Between the Easter bunny, family reunions, and packed church services, the true heartbeat of Easter can easily fall into obscurity.
But for Christians, today is the most joyous of days, one in which genuine celebration is the only appropriate response: After days of mourning and mounting uncertainty, Jesus, the embodiment of the One True God, is alive.
What Easter is truly about
It should not be missed that Jesus inexplicably tied his death — the events of Easter and the Passion week — with the events preceding Jewish Passover. After all, Jesus himself was a Jew, as were his disciples, so the Jewish context was the best category available to communicate his teachings.
But there was a deeper meaning at hand. Indeed, the events of the Passion week should be examined in light of the narrative storyline of the Bible.
After the downward spiral of humanity descended the created world into utter chaos (Genesis 3-11), God chose to reconcile his relationship and partnership with humanity through one family, Abraham's (Genesis 15). Abraham's family later grew into the nation of Israel, whom God delivered from oppression in Egypt. God later made a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) that Israel would become a holy nation — unique and set apart — that would serve as a "kingdom of priests" to the nations of the world.
However, as the story goes — over and over and over again — the Israelites utterly fail at upholding their end of the covenant. Still, despite Israel's continual rebellion and idolatry, God remains faithful to his people, even through multiple exiles. The narratives point to one day when a "New Moses," "New Adam," and "New David" figure would appear.
As history goes, that person was Jesus, the incarnation of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Unfortunately, most of Jesus' disciples only realized the entire story of the Hebrew Bible was about their great rabbi after Jesus' death and resurrection. But it's not that Jesus did not warn them.
In fact, the night before Jesus' death, the night of his arrest, Jesus fundamentally reshaped the most important story in Israel's history.
From Luke 22:
When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, "I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God." Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, "Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come." He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me." After supper he took another cup of wine and said, "This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
On that night, Jesus took some of the most important symbols of the "old covenant" and initiated a new one.
And that is the fundamental reality about Easter: The Kingdom of God is here — and there is a new order of life possible to all those who take the bread and the cup and believe in their hearts that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9).
Three days after Jesus' execution, the stone that sealed his tomb was rolled away — not to let Jesus out, but to let us in.
Jesus defeating death on the cross and through the empty tomb is an invitation to new life — to New Humanity — that we can finally be the true humans, living in harmonious union with God, that we were meant to be all along.
But the gift is not just a seat in eternity, although faithful Christians eagerly await being reunited with God forever. Indeed, the invitation to new life, to begin the journey of sanctification toward New Humanity, is an invitation to renew our partnership with God in bringing heaven back to earth.
"Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is all about," the great New Testament scholar N.T. Wright wrote in his book "Surprised by Hope."
Happy Easter, everyone.