The Real Meaning of Easter

emptytombFor many, Easter is simply a 4-day weekend that revolves around DIY, dusting down the BBQ and chocolate.  Yet it is at the heart of the Christian calendar as it was the time when Jesus died; but because he never sinned, rose again.  This “rising from the dead” is what we as Christadelphians (and some other faiths) hold dear. The fact is that when Jesus returns, if we have died, he will be raise us from the dead just as he was raised. 

Some people struggle to get to grips with the concept of Easter, such as why does the date change and why is it important? Well, to understand the date we have to understand a bit about the Jewish festivals.  Jesus was crucified at the time of the Jewish Passover.  Indeed the Passover lamb was a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus.  Just as a lamb was sacrificed at the Passover, so Jesus gave his life for us, as a sacrifice.  According to Jewish law Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar.  That usually means it falls somewhere in March or April.  In 2014 Passover was on April 15th.

Modern Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the equinox. Using this calculation it can occur anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th.  Over the years a few amendments have been made.  The Western church does not use the actual, or astronomically correct date for the  equinox but a fixed date (March 21st), and by full moon it does not mean the astronomical full moon but the “ecclesiastical moon,” which is based on tables created by the church. This allows the date of Easter to be calculated in advance.

Also in 325AD the council of Nicaea established that Easter would always be celebrated on a Sunday.  The idea that Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday comes about because in Luke 23:53 we read about the day of Crucifixion:

It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.

In verse 56:

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

And we read in Matt 28:1

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 

But Jesus said that he would rise on the third day, so how does that work?  One possible reason is that the Sabbath referred to in Mark wasn’t necessarily the one on a Saturday as it was Passover, which is also a Sabbath, and as we have already established can be on any day; but the Sabbath in Matthew must have been the Saturday Sabbath as it refers to the day they went to the grave as being “the first day of the week” i.e. Sunday. So Jesus may have been crucified on the Thursday or even the Wednesday.  So modern Easter is at the right time of year, if not the exact day or date!

But the day or date isn’t really important; in fact Christadelphians celebrate his death and resurrection every week of the year in breaking bread and drinking wine. It is the effects of Jesus’s death and resurrection that matters to us.  We know that Jesus was sent into this world to save anyone who would listen to him and follow his ways.  In John we read:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

John 3:16-18 (ESV)

Jesus never sinning and so being raised from the dead is the starting point for us to transform our lives, so that one day we too may be raised. Are you willing to accept the challenge of eternal life?  To find out more of what we believe, then visit our “What We Believe” page.