Easter and the Resurrection

Have you ever wondered how the holiday Easter originated? The term Easter itself is not used in the New Testament (the KJV translated the Greek word πάσχα (pascha), which means Passover, as Easter in Acts 12:4). There is no trace of an Easter celebration in the New Testament, either.

The English word Easter comes from the name of a Germanic goddess, to whom sacrifices were offered in April, and the name was transferred to this day. The exact time Easter began to be celebrated is not known, although there are references to it as early as the second century A.D. Those who adopted it did not observe it uniformly, nor was it observed at the same time. Some observed it on the day believed to have been the resurrection day, regardless of the day of the week when it occurred. Others observed it always on the Sunday nearest to the day believed to have been the day of Jesus' resurrection. 

In A.D. 325, the council of Nicea fixed the day on a Sunday, but did not specify which Sunday. Finally, in the seventh century, Easter was decreed to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon succeeding the vernal equinox (March 21), and always after the Jewish Passover. If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is the Sunday after. By this arrangement, Easter may take place as early as March 22, or as late as April 25.

Easter itself, then, does not represent the actual day of the Lord's resurrection. It is a human tradition, not a commandment of God. For the Christian, each Lord's Day is a remembrance of His death, burial, and resurrection, as we partake of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7) and remember the promise His resurrection over death offers us for our resurrection from death (1 Cor. 15:20-24). Every day we live, we should be mindful of what our Lord has done for us. 

May we seek to instill in others an understanding of what His resurrection really means, not for one day a year, but every day of the year. Let us rejoice today, and every day, in the salvation made possible by the sacrifice of Christ. May we live each day conformed to His will, so we might share, based on His resurrection, in the resurrection of life. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

μαράνα θᾶ (1 Cor. 16:22)


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