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  Romans 10:10.

Life. To the full. Now and eternally. For me, that's the real meaning of Easter, because Jesus' resurrection proved the truth of what he said about himself. Now, there's reason to celebrate!

May you know for yourself the peace and joy that Easter's real meaning brings,


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