The Essence of Easter
Download Audio (9.7MB)
Let not your heart be troubled,
Let not your soul be sad.
Easter is a time of joy
When all hearts should be glad.
Glad to know that Jesus Christ
Made it possible for men
To have their sins forgiven
And, like Him, to live again.
So at this special time of year,
May the wonder of His story
Renew our faith so we may be
Partakers of His glory!
—Adapted from Helen Steiner Rice
If the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened, then ultimately, God is going to put everything right. Suffering is going to go away. Evil is going to go away. Death is going to go away. Aging is going to go away. Pancreatic cancer is going to go away. Now if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, then I guess all bets are off. But if it actually happened, then there’s all the hope in the world.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories,” he says there are indelible human longings that only fantasy, fairy tales, or sci-fi can really speak to. He says that all human beings have a fascination with the idea of escaping time, escaping death, holding communion with other living things, being able to live long enough to achieve your artistic and creative dreams, being able to find a love that perfectly heals. Tolkien says: why do we have those longings? And as a Christian, he thinks the reason is that we were not originally created by God to die. We all deep down kind of know that this is the way life ought to be, and if the resurrection of Jesus Christ happens, then all those things are literally going to come true for us.
That’s the reason you have this paradox. On the one hand, the resurrection is a kind of very concrete thing to talk about, like “What is the evidence for this historical event?” Probably the single best book on this subject in the last 100 years is N.T. Wright’s book “The Resurrection of the Son of God.”
Yet if we come to the place where we accept it, then suddenly there’s no limit to what kinds of things we can look forward to. I know some of you readers are thinking, “I can’t believe there’s a person with more than a third-grade education that actually believes that.” But I do. And these last few months, as we’ve gotten in touch with these great parts of our faith, [my wife] Kathy and I would both say we’ve never been happier in our lives, even though I’m living under the shadow of cancer.
Holy Week gives you both death and resurrection. They don’t make any sense apart. You can’t have the joy of resurrection unless you’ve gone through a death, and death without resurrection is just hopeless. Essentially, the death/resurrection motif or pattern is absolutely at the heart of what it means to live a Christian life. And actually, everything in life is like that. With any kind of suffering, if I respond to it by looking to God in faith, suffering drives me like a nail deeper into God’s love, which is what cancer has done for me. I do think that the great thing about cancer is that Easter does mean a whole lot more because I look at Easter and I say, “Because of this, I can face anything.” In the past, I thought of Easter as a kind of optimistic, upbeat way of thinking about life. And now I see that Easter is a universal solvent. It can eat through any fear, any anger and despair. I see it as more powerful than ever before.—Tim Keller1
Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, “Christ is risen,” but “I shall rise.”—Phillips Brooks
The simple message that changed the world forever was this one: “He is not here. He is risen.”
Easter is about the meaning of our lives. It is about human purpose. It is about eternity.
That understanding often gets lost in the day-to-day busyness of living. We get caught up in the hectic pursuits and graspings of life, totally consumed and directed by the pushes and pulls of the world around us, not only unable to break free, but unaware we are captive.
Easter is about resurrection, His and ours.
But the very notion of resurrection is rejected by the intellectual gurus among us. “Death is the end,” they say. “It would take a miracle to bring back the dead, and there are no miracles.”
If a miracle is that which transcends the ability of science to explain, it may safely be said that each of us is a walking-around miracle, and all that we see, all that we hear and all that we touch are miracles.
We yearn for understanding, and we are impelled toward the heavens by an implanted homing instinct. Oh, if there were only some vantage point, some philosophical place where we could step back and away from ourselves, some place where we could stand and see ourselves clearly in the perspective of all of creation and in the perspective of eternity.
Christians have found such a place, and the joy of its finding shines in their faces. From that place, they see that the full meaning of their lives is to be worked out, fulfilled and understood not in the span of a lifetime, but in the framework of forever.
That is the essence of Easter. The words resonate throughout all of creation: “He is not here. He is risen.”—Linda Bowles
The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.—Robert Flatt
Easter is a time for remembering the ultimate sacrifice ever made, the greatest gift anyone ever gave, the biggest boon ever granted to mankind. God came down to Earth in the form of a man, Jesus. He was a humble worker born in poor circumstances. When He reached manhood He began to preach, teach, and heal, thus gathering a following.
But, just as He knew they would, those opposing the love and truth He taught, killed Him by nailing Him to a cross in one of the cruelest forms of execution imaginable. Yet even in death He demonstrated His message of love by forgiving His captors and comforting the repentant criminal being executed on the cross next to His. In three days, He rose from the dead, proving His divinity.
Easter is the celebration of His triumph over sin and death, and His purchase of eternal life for all who receive Him. It is the commemoration of His death on the cross for the redemption of all who accept His sacrifice, and for His resurrection to life from death, that vanquished death and the grave.
In our all-too-imperfect human state, we do not deserve to be in God’s presence, who is perfect in every way. So, in unfathomable love, Jesus took the punishment for our sin, and then, as He hung on the cross, said, “It is finished.” He had completed His mission, He had taken on the weight of our sins. Now we could receive God’s forgiveness, and with it, a new life. Jesus went to the root of all the misery and grief and horror caused by the sin of man, and paid the price for our forgiveness. He thus prepared the way for us to spend eternity with Him in heaven, if we will only believe, and receive His gift of forgiveness and salvation.—Chloe West
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”—John 11:25–26
Published on Anchor April 2023. Read by Jon Marc. Music by Michael Dooley.