The Reality of Easter Sunday
The Easter season is upon us. It is interesting to talk with people about what they have decided to give up for Lent, or what type of preparations they are making in order to spend time with family. It is definitely an important holiday. The discussion often revolves around the topic of egg hunts and bunny rabbits. This is what makes April such a fun month for the kids. But it is also a good opportunity to make sure we remember that Good Friday and Easter Sunday were built on firm foundations in the church, and factual historical occurrences. Egg hunts and rabbits are fun, but the holiday itself is the linchpin of our Christian heritage, not to mention the way we understand eternal salvation.
Take the Bible itself for instance. It is truly an amazing book. Its 66 books were written by some 40 authors over the span of fifteen hundred years. And through it all, the narrative and thematic principles remain seamless and harmonious. One interesting fact when we talk about Biblical truth - or proving the authority of the Bible - comes by way of fulfilled prophecies. We can trust that Easter is worth celebrating because it is possible to look back throughout Biblical history and review its prophetic truth. Now by prophecy, I am not talking here about the looser sense of the word used in movies and the popular writing of today. The type of weird or vague platitudes you may see in a Lord of the Rings movie for example. No, I mean the utterances spoken by the real prophets of God in days gone by, of which the veracity has already been proven (and written down) for all to see.
Lets look at just the prophecies of Jesus Christ alone. There are roughly three hundred of them that can be traced back and proved to have already come to pass! Some critics may offer this type of rebuttal, "Well, maybe Jesus had read these prophecies, and then purposely tried to position himself in the right place at the right time in order to fulfill them publicly." Now this is rather strange, as most of you probably can sense from the outset. Did Christ plan to be born in the right town and at the right time? Did Jesus say to himself, "next week I have to die at the hands of Pontius Pilate on a cross to fulfill Isaiah 53?" I'm afraid that simply doesn't connect. There is something more going on here.
Now what do I mean by prophecies fulfilled? Here is a short list of examples below:
Jesus would be born of the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3, 22:18), of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10), of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12f). The city in which he would be born (Micah 5:2), that Jesus would come while the temple was still standing (Malachi 3:1), that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), that he would perform miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6), that he would be rejected by his own people (Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:7), the exact time in history when Christ would die (Daniel 9:24-26; 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct the city of Jerusalem in 444 B.C.). This one was fulfilled to the very year by the way. How he would die (Psalm 22:16-18, Isaiah 53; Zech 12:10), and that he would be resurrected (Psalm 16:10).
So what does this all mean? Is it just old wives' tales that were written in one part of a book, and verified at another part of the same book? That would be a good argument if the book were written by the same author in the same lifetime. But as we mentioned above, it was spread out across generations and hundreds of years. Okay, so maybe all the writers simply looked back across the pages and invented accounts to fulfill the prophecies, right? Remember that the Bible is a historical document as well as an inspired book. The person and existence of Jesus vindicated over 300 such predictions, and did so in ways that defy backward plagiarism. One does not choose where he or she is to be born, or to what lineage they will be born into, etc.
If we can trace back this type of truth historically, it allows us to make the assertion that all of these dates and events leading up to Easter are also true. And most importantly, that Good Friday and Easter Sunday were real events as well. If they are not, then the church may as well pack it in right now. We would be nothing more than a building to house Wednesday night dinners and conduct social clubs.
Weak arguments exist to deny Biblical truth, but so do strong rebuttals. At the end of the day, I'm afraid we are left with good evidence for the veracity of the Bible, as well as proof that it was inspired by God. Not only do the prophecies tell us that Jesus was the real deal, but they also tell us that God knows His plan for the past, present, and future - and knows it well. As author C.S. Lewis put it in his book 'Mere Christianity': "we have reason to be uncomfortable [that something extraordinary is at work here]." Or in the case of the Christian believer, we have reason for our assurance in Easter.
It is good to celebrate this holiday with friends and family. It is good to visit your local church to honor the God that has given us so much. It is best, I think, to remember it actually happened - and has little to do with eggs or rabbits. It is nothing less than an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I can think of no other truth so instrumental to the well being of mankind.