Easter Means Death...And Resurrection
What does Easter Sunday mean to you? Giant bunnies and colorful eggs? New, brightly colored clothes? Family get togethers with carrot cake? Egg hunts and candy? While I have nothing against these things, at the same time I know they communicate nothing of the depth and gravity of Easter. These things are also nothing like what most of our Christian brethren around the world think about when they think of Easter.
On Sunday, nine bombs went off in Colombo, Sri Lanka, killing 391 people and wounding 500 more. Three of the bombs targeted Christian churches and shrines. While this act of terrorism is horrendous and tragic, unfortunately, it is neither new nor surprising ( https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2019/04/21/easter-attacks-on-churches-in-sri-lanka-are-tragic-but-hardly-surprising/ ). There is a growing global trend of targeting Christians for violence and terrorism during Holy Week and Easter. Here are some examples from the past few years:
Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017 - Tanta & Alexandria, Egypt (49 killed)
Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 - Lahore, Pakistan (69 killed)
Three days before Easter, April 2, 2015 - University of Garissa, Kenya (147 killed, attackers
specifically targeted Christians) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32169080
Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012 - Kaduna, Nigeria (38 killed)
These large scale attacks, as well as scores of other small-scale ones, paint an increasingly clear picture for Christians around the world: “If you gather with other Christians this week to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, you do so at your own risk.” So the question we should ask ourselves, then, is why do they continue to gather to celebrate Easter, even in the face of threats and persecution? What does Easter mean to them?
I cannot say for sure, because I have never been to those places, so I cannot speak for those Christians, but I do know that the historical, biblical meaning of Easter Sunday is something far deeper and far stronger than what most of us, American Christians are able to grasp.
Easter Sunday means resurrection - that death is not the end, but only the passage to new life. It means life has conquered death, that light has pierced the darkness, that hope has overcome despair. It means that these old things are passing away and that a new creation is coming. Easter assumes the presence of evil - of death, of pain, sorrow, despair, and darkness -, but it promises that these things are passing, and one day they will be gone forever. Easter Sunday is the breaking light of dawn after the long night of sin. It is the herald, the sign, the guarantee that all is not lost, that all this has not been in vain, that there is an end in sight and it is more glorious than anything we can imagine!
The reality is that the true meaning of Easter Sunday can only be experienced by those who have endured the night - by those who have felt the crushing weight of death, and known the poisonous sting of sin. If you haven’t experienced these things, then you won’t understand why Christians would continue to celebrate Easter even under the threat of violence. But for them, it is the very presence of opposition that makes celebrating Easter necessary. If it weren’t for Easter, there would be no hope to endure persecution, nor any reason to do so. But Easter is the promise of resurrection, the guarantee of victory, no matter what happens in this life. That is worth celebrating!
Next Easter, let’s remember to pray for Christians around the world gathering under the threat of violence. But let’s also celebrate with them our shared hope in the resurrection of Jesus!