One of my favorite hymns is “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, whose words were written by Charles Wesley, brother of the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley. The Wesley brothers were both involved in active ministry and faithful followers of Christ. Charles lived from 1707-1788 and wrote hundreds of hymns during his lifetime. It seems no Resurrection Sunday service is complete without singing this beautiful hymn!
But, with all of the fanfare and excitement surrounding this holiday celebrated annually each spring, it is important to look at some facts concerning Easter. First of all, the holiday as celebrated today, has pagan origins, not always pleasant to look at. The name is derived from “Eostre”, an Anglo-Saxon goddess who was celebrated at a pagan spring festival celebrating the vernal equinox. She was the “dawn goddess”. Going even further back in history, the roots of the celebration can be traced all the way back to Nimrod, grandson of Noah, and his wife Semiramis, who is also known as “Ishtar”. The Feast of Ishtar was started thousands of years ago by Nimrod, who wanted to be worshipped as the “Sun God”, and his wife, known as the “moon goddess”, goddess of spring and fertility, and the Queen of Heaven. This feast celebrated the rebirth or reincarnation of nature and the goddess of nature. Nimrod built the city of Babel, where God confounded the languages at the Tower of Babel. Their wickedness was known throughout the earth!.
Jesus Christ’s (Yeshua, the Messiah) resurrection occurred just after Passover, on the Jewish Feast of First Fruits, celebrated the first Sunday morning after Passover. For centuries Christians celebrated on this day, but in AD325, Roman Emperor Constantine, presiding over the large council at Nicea, set the date of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (explaining the wide difference in dates for Easter each year), and in seeking to “Christianize” the pagans and the entire world, decided to give new names and meanings to the old pagan festival celebrating fertility in order to keep people happy who were already celebrating these events. Thus, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection was combined with a pagan fertility festival and renamed Easter! All of these facts are readily available online if you care to do the research.
The truth is, the Early Church did not celebrate Easter, but rather the Passover; rabbits and eggs have nothing to do with Christ’s resurrection, but rather are symbols of the ancient pagan fertility rites; sunrise services looking to the East are based on pagan customs (Ezekiel 8:15-18) and Good Friday and Lent are manmade events. Jesus predicted that He would be in the ground “three days and three nights”, so the math just does not work if you believe he was crucified on Good Friday. The truth is, he was more than likely crucified on Thursday morning, embalmed and laid in the tomb before sundown on Thursday, as the Jews were prohibited from working on the Passover, which was Friday (a day on the Jewish calendar is from sundown to sundown); Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his twelve disciples probably on Wednesday evening, a night earlier, as he knew he would be dead by the next evening when Passover was to be celebrated. Then, the regular Sabbath was Saturday, and the biblical Feast of First Fruits was celebrated on that Sunday following the first Sabbath after Passover. Jesus arose from the dead at the dawning of the first day, Sunday, thus becoming the “first fruits of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20-23). He not only fulfilled His promise to rise again after three days and three nights (the math works here!), but He fulfilled the Sabbath and the Feast of First Fruits! He became our Passover Lamb with His atonement for our sins, as well. When the veil of the temple was torn in two at Jesus’ crucifixion, God was giving us a sign that Christ had indeed fulfilled the requirements of the Law, becoming our sin offering so we might have Eternal Life!
So, knowing all of the pagan origins of this holiday and the fact that even many churches today continue to combine the pagan with the spiritual, perhaps in ignorance, should we refuse to observe this Resurrection Sunday? Emphatically not! This day celebrates the greatest event in history…the resurrection and eventual ascension to Heaven of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, sent down to us by our Heavenly Father to show us the way to God by giving His life for us and providing His blood as atonement for our sins! It is a final work, a once-and-for all event, spoken by our Lord when He uttered the words, “It Is Finished!” By accepting His finished work, we enter into salvation from our sins and Eternal Life is assured! We do not have to work for our salvation; it is a free gift, provided through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection!
So, how shall we celebrate this day? On Resurrection Sunday, let us join with millions around the world in singing Charles Wesley’s song, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, knowing that we are not celebrating a mixture of pagan symbols and man-made ceremonies that are not in the Word of God, but a risen Savior! Let us rejoice out of a deep sense of awe and gratitude for what our Lord did for us on Calvary and through His resurrection, providing salvation through Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”!