It’s Easter Week! This weekend, people across the country will be donning colorful clothes, gathering for family meals, hunting eggs, eating chocolate, giving gifts, and/or otherwise joining millions around the world in honoring this special occasion.
But what exactly are we celebrating? What is this holiday all about?
For many, Easter is a celebration of spring. For Christians, it’s much more – though symbols of new life certainly hint at some of its themes. At its core, Easter is a celebration of the central events of Christianity, the events that launched the faith and on which our hope is based: the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the world’s salvation.
These events, and what they accomplished, are what we Christians call the Gospel (Greek euaggelion) – the “Good News”.
I’ve mentioned these events several times on this blog (for example, here). In this month’s post, I’m going to try to explain them a little more fully – why they’re important, what they accomplished, and where the story goes from here.
To do this, we need to start at the beginning…
God is Three in One
Christians believe that there is only one God – a personal, transcendent, eternal, sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, holy, righteous, wise, loving Being who created, directs, and sustains the world. This God reveals Himself to people and wants a loving relationship with them. God is the only thing in existence worthy of our worship and of our ultimate trust and allegiance.
Further, Christians believe that this God exists as three Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are 100% the same God with the same character and attributes, but each Person plays different roles.
This “three-in-one” arrangement is called the Trinity, and is best explained in the Nicene Creed.
God created a good world
God created the universe in which we live, including all of its inhabitants. He created humans “in His image“, equipping them to reflect His own character and to steward earthly life. When He finished creating the world and its first inhabitants, He called His handiwork “very good“.
In the beginning, there was no evil, disharmony, or suffering. The human body could live indefinitely. The first humans had close, harmonious relationships with God and each other.
Life was full in every sense.
Sin disrupted, and continues to disrupt, everything
In addition to providing for and commissioning humans, God gave them one simple rule to follow. When they finally sinned by choosing to disobey, their close, trusting bond with God was broken. They could no longer enjoy free, unhindered fellowship with their Creator. They also forfeited the privilege of an immortal, suffering-free life. And as finite creatures, they could not atone for themselves or fix what was broken.
Every human since (except One) has struggled with sin. Sin means “missing the mark” – failing to meet God’s standards. Sin cuts us off from God, disrupts our human relationships, and in some cases harms the rest of creation. And it requires atonement – the paying of our debt of obedience to God.
All of us have sinned at some point. We all have failings, mistakes, and shortcomings. And we all live in a world rife with sin’s effects, from broken families to war and famine. And like our ancestors, we are powerless to save ourselves, much less our world.
But God has not forgotten us. This is where the Good News comes in…
The Good News
Jesus Christ came to save us from sin
God the Son came to earth in human form as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Through His life, He set an example for us and showed us what God is like. And through His death and resurrection, He accomplished what we never could – the way for a perfectly restored God-human relationship.
Jesus was both fully human and fully God, able both to identify with us and to intercede with God on our behalf. He experienced suffering and temptation, just like we do, yet He never sinned. He healed the sick, spent time with outcasts, and taught about the kingdom of God. After a popular ministry, He was arrested by religious leaders and handed over to the Roman government to be crucified. He died and was buried, but on the third day after His death, He rose from the dead.
By willingly dying on the cross, Jesus paid for our sin, once and for all. Through Him, God essentially removed all of our sins, nailing them to the cross, and offered us a fresh start to our relationship with Him. And by raising Jesus from the dead, He proved His authority over suffering and death, guaranteeing their future demise and the resurrection of every person who puts their faith in Him.
We can receive Jesus’ offer of salvation through faith
Because of Jesus, every human being has the opportunity for a perfectly, eternally restored relationship with God. This opportunity is a gift, paid for by Christ and offered to each of us. All we need to do is accept it.
To accept this gift, we must confess and repent of our sin, acknowledging our need for God and His grace. We must also believe what Christ has done for us, and ask Him to be our Savior and the Lord of our lives.
When we do this, the Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity – enters our lives, cleansing us from sin and giving us unlimited access to God’s intimate, ongoing presence. The Spirit stays with us forever, guiding us and empowering us to live God-honoring lives. He also unites us with other Christ-followers as brothers and sisters in the family of God.
We will always have failures in this life. But if we have put our faith in Jesus, we can trust Him to forgive us when we confess and repent of those failures. And we can be assured that the Holy Spirit is working on us, transforming us more and more into Christ’s image.
And we can trust that His work will be complete one day – with the return of Christ.
Jesus will return to complete God’s reign on earth
After His resurrection, Jesus spent time with His disciples before ascending to heaven. He promised that He will come again at an unexpected time, to finish the work He began. At His return, the dead will be raised, and all people will be judged. God will destroy evil and suffering and renew His entire creation.
Until then, all people are called to prepare by accepting what Christ has done for them and committing to follow Him as their Savior and Lord. And Christ-followers are called to share the Good News with others so that everyone has the opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation through Christ.
Because the Good News is for everyone – male and female, of every culture and ethnicity and ability and class and background. If you’re made of human DNA, God’s gift is for you.
Want to learn more? Here are a few resources:
- Nicene Creed – an outline of basic Christian beliefs
- BibleGateway.org – free online access to the Bible and some related resources
- Billy Graham Evangelistic Association – resources on the Gospel and spiritual growth
- The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel (Zondervan) – an investigation of the Easter account’s credibility