The Meaning of Easter
This week, a few members of the team at Crown and Cross decided to share a bit about what Easter means to us, and how this particular celebration has grown more meaningful throughout our lives. In this season—as in all seasons—we hope to take a moment to step back in gratitude for what we have been given and contemplate the depth of the Cross. We remember today, even more fully than we do most days, that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Happy Easter!
My church back home doesn’t celebrate Easter. I’m not sure of the precise reasons, but it has something to do with a lack of any official date for the death and resurrection of Jesus. As a result, when I was young, my Easter was celebrated in the more traditional, secular way: easter egg hunts. I remember running around the grassy fields, with countless other young children, trying to claim as many of the brightly colored eggs scattered around as possible. The eggs were plastic and twistable, with little treats inside, and there was also an Easter bunny for all of us to take pictures with.
I’ve always assumed that there was no religious connection between eggs and the resurrection of Christ, but it turns out that there is a deep history behind easter egg hunts. Eggs are a symbol of fertility and life, and the cracking of the egg itself can be interpreted as Jesus’ resurrection. Rabbits are also symbols of fertility, especially in the spring, around Easter time. 1 My childhood easter egg hunts, whether I knew it or not, and all the easter egg hunts that will occur this Easter, are in some way connected back to the original Easter.
Although I no longer celebrate Easter in this manner—no more easter egg hunts, and my current church in NYC has a unique Easter service—I still hold dear those memories from my childhood, with joy, freedom, and a thanksgiving in the beauty of the world around me.
The church that I grew up in placed a huge emphasis on the entire Lenten season, culminating in a huge Easter celebration. Lent started with a big dinner enjoyed by the whole community in celebration of Mardi Gras, and from there we attended the Ash Wednesday service. The Ash Wednesday Service was somber, but hopeful; the promise of Easter was a constant that allowed Lent to be a time of anticipation for the resurrection, rather than a time of darkness in the period before Jesus’ death.
Fast forward to Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week and one of my favorite church celebrations. Starting with the eldest and ending with the smallest, all of the choirs processed to the front of the sanctuary waving palm branches, singing Hosanna. Palm Sunday, and the days that followed, were a time when the church community really drew together. By attending various services like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, concerts on Palm Sunday and during the week, and other activities, the atmosphere encouraged a reflective mindset and brought the church together to anticipate the resurrection as one.
All of the anticipation climaxed on Easter morning. Everyone was in their nicest clothes, the church was decorated with greenery and Lilies, the choirs sang Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, and the organist played the postlude that I look forward to hearing all year. Easter had finally come; together we celebrated.
I never celebrated Easter before I came to America. In China, most people would associate Easter with Jesus and Christianity, but most of us never understood what Jesus’ death and resurrection actually meant. The Easter holiday in China, like Christmas, is celebrated mostly by merchants who use commercial eggs and bunnies to make goods that generate money and income.
For me, things changed after I came to the United States. Easter became a serious celebration in which I decorated eggs for children at church and attended Easter service dressed in a white colored dress.The first Easter after I became a Christian two years ago, it was personally meaningful as I was reminded of where I came from and what Jesus had to do to redeem me. There are still many details I don’t know about Easter, but now, every year, Easter is a time for me to learn more about Jesus, about Christianity, about traditions, and to reflect on the new life I have gained through Christ.
I have always wondered what John was thinking about when he raced from the disciples’ living-space in Jerusalem to the tomb nearby. Was he pondering something Jesus had said before? John could have been replaying any of those divine conversations in his head as the tomb got closer. What if Jesus told them something about His resurrection that the Holy Spirit didn’t let the gospel writers reveal to us? Actually, I doubt any of this mattered in that moment.
But John wasn’t racing alone, of course; Peter came along as well. I imagine the thoughts going through Peter’s mind as he sprinted down that ancient road were very different. I denied Jesus three times before He died, and He knew. The last words He heard me speak were ‘I don’t know Him’! My Lord knows I sold Him out. I remember what He said about people who deny Him in this life — God will deny them in the next. If He is alive, won’t He be furious at me? He might not even want to see my face again. I’m not even sure I could look Him in the eye.
The two disciples probably felt different emotions when they came upon Jesus’ garments folded neatly in the tomb. One of them was thrilled to see that the Teacher who loved him was alive; the other probably wasn’t sure if the Teacher loved him at all. But ultimately, though they both came to the risen Savior with dissimilar attitudes, as Jesus chose Peter and John to spread His message all over the world together. That, to me, is one of the most beautiful lessons we can learn from the Easter story. No matter where your heart is when you come to Jesus, no matter if you’re joyful to see Him or ashamed of what you’ve done to Him, He can use you to do incredible things — like Peter and John, who contributed to eight New Testament books and converted tens of thousands to Christianity. In this season, I encourage you to follow the words of the old Billy Graham song and come to Him just as you are.