Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
This is not a delusional claim or a psychological crutch.
The eyewitness accounts of these events in the Gospels are some of the best-supported historical accounts from the ancient world, and these events left an unmistakable mark on all subsequent history.
Even the most sceptical of scholars have to concede that the tomb in which Jesus’ body was put was empty three days later, that Jesus’ disciples had real experiences (as opposed to hallucinations) with someone whom they believed was the risen Christ (God’s anointed Saviour), and that these disciples preached a message with the resurrection at its heart to establish the Christian Church.
A former staffer for US President Richard Nixon, Chuck Colson, wrote, ‘‘I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.’’
But why does it matter that an event happened in history?
Why does Jesus’ death and resurrection matter?
In most other European languages, Easter is called ‘‘Passover’’.
This refers back to an event earlier in Biblical history, when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and judged the Egyptians for their enslavement of God’s people.
The sign distinguishing the Israelites from the Egyptians was the blood of a lamb painted on the doorframe of their houses.
Where God saw the blood on the door, his judgement passed over the house.
The same idea is at the heart of Easter.
As Jesus was going up to the Passover feast, He told His disciples, ‘‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!’’ (Matthew 20:18-19)
Jesus died like the innocent Passover lamb, so that the people who identify with Him will not be punished by God.
That’s why John the Baptist called Jesus, ‘‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,’’ (John 1:29).
Sin is living like we don’t want God to tell us how to live, but Jesus never lived like that because He is God’s eternal Son.
Instead, He died to take the punishment for everyone who trusts in Him for forgiveness.
And that’s what makes Jesus’ resurrection so much more than an unimaginable miracle.
Because Jesus came back to life (as He said He would), we can know that what He said is true, that God accepted his sacrifice, and that anyone who believes in Him will also live forever.
I’m so glad that there’s an Easter because it means God has done what I cannot do: because God loved the world, He paid the ultimate price to save his enemies, including me. Can you say that too?