Easter bunnies, baskets, candy, and frilly dresses are nice, but Easter is about so much more. If you are wondering about the spiritual meaning of Easter, you’ve come to the right place!
While visions of Cadbury eggs and cuddly bunnies may sound delightful, the true meaning of Easter is infinitely more. The spiritual meaning of Easter feeds the soul. Spiritually speaking, Easter is a Christian holiday.
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What is Easter and Why Do We Celebrate It?
Easter is a holy day honoring the most important event in Christianity. Scripture tells us that Jesus was put to death and buried. He then rose from the dead on the 3rd day. All of this was predicted throughout the Old Testament and by Jesus, himself. Easter celebrates Christ coming back to life.
We celebrate because we have been rescued from sin and death and brought in to the family of God by this act of Jesus. Our failings have been paid for in full and we are connected to God forever in a way that was never done before this work of Christ at Easter.
On a more personal level, Easter also means celebrating my life in Christ. As Paul said in Galatians 2:20,
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Why Do We Celebrate Holy Week
Easter is so important that there are many holy days leading up to it. There is, in fact, an entire season, celebrated by some Christians, called Lent. Lent starts 40 days before Easter, kicked off by Ash Wednesday. It is a time of spiritual preparation and fasting in anticipation of Easter. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday was initiated as a “one last party” before lent but is not officially recognized in Christianity.
Palm Sunday is celebrated in churches, even by those who do not observe lent. Palm Sunday honors the beginning of the resurrection story. It’s when Jesus entered into Jerusalem to face his impending crucifixion.
Jesus predicted this in Matthew 20:18-19, telling his disciples “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
I have many fond memories waving palms throughout church services to re-enact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. This refers to Matthew 21:8,
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
Monday through Wednesday are pretty much skipped over in Holy Week. Maundy or Holy Thursday is the next holy day. Maundy refers to the Latin term, mandatum, often translated in English as commandment.
Maundy (Commandment) Thursday refers to the new commandment Jesus gave at the Last Supper. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Some Christians also celebrate a Seder Supper on Thursday (the Jewish Passover meal Jesus had that night). It’s interesting to note, that because the Jewish day began the evening before, it would’ve actually been eaten at sundown Wednesday. This year Passover is the Wednesday before Easter.
On the surface, Good Friday seems an ironic name. It is the holy day to commemorate the arrest, beating, and death of Jesus. There is much debate about why it’s called Good Friday. The most plausible to me is that it’s a corruption of the English language that originally called it, “God Friday.” The word “good” does not appear in other languages that refer to this day.
Regardless, many of us English speaking Christians have seen the good in a dark story. What Jesus did was the ultimate in goodness. He suffered and died for us, so that we might live. However, church services on Good Friday are usually particularly somber. I usually take time on this day to reflect on Christ’s suffering and my part in sinning that required his sacrifice on the cross.
Holy Saturday is less celebrated by Western churches. It is interesting to note that in the creation story in Genesis God rested on the 7th day, Saturday. And God commands his people to rest on Saturdays. As well, Jesus stayed quietly in the tomb the entire day of Saturday.
Early Sunday, we don’t know exactly when, Jesus rose from the grave. “He is risen!” is a popular Easter day phrase. It is a time to celebrate life. We celebrate Jesus conquering death and the new life we now have in him!
What is the True Meaning of Easter Sunday?
By examining the gospels, we can determine that Sunday was the day that Jesus was raised from the dead. In John 20 verse 1, the resurrection story starts with “Early on the first day of the week…” According to the Jewish way of calculating days, the first day of the week was Sunday.
It’s actually because the resurrection occurred on Sunday that Christians observe Sundays as the Sabbath or holy day to honor God. Up until this point, Saturdays were considered holy.
The importance of Easter
Jesus came into the world as God and man to bring light, life, and a way for people to have a close relationship with God. God’s plan was for Jesus to be crucified on the cross to put to death the power of sin in us. But it was also His plan for Jesus to be raised to life, allowing us to live in unity with him for eternity.
In I Corinthians 15:14 Paul says,
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
If Christ was not raised from the dead, there would be no Christianity!
The death and resurrection of Jesus are so important that all of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation point to this event. It is the pinnacle moment in God’s plan, for us to be alive in Christ.
Why do they call it Easter?
The word “Easter” is not in the Bible. In fact, like “Good Friday” it’s also not called anything similar in other languages. There are several theories. One is that Easter’s name is actually inspired by the name of a pagan goddess for Spring and fertility, “Eostre.” Another is that it refers to the East or dawn.. the return of light.
Most other languages refer to this holiday as “Pascha” which in the original Greek means “Passover Supper or Lamb.” Paul uses the term in I Corinthians 5:7, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Therefore, the English equivalent for Easter in other languages would be “Passover Lamb Sunday.”
Celebrating the Real Meaning Behind Easter
In the United States, Easter has become a highly secularized holiday. There is no focus on Jesus or anything much to do with the Christian faith. Dressing up, food, candy, and bunnies, especially enticing to children, have taken center stage.
For those that believe, it’s important to honor the real meaning and teach our children to do the same. This year, many of us will be celebrating Easter at home with only our immediate family. It’s a good time to reflect on the powerful and beautiful message of redemption and hope we have in Christ.
We’re still planning to do an egg hunt, eat candy, and have a special meal. I’m even thinking I might dress up. For us, church will be online and connecting with neighbors will happen with decorations and friendly waves. In celebrating, I agree with Paul who said,
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18)
Why Do We Celebrate Easter With Eggs?
Eggs have long been associated with new life. Long before Jesus died and rose again, many cultures were decorating eggs. The church adopted this tradition. Additionally, eating eggs during Lent used to be forbidden, so eating eggs on Easter was part of the breaking of the Lenten fast.
In the oldest churches and in some Orthodox churches today, Easter eggs are all colored red to symbolize the blood of Christ’s sacrifice. Maybe this year, consider dying some eggs red if you don’t already!
Be sure to visit the Bible Verse Coloring Pages library to download (for free) a collection of He is Risen coloring pages!
Bringing Home The Spiritual Meaning of Easter
Easter is not just about Jesus coming to life. Easter is about celebrating our new life through him! “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:8). We are free from condemnation, sin, and death! Through Christ, we can call God our Father.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating with eggs, candy, and whatever else. Do so without condemnation, but remember what Easter is really about. Bunnies, eggs, and Easter dresses come and go, but the spiritual meaning of Easter is a delight that will last forever. He is Risen!