When I see the cherry trees start to blossom in Vancouver, it fills me with a great sense of gratitude as it signals the start of the season of Spring—especially if it has been a lingering dreary and grey winter. Coming from South Africa, the distinction of four seasons is something I am still becoming accustomed to, as growing up in my hometown we really only had two seasons: a hot Summer or a cooler Summer. When I see the beginning of Spring it reminds me that Easter is only around the corner.
When I think of Easter, I immediately think of renewal—well almost immediately. If I’m honest I first think of chocolate, and then I think of renewal! I usually give up chocolate for Lent so in preparation I tend to stockpile those eggs in advance, and am drooling for them by the time Easter Sunday is in sight. Despite this confectionary distraction, I do think Easter is about starting afresh.
If we look to the Bible for the meaning of Easter, it calls us to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At first thought, it might seem weird that we celebrate the fact that someone died and then came back to life. But this just isn’t any someone, is it? This was God’s son and the reason Jesus died for us was to absolve us of our sin. Because we are human, we are broken; we will never be perfect and we will never understand it all, but Christianity tells us that’s ok.
What a relief! This is the opportunity we have been given to start afresh. No matter what we have done in the past or what paths we may have taken in another direction, God is asking us to go to him and start again in his arms. This is what are we celebrate at Easter, as we dig deeper past the chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and usual food related indulgence. God gave a great sacrifice allowing his son to be condemned to death on the cross in order that we, this broken human race could be rescued and renewed.
In celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, we are celebrating that God also gave us the gift of hope; hope for eternity, hope for the human race and hope that our labour is not in vain.
Easter encourages us to start afresh because Christ’s resurrection enables us to become new creations, in a new life with him. It allows us to recognize that humanity was restored because God was willing to give up his son for us. Easter reminds us of God’s promise that he will wipe the slate clean for us with the cloth of his love, and will hold our hand while we rebuild our foundation in him again.
To me, the key message of Easter we should receive is what is written in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is probably one of the most widely quoted verses of the Bible, used to describe the roots of the Christian faith.
So that’s it: Christians celebrate Easter because we celebrate the promise of eternity—that when we die our we are not just going to become dust that returns to the earth but that there is more. If the concept of eternity is perhaps overwhelming for you, don’t worry you are not alone. It is for me. Often I find I dwell in the present, focusing my thoughts only on getting through the day because eternity seems so far off and scary to think about. But Christianity calls us to think of eternity, to mobilize and display God’s work now. This is a calling I constantly struggle with. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:55-58 that we should abound in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, our labour is not in vain. God has proclaimed this victory over death by giving us Jesus Christ, he is asking us to lift our eyes and see that there is more than the present of here and now.
I, of course, have many big questions about eternity that I don’t have big answers for, which is where faith comes in. I believe faith is trusting that you don’t have to have all the answers right now. Faith is about accepting that we won’t know it all or understand it all while we are here on earth, but rather believing that there is a greater plan and purpose for us. Faith is about believing in the story of Easter for hope and renewal and trusting that God loves us despite our weakness and clumsiness and imperfections.
In celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, we are celebrating that God also gave us the gift of hope; hope for eternity, hope for the human race and hope that our labour is not in vain. I am so thankful for that gift. I can’t imagine a world without hope, because there are so many times when I have a tough day and feel disappointed or sad about something, which could easily spiral out of control if I didn’t turn my face toward the hope that all things can be made new with God and that God cares about me. Even the huge sins we can’t forgive ourselves for, those that make us despair, can be renewed in Christ. So when we see the cherry blossoms of Spring we can rejoice in Easter because of this sacrifice, this gift of renewal and this promise of hope God has made to us.
Photo Credit: Mark Faviell, “Hue and Cry”