The Purpose of Easter
“He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Luke 24:6-7 (ESV)
Walk into nearly any church in nearly any corner of the world today, regardless of denomination, and you’ll likely find one common item – a cross. In some beliefs, the cross includes a realistic depiction of a crucified Christ. In others it may be a highly stylized, modern looking plain cross.
Without doubt, the cross is the most iconic of Christian symbols. We hang them on our walls, wear the around our necks and on our clothing, even have them tattooed on our bodies. Yet it’s always seemed curious to me how we as Believers venerate an instrument of destruction and death in our most worshipful moments rather than what should be the more meaningful object of our focus: the empty tomb.
After all, had Christ not risen from the grave and emerged from that tomb, if he had merely died a martyr’s death at the hands of Roman oppressors and not been resurrected, he would have simply been considered just another wise teacher or Rabbi. Our prayers and faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).
However, Jesus’ resurrection changed all that and gave final, irrefutable proof that he was truly the Son of God and that he – uniquely – conquered death once and for all.
According to Scripture, Jesus’ death was a sacrificial atonement for the sins of all humanity, yet his resurrection represents something even more powerful and unimaginably beautiful: our spiritual rebirth and freedom from the bondage of our earthly limitations. In his letter to the Romans, Paul reinforces this by writing “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Jesus’ death paid the price of our shortcomings, but his resurrection completed the work his earthly ministry started – the perfect of our salvation. This is what Jesus meant when he told Martha after hearing of her brother Lazarus’ death “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
The ultimate purpose of Easter, then, is to put that very question to each of us – do we believe that by placing our faith solely in the risen Christ we will be saved? Without that belief, our faith in the Gospel has no foundation and is nothing more than belief in a moral philosophy. The empty tomb – and our unshakeable belief that Jesus was resurrected from the finality of death – gives us full confidence that no matter what happens on this Earth, we will experience eternal joy with God in heaven.
On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death on the cross, also reminding us that when we are baptized we die to our old selves. Yet it is not this death that brings us joy, but the renewal in life we experience on Easter, the emergence from tombs of our own making as we walk in the full light of Christ’s forgiveness.
What a wonderful purpose to live by!
May God continuously lead your path.