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The Fullness of an Empty Tomb
By Rock Church - April 6, 2004

Easter Incognito

The Easter bunny is much less intimidating than Jesus on the cross
The Easter bunny is much less intimidating than Jesus on the cross

What is it about our society that leads us to cheapen even the most sacred holidays left on our calendar by developing strategic ad campaigns and creating some sort of non-offensive spokesperson whose image can be plastered all over T-shirts, candy bars and wrapping paper?

Christmas is perhaps our most obvious victim, with Christ in the manger being replaced by a fat Santa squeezing down a chimney. Valentine's Day has suffered a similar fate; St. Valentine is only remembered if he is cast in a chocolate mold and wrapped in shiny pink foil. Halloween has been distorted, too, from a day devoted to honoring the memory of deceased ancestors to a night of sugar-induced comas and smashing pumpkins.

Of most relevance this month, however, is the mistaken identity of Easter. As Christians, we look forward to this day as a chance to celebrate Christ's resurrection and victory over Satan. But as consumers we doubly recognize this holiday with expensive Easter baskets and overgrown rabbits given our permission to get away with breaking and entering for one morning.

I think our tendency to commercialize spiritual holidays stretches far beyond simple theories of corporate greed and retail sales, and lies deeper in our strong human tendency to live in denial of that which frightens us. I believe the quality that makes us most in need of God's love is that which makes us strip its very presence from our calendars year after year, and that is the realization of our own mortality.

A Fear of the Unknown

God has placed eternity in the hearts of men
God has placed eternity in the hearts of men

I find it very interesting that the one thing every human being shares in common, what we are all required to experience as a result of being born, is one of the most feared and perplexing subjects known to man. We are all going to die someday, as a result of living in the fallen world fated to us by Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden.

Ecclesiastes 8:8 tells us that No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death.

Yet despite it's commonality and undeniability, the topic of death makes most people feel awkward or fearful or apprehensive, and many have spent countless years and dollars doing all they can to delay death and the signs that death is getting closer. Women spend hours in surgery to appear as if they have decades before it is their time to go, instead of years. Men save up over extended fiscal periods to ensure that their headstone and memorial fund do justice to their time here on earth. A wide array of priests, mystics, shamen, witch doctors and pastors have spent numerous sleepless nights pondering what happens to us when we die, and how to ensure a happy afterlife if one does indeed exist.

For those of us who believe in the Gospel of Christ, death does not have to be something misunderstood or scary. Revelation 14:13 gives us this promise: Then I heard a voice from Heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

The Power of Denial

For Christians, death is only the beginning
For Christians, death is only the beginning

Since there are so many who are not aware of God's promises for our life and death, the temptation to turn any holiday that makes us aware of our own mortality is very seductive. Instead of dwelling upon spiritual matters that remind us we are sinners who must die for our transgressions, many human beings opt to substitute substance for temporary peace of mind.

The Easter Bunny is so comfortable and non-offensive compared to the image of a bloody Christ being nailed to the cross by our sins. The strange twist of fate here is that underneath the initial feelings of guilt we may experience when comparing our nature to that of Christ's, we can overcome our human nature and escape death by simply honoring the foundational truth these holidays are built upon.

If we believe Christ is God's son who was born into this world and was killed as a ransom for our sins, we can share in His resurrection and victory over death. Why else would Psalm 116:15 say Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints? For what other reason would Paul tell the Philippians that I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21

How awesome and intriguing that in order to have eternal life in Christ we must first admit that we deserve to die, for once we realize our sinful nature and choose to die to ourselves, we can truly be alive in Christ and obey His commands. How sad that those who are most in need of recognizing their morality and submitting to God are those who want to live in denial of the truth.

A Voice from the Past

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates spoke these words many years before Christ was born: "So my judges, face death with a good hope, and know for certain that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death." This statement can only be true for those who follow Christ, for He is the one single man to have ever conquered death and it is solely through Him that all other men can share in this victory.

Easter is so much more than jelly beans and Easter egg hunts…it is the celebration of the moment when two mourning women walked into the tomb of Jesus, only to find that He was no longer there.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22