Easter is celebrated worldwide as a “Christian” holiday. It is probably the second biggest “Christian” holiday behind Christmas. The Friday before Easter is called “Good Friday,” and it is supposed to be a commemoration of Jesus’ death, while “Easter Sunday” celebrates Jesus’ resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus are definitely fundamentally important events for all Christians. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus form the crux of the gospel, and also forms the basis of our faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).
The Bible records for us in detail the events that led Jesus to the cross, and subsequently His resurrection, 2000 years ago. Shortly before His death, Jesus partook of the Passover together with His disciples. That was the same time that He instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-29). Shortly after the Passover supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was betrayed by Judas and arrested (Matthew 26:36-56). The Bible describes for us how He suffered at the hands of the Jews and Romans, being tortured and mocked, before He was led to Calvary to be executed (Matthew 26:57-27:50).
Unlike Christmas, where the Bible does not reveal to us the date and time of Jesus’ birth, we can pinpoint the date of Jesus’ death with some accuracy, since we know it happened during the Jewish Passover. This puts it somewhere between March and April (the Passover follows the lunar calendar, and hence it moves from year to year). We also know the day of the week that Jesus died and was resurrected. The Bible records that Jesus died before the Sabbath day, on a Friday (John 19:31). Jesus then rose the third day following His death, on the “first day of the week” i.e. Sunday (John 20:1). This perhaps explains the rationale behind “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunday.”
When did “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunday” begin? The Bible does not record any example of Christians celebrating these holidays. The earliest evidence for the Easter holiday points to the 2nd century. However, right from the time when churches started to celebrate these holidays, there was already controversy about the right date to celebrate Easter. Some churches observed the feast on the same day as the Jewish Passover feast (which could fall on any day of the week). Other churches insisted that the Easter celebrations should be extended until Sunday. Finally, during the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), headed by Emperor Constantine, they sought to standardize the celebration of Easter, and this standard has continued in many places until today.
Where does the word “Easter” come from? The origin of the word “Easter” appears to be another controversial issue. Some historians believe “Easter” comes from “Eostre,” who was the goddess of spring and fertility. Fun fact: Easter eggs seem to originate from the belief that eggs represent fertility and birth. If that is the case, it may hint to the pagan origins of the Easter celebration, just as Christmas originated from the pagan celebrations of the Sun god on the winter solstice. Perhaps the churches sought again to imitate the elaborate celebrations of the pagans by incorporating Christianity into these celebrations.
Should Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus? Definitely! Jesus Himself called us to do so. However, we need not involve ourselves in the Easter celebrations, which have been controversial from the beginning. Jesus taught us plainly that we commemorate His death whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). As we partake of the bread, we remember His body. As we partake of the fruit of the vine, we remember His blood which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Lord’s Supper is not to be observed only once a year, but every Sunday (Acts 20:7).
Incidentally, Sunday is the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and that is perhaps the reason God has now chosen Sunday for Christians to assemble and partake of the Lord’s Supper. Whenever we gather every Sunday, we remember that as Christians, we serve a risen Saviour! Our Lord Jesus is not dead and buried, but He is alive, and seated on His throne on the right hand of the Father.
In conclusion, Christians should not celebrate Easter as a religious holiday.
However, every Sunday is the day to commemorate Jesus’ death, and may all Christians fail not to do so in a worthy manner. Though we do not indulge in the worldly celebrations, but may we through our preaching and conduct, declare Jesus as Lord to those around us, and even to all the world.