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The Real Meaning of Easter

In 00.3 The History of Easter we looked at how Easter got its name from the Germanic goddess Eostre, whose springtime festival was popular.  Evidently, Eostre liked rabbits and thus the Easter bunny tradition began.  Eggs are symbolic of new life which is what happens in spring and Easter eggs are also part of this pagan tradition. That rabbits can lay eggs is a little crazy, but that is part of the tradition.

A number of people object to the pagan aspects of Easter; the name, the Easter bunny, the eggs, and so forth.  They say that when eat Easter eggs you are participating in pagan traditions.  Paul wrote specifically about this kind of thing in first Corinthians chapter 10. Let’s start with the context:

Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? seeing that we, who are many, are one bread, one body: for we are all partake of the one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: have not they that eat the sacrifices communion with the altar? What say I then? that a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have communion with demons. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:14-22)

The context is idolatry and eating foods sacrificed to idols.  We can see from these verses that in Corinth you could go somewhere and be offered food that was sacrificed to an idol (demon). You could also buy these foods. Paul is very clear that the sacrifice that we participate in is memorialized in the communion service, and the bread and wine of that ritual are the only foods that we should be partaking of when it comes to something that is sacrificed to a supernatural power.

But Paul has a lot more to say on this topic:

All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify. Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

First he says that all things are lawful. That’s a very interesting perspective. Because Paul is saying that it is not unlawful for Christians to eat these foods. But the second thing that he says is that not all things are expedient, they don’t edify.  And if they don’t edify we shouldn’t be partaking in them. So he sets a guideline that we should consider our neighbors in partaking of foods that may have been offered idols.

There are a lot of examples of things that are lawful but not expedient.  For example, let’s take smoking cigarettes. Cigarettes are legally sold in every state of the union in the United States. At the same time, public service messages are continually broadcast, and health warnings are printed on each package because smoking cigarettes is an unhealthy practice; it’s just not a good thing to do.  Smoking is lawful, but not expedient.

A more dramatic example is that prostitution houses are legal in some places in Nevada. However, prostitution is clearly a sin in biblical terms. Even secular counselors advise that using prostitutes shows real problems with intimacy and attachment.  Prostitution is lawful, but not expedient.

An example more closely aligned to our context is chocolate.  Chocolate is delicious, and some advertise that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has health benefits.  But, chocolate has theobromine, a caffeine like substance.  It also is high in fat and sugar.  Eating a little chocolate may be fine, but eating very much or late at night is lawful, but not expedient.

Let’s look at what Paul writes next:

Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question for conscience’ sake, for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If one of them that believe not biddeth you to a feast, and ye are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience’ sake. But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other’s; for why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God: even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.  (1 Corinthians 10:25-33)

Paul says that if you buy some food that may have been offered idols, the first thing is to not even ask. Just eat it. But if somebody says that the food has been offered to idols, don’t eat it to set the example for the other person.  Do it for the glory of God, so that people may receive the Lord.

So what does this have to do with Easter eggs, Easter bunnies and so forth. Well, some say that if you eat Easter treats you are eating foods dedicated to the German goddess Easter. I’m going to suggest to you that it might be wise in that situation to not participate in any treats, at least around those people.  But, for the most part where Easter is celebrated and people die eggs and put out jelly beans and chocolate bunnies and such (remember there are chocolate crosses also), these foods are not being offered to the goddess Eostre,  they are being put out to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore they are not being sacrificed to a goddess even though the tradition was borrowed from a pagan tradition.

As a grandfather, I went through some of these issues with my kids, and now I see it with my grandchildren. As there are a zillion children participating in Easter egg hunts, and eating Easter eggs and so forth it is pretty daunting to try to explain to your children that even though there are other Christian kids doing this, it is pagan and that you shouldn’t do it. I’m going to say to you that there is no problem giving kids the chance to hunt for Easter eggs and eat a few jellybeans and chocolate bunnies and such because those foods are put out in celebration of the resurrection of our Lord.

The Resurrection Is the Real Meaning of Easter to Christians

The day that Christians call Easter is a day commemorated to celebrating the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, in payment of our sins, giving us the opportunity for eternal life with him, and that he is going to come back, and that we will join him, and be with them for all eternity!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; (John 11:25)

Easter is part of a Christian’s worship, and more specifically it is part of the witness of Jesus’ resurrection.  Being a witness of Jesus’ resurrection is the primary mission of being a disciple of Christ:

beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:22)

The resurrection was the main point that the apostles and disciples preached in original, primitive Christianity:

And as they spake unto the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, being sore troubled because they taught the people, and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. (Acts 4:1-2)

It can be argued that the great power that came to primitive, original Christianity came because they focused their preaching on the resurrection:

And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)

The resurrection is the core message of Christianity, it is the first test of orthodoxy:

men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:18 ASV)

Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. For, He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all things unto him. And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all.  (1 Corinthians 15:12-28 ASV)

In the above verses death is called the last enemy.  Overcoming death is a focal point of Christian ministry:

except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question before you this day. (Acts 24:21 ASV)

Jesus Broke the Death Barrier

The greatness of Christianity is the resurrection.  Its not the others haven’t been raised from the dead previously; Lazarus and others were raised.  But they still died eventually.  Jesus rose from the dead never to rise again.  Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.   He is the first man to break the death barrier forever:

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)

So here we have death, this awful thing where life just ceases.  We feel the loss of our loved ones when they die. We experience sadness, grief, and mourning.  We know that unless the Lord comes for us in our lifetime we will have to face death.  Even if we get raised from the dead in this life we still face that death.

But Jesus has paved a new path giving us a new life that is eternal where we never have to face death again.  It is life eternal with the Lord, with an incorruptible body without pain.  How awesome!

That’s what we celebrate on Easter: victory over death.

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

May 2nd, 2011 Posted by | Movements | no comments

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