Each year, millions of Americans celebrate Easter, commemorating Jesus Christ’s resurrection, as recounted in the Christian Bible. While many secular Americans observe the day in a more benign way, limiting it to Easter egg hunts, candy and other non-religious elements, for believers, it’s a time of remembrance and celebration.
TheBlaze reached out to faith leaders to ask two key questions: “Why does Easter matter?” and “What was the purpose of Jesus’ death?” These two curiosities are at the center of the Biblical story of Jesus’ death — and they get to the heart of the holiday’s theological roots.
Father Claude Burns, a Catholic priest and a successful hip-hop artist (we’ve documented his fascinating career before) answered both of these questions for TheBlaze:
Easter is most significant day of the year for all Christians. Quite simply because it is the day the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Everything that Jesus said, every aspect of his ministry, and his bold claim of oneness with God the Father. John 14:9 “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” He either died in complete shame as a lunatic or he truly was the Son of God. The scriptures are full of peoples’ lived-in experience with risen Jesus. Those experiences spread like wild fire and have extended to us this morning. The empty tomb still provokes the question, “Do you believe?”
One route to explain this would be to talk about covenant theology and that blood sacrifices were always necessary to expiate people from sin. The other is to talk about something we can see and that is sin and death. We do not need to look very far to understand that we live in an broken world filled with many evils that infect every aspect of the human drama. It can be very overwhelming at times. It is like poison that moves through…and it can lead us to darkness, depression and despair. Since the poison comes from humanity the remedy had to come from one like us.
Jesus because he was both human and divine, (the God Man as we say) assumed a human nature and descended to the very depths of our poison and death. He suffered in every way possible, literally getting underneath the very depths of our sickness. His death marks the very depth of our dilemma. So when Jesus rose from the dead it was as if humanity was sifted out of the muck of poison and death and raised to a new status. We who were destined for utter destruction now have been shown a way to eternal life. We have a remedy for the poison and sin of the world in the flesh.
Dr. David Emanuel, a professor and the chair of the Bible department at Nyack College in New York, wrote:
Easter … is critical to sanctify (set apart) time in the year to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. If the Israelites have good reason to remember when God delivered them from physical slavery and celebrate it as a holy convocation, how much more should we celebrate our deliverance from sin and death?
Jesus had to die to pay the price God required for my sins: “The wages of sin is death . . .” If he never died, that bounty would still be on my head. He also had to die to fulfill scripture, and complete that which God had started. “Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; (Isa 53:12)”
Dr. David Ireland, senior pastor of Christ Church in Rockaway, N.J. cited Christ’s necessary work and his purported payment of humanity’s sinful debts:
Easter marks the finished work of Christ — the fullest demonstration of God’s love for humanity. When we celebrate Easter, we are reminded of the historic and eternal work of salvation by Jesus Christ on the cross.
He came to pay humanity’s debt to God by dying for our sins. As he hung on the cross our sins bore down on his shoulders. As he laid in the grave our penalty of death — the payment for the crime of sin—was being satisfied. And, when Jesus arose triumphantly on the third day, our redemption was complete.
Last but not least, New Testament expert and Dallas Theological Seminary professor Dr. Darrell Bock offered up his insight:
Easter matters because it shows how God vindicated Jesus and his message. The empty tomb not only speaks of life after death but it also speaks to the fact that what Jesus said about himself and human needs before God mattered. As important as the fact of life after death is, how that afterlife is experienced is more important. Jesus addresses that issue and how to know God in his ministry. Easter is God’s yes to that message.
Jesus’ death in our place is God’s program for bearing sin on our behalf and opening a door for people to fellowship with God for those who will accept his gift of life. Forgiveness is something God offers to us through Jesus’ death, not something we earn. In this the Christian faith is distinctive, offering a way to God not dependent on what we do, but on what God has done through Jesus. To benefit from this death, we need to acknowledge we need what only God has provided. In receiving what God offers in Jesus, we gain forgiveness and life, as we turn to God on his terms and through his provision, not ours.
What does Easter mean to you? Let us know in the comments section.
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