What Does Easter Mean?

It’s that time of year again, already! The darkness of winter is behind us and we’re all settling down to tuck into our favourite brands of chocolate, in front of whatever trash ITV has deemed worthy of being the “bank holiday blockbuster”. I am of course, talking about Easter. Most people know Easter has something to do with Christianity, maybe fewer know about the Easter story of Jesus’ execution and eventual resurrection. Christians see the Easter narrative as one of the most important stories: it tells the story of Jesus’ coming back from the dead, which for fans of Jesus is pretty cool. I know if Michael Jackson suddenly rose from the dead I’d probably be celebrating; but it’s a lot more than that. The bodily resurrection of Jesus gives all Christians hope and a view of what is in store for them at the end of all things. Christians traditionally believe that at the end of time, all the dead will be resurrected in a bodily state  and will ascend to Heaven to be with God. This is exactly what is seen in the Easter story and so it’s fair to say that Christians use this time of year to reflect on this idea. To me though, Easter means something slightly different.

I could of course in my typical fashion, talk about how Easter is actually a hijacking of the Pagan festival Eostre, a celebration of the Spring Equinox and the emergence of new life. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion, to appease the tree-huggers of Northern Europe, they incorporated Christian festivals to match up with those of the Pagan religions; we see the same with Christmas, which is actually the Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice…Yule. But even I won’t rid Easter of all its significance by suggesting it’s nothing more than a political tool from centuries ago. The traditional Christian understanding of Easter is rooted in the idea that Jesus was physically God Incarnate, and on the belief that a man who died one of the most horrible deaths, came back to life two days later.

I cannot believe in this. I cannot believe that someone rose from the dead no more than I can believe a man who it is told was 100% human, was also somehow 100% divine. This then changes the meaning of Easter. But to change something’s meaning is not to make it devoid of meaning. This is how I see it: Jesus died. His death continues to inspire countless generations of people to act more morally and to live a better life, me included. So if I don’t believe Jesus could have been resurrected, what significance does it have?

Easter is about the overcoming of darkness; it is symbolic. The story shows that even after he endured torture, betrayal and a gruesome death, Jesus could still rise above it all and moreover, forgive those responsible. Easter shows me that no matter how dark things may get throughout life, there will always be light at the end of the journey. If we can accept God had a plan through the Easter story, then I can accept the darkness I may endure through my life is leading me to something greater; after it all, I may rise from the ashes of my misery and be better for it. I really buy into the idea that Jesus is symbolic of all humanity and so his journey, can also represent ours.

I’m not a pious man; I enjoy churches for their beauty and architecture more than their religious significance. But upon reflecting on the Easter narrative this morning, I can honestly say that is a poignant reminder that not all is dark in this world. There can always be hope in the face of real personal and social anguish. I can place my faith in the fact that all things happen for a reason, and although that reason may be invisible in the immediate present, when it eventually comes to fruition, I will be able reflect positively on my experiences.

So Happy Easter to you all; I hope you have a peaceful and relaxing time.

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