The Lord is risen indeed!
Everything about Easter is joyful – from the Biblical message that the Christ has arisen from the dead to the Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. It’s all about joy. Easter, like so many religious holidays, is a mixture of pagan, social, and spiritual traditions, each embracing the idea of overcoming, newness of life, and abundance. Easter’s significance depends upon our heart and mindset.
In traditional religious terms, Easter, the resurrection, is what defines Christianity. The importance of Jesus rising from the tomb is no small matter. The details surrounding the story from the various Gospels have been under close scrutiny and study for hundreds of years now. Biblical scholars have called into question many of the traditional accounts of this experience, even whether or not the actual resurrection of Jesus was a physical or spiritual experience.
For me, details cannot stifle the significance of the Easter experience. Whether or not the Christ appeared to his disciples in bodily form or in a spiritual sense is inconsequential. He rose, he appeared, he impacted the lives of hundreds in his immediate vicinity and has since impacted over two billion lives.
In the words of Jesus: unless a wheat seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
His death, and subsequent regeneration, has produced a massive field of wheat.
In most of the world, Easter is known as Pascha, or Pasch. It is as derivation of the Hebrew term Pesach, which refers to Passover.
Jesus has been referred to as the “Paschal Lamb”. This is a reference to the sacrifice that was made at the first “Passover”. God had sent an ‘angel of death’ to kill the first born of every household in the land as the last of the ten plagues on Egypt. God then instructed his faithful to take the blood of a lamb and mark their doors; this would ensure that the angel would ‘pass over’ their household and spare the life of the first born.
Jesus was seen as the metaphorical ‘sacrificial lamb’, whose life was offered so that death would ignore us. The resurrection was the exclamation point to this metaphor. Not only was the lamb sacrificed, but the lamb came back to life and dramatically illustrated to the disciples and to us that death is not final, it does pass over us, our corporeal existence is only temporary, and our spiritual nature is enduring. This revelation banishes fear and dread, and releases the joy of living, loving, and being.
English theologian H.P. Liddon wrote: "The resurrection asserts a truth which is by no means always written legibly for all men on the face of nature. It tells us that the spiritual is higher than the material; that in this universe spirit counts for more than matter."
Some 20 to 35 years after the resurrection, the incident inspired Paul to write jubilantly in his first letter to the Corinthians, “O Death, where is your victory; O Grave, where is your sting?” (1Cor 15:55).
Christ came to serve, and perhaps the greatest service he provided was the example that we are more than our bodies. We are not limited by our thoughts, words, deeds, attitudes, or habits. Through the resurrection, when we attune to the Christ within, we no longer fear death. Despite our personal human frailties, we are not bound by them; we can overcome and rise above. And so, the Easter event becomes a daily practice, and the meaning of Easter extends to all of life situations.
As Walter Raleigh wrote: But from this earth, this grave, this dust, My God will raise me up, I trust.
We may be wallowing in our erred thoughts and beliefs, yet Christ can rise again within our hearts and cleanse us of our darkness and negative proclivities.
Robert Flatt stated: "The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances."
After enduring our own personal crucifixions, we can experience our own personal resurrections. Christ is here, within our hearts, in that sacred place within our minds, waiting patiently for our mental and spiritual attention. Not only did Christ arise, but Christ DOES arise every moment when we turn our awareness inward. In the stillness we encounter our own resurrection.
The fact that Christ has arisen and continues to arise within us does not mask the fact that we aren’t done yet. Episcopal clergyman Henry Knox Sherrill said it this way: “The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.”
Deeply ensconced within the traditions of Easter are the themes of rebirth, renewal, and fertility. Like the wheat seed that dies in order to produce a field of grain, the seed of our smaller self must also die. Through Christ, the seed of our old self is reborn into something new, something beyond what we were.
Through love alone we gather up all the corners of the trials we endure and tuck them neatly into a perfect wholeness. That is what the resurrection exemplifies. We are not our deficiencies; Christ can help us rise above them, and through love turn them into something miraculous.
Once we understand the truth about ourselves – that we cannot be separated from God and that Christ within is trying to express through us fully – then we no longer look upon ourselves as unworthy victims. We are whole and every part of us is useful to God’s expression.
The story of Christ Jesus teaches us that there truly is no death; the body may succumb, but Spirit persists. And more than that, Christ within us persists, pulling us, guiding us ever onward – encouraging us, daring us to shine our Light of Love onto every soul we meet; renewing our attitudes and thoughts; giving us the courage to face our trials from God’s perspective; empowering us to serve in new ways, and compelling us to move forward, unwavering in our conviction toward the goals God has placed upon our hearts.
James Faust wrote: A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures.
Through our spiritual engagement of Easter, we have a new beginning, a new identity, and a new mission. Especially in times of communal adversity, such as what we are experiencing today, Christ draws our hearts to see people differently, as fellow family members in the Family of God. Our souls and minds are being shown new ways to communicate, to connect, and to appreciate.
The power of Easter can help us stop running and realize that we are already home. We don’t have to search for God, ; we only have to open our hearts and look within, in the quietness of prayer. Rather than desperately chasing after better soil, different conditions, or some quality that we believe we are lacking, Easter enables us to bloom where we are planted. We can choose to let our light shine. We don’t have to fret about being more; instead, we can just be. We revel in the freedom that comes from releasing limitations and restrictions. In our personal Easter encounter it may dawn upon us that through the love and life of Christ, we have been invited to become ambassadors for God’s fullest expression of love, peace, service, power, courage, and joy into the world.
Two of the most powerful things that Christ said to those he met after he had risen were: “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.” When we absorb these words, this request and promise enwrap our hearts, heal us, and raise us beyond any earthly circumstance.
The words of Floyd W. Tomkins sum up this special day for me: "Let the resurrection joy lift us from loneliness and weakness and despair to strength and beauty and happiness."
The might and promise of Christ lie not in his crucifixion, but in his resurrection. That is where Christ wants to express power through us as rebirth, renewal, transformation, transcendence, and overcoming. That is Easter for me. So, I pray that on this Easter we celebrate with joy the newness and hope of life and allow the triumphant Christ to rise within us. May we find Spirit’s expression of peace, love, power, and joy through Easter both in the contemplation of Christ as well as when we bite off the heads of those chocolate marshmallow-filled Easter bunnies.