When I was a boy, there were two days I anticipated most: Christmas and Easter. The reason that I was filled with anticipation was simple. I was getting new toys. Christmas Day was when I made the greatest haul. Easter was like a mini-Christmas. We colored eggs and ate good food. Mom sat out baskets filled with green plastic “straw” and I anxiously went to bed wondering what the Easter bunny would grant me this year. I was never disappointed. That is until one ominous day when my reasoning abilities matured and it was revealed to me that there was no Easter bunny. I can still feel the sense of betrayal when my imagination gave way to a greater reality. There was no Easter bunny. I was hurt and the world, for a moment, seemed unreliable. What next? Would the ground give way from underneath me?
Oddly enough, that childhood experience still drives me to deliver my children and the children of Christ Community Church a true and solid and happy experience of Easter. For at the root of it, Easter is the celebration of the true and solid and happy event of our Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus our Lord suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. And Easter is the day set aside by the church to pause and worship and feast together as we celebrate that happy truth: Jesus is alive! He rose from the dead and He is alive.
In our life together as Jesus’ disciples, Easter is not simply a one-day only celebration. Every time we gather together on Sunday for worship, we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Every Sunday is Easter within the church. But the church long ago set aside a day to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection that corresponded to time. They did this for our benefit so that we could play out the true drama of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection so that we might be encouraged to live in Him. Our celebration of Easter begins with Holy Week and the end of Lent.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday as we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. He entered as a victorious King, meek and humble though, riding on the foal of a donkey. Maundy Thursday is the celebration of the Eucharist, when Jesus sat at table with His Apostles during His last meal with them. He washed their feet and said, “Mandatum Novum…”, a Latin phrase which means, “A new commandment…” Jesus said: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34) Maundy Thursday, or “New Commandment Thursday”, reminds us that if we are to become great in the kingdom of heaven, then we will have to be the servant of all. He gave bread and wine to His disciples that evening and said, “This is my body…” and “This is the new covenant in my blood…” At Christ Community Church, we celebrate the Jesus Feast together on Thursday as we celebrate the body and blood of Jesus given to us.
Good Friday is the observance of Jesus’ crucifixion. We gather for a solemn service of remembering Jesus’ last sayings on the cross and preparing our hearts once again to receive His death as our pardon of sins in His name. Holy Saturday is a quiet day. The disciples had hidden themselves away for fear that they too would be killed. We hide ourselves away, each in our homes, so that we can think and prepare ourselves for the next day’s gathering and our highest celebration of the year: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Easter Sunday is a feast day, which means that we gather to share a meal together as we worship and celebrate Jesus Christ our Lord. Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, begins the Easter season. Happily, our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is not a one-day only event. The Easter season is 50 days long and for good reason. After Jesus arose from the dead, He was on the earth for 40 days. He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3) After the 40 days, He bodily ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God to this day. But that is not 50 days is it? Ten days later, the Holy Spirit came upon the church at the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Pentecost means “the fiftieth day”. It marked the end of the Jewish feast of weeks given by God to Moses. And here in our day, we still celebrate the feast of Pentecost and the end of the Easter season.
While the Easter season may end, our observance of Jesus’ resurrection does not. As Jesus’ disciples, each day we live in Him and for Him and to Him is only possible because He is risen from the dead and He is alive. That is our life as Jesus’ disciples and our message to the world. May this Easter season be an occasion to stir us up to be His disciples while it is our time to do so. May we live out Jesus’ resurrection in our lives and so live out His life in the world while it is today.