WHAT IS EASTER ABOUT?
How the celebration of Easter has changed over the years.
As the world becomes more secular, ‘Christian festivals’ have taken on a different character. Nowadays, Christmas and Easter are, for many people, times of partying and celebration (I’m not sure ‘of what’).
In our modern world we have become people who want excitement, fun and entertainment all the time. Little else is acceptable. It seems that we cannot tolerate things that upset us or make us feel challenged. Everything has to be positive, amazing, exhilarating, awesome!
It can make us imbalanced – and, ultimately, unfulfilled unhappy people.
When we turn to the Bible we read that in ancient times, God appointed seven festivals for the Israelites. One aspect of the festivals was joy: ‘you shall rejoice before the Lord your God‘ (Leviticus 23: 40). Indeed, joy is the key feature of the last festival – that is God’s ultimate goal for people.
Another feature of the earlier festivals was what the Bible calls affliction: ‘you shall afflict yourselves‘ (Leviticus 23: 27). God wanted His people to reflect with humility on their relationship with Him. To recognise that they were not all that they should have been. To freely and frankly confess their sins. To repent.
The modern world wants to ignore the problem that we have as human beings – the fact that we are out of kilter with God. We want to sort ourselves out without God – to find satisfaction and fulfilment in ourselves. Quite frankly, it is a hopeless endeavour because human beings were made by God for God and our joy is intimately bound up with God.
Easter is about the means that God has devised to bring us into true joy. It involves CRUCIFIXION and RESURRECTION. The path to real joy – God’s own joy – is via the affliction of Calvary. That is why affliction and joy must go together. If you have no appreciation of the affliction of Christ you can never experience the joy of salvation.
The cross was a dreadful place. No-one can truly comprehend the horror of crucifixion or the burden of sin that Christ bore on that cruel cross. But it was absolutely necessary that we might have the joy of resurrection and salvation.
‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement [that brings] our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed‘ (Isaiah 53: 5).