Many people associate Easter Sunday with special religious programs, family gatherings, or commercial aspects like Easter eggs and spring clothes. But the heart of Easter should focus on Christ and how Jesus fulfilled God’s plan through his life, death, and resurrection.
Christians celebrate Easter to remind ourselves and others of the cross, and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us. He rose from the grave and promises us eternal life. Easter is a time for us to honor what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.
The Lookout spoke with faithful Christians and leaders across the country and asked, “What does Easter mean to you?” Reflecting on truth, hope, and love, these meaningful insights give us a greater reason to celebrate the resurrection.
More than a Historical Event
Bob Russell, retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, said two words always come to mind for him at Easter—hope and truth.
“I always think of two things when I think of Easter. One is hope. The fact that Jesus came forth from the grave, it is not just a historical event, but it provides present hope for us. The Scripture says, ‘And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you’ (Romans 8:11). Our hope and life after death isn’t based on speculation. It’s based on demonstration. We know that it can happen, because it’s already happened,” Russell said.
“The older you get, the more Easter means to you, because you realize you’re getting near the finish line. You’re reminded every day that your hope is not in this world, it’s in the world to come,” he said.
“When you get to be my age, you better have some hope, you better have something more to look forward to. I can understand why (some of these celebrities) get to be 60 years old and commit suicide. If they don’t have hope, what do they have to look forward to?” Russell said, “But, for the Christian, we have a greater hope. We can enjoy every day, because the best is yet to be.
“The second thing that Easter means to me has to do with truth. That there is an absolute truth. Jesus said all authority in Heaven and earth has been given to me, and he said, ‘I am the way, the truth and life, and no one comes to the Father except through me . . . If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God’ (John 14:6, 7), and those are pretty outlandish claims, unless they’re true. When Jesus went into the tomb and conquered the grave, which is the last enemy to be defeated, Satan’s most lethal weapon, he proved that his claims were true, that he is God, that he is the truth. And therefore, living in such an uncertain, postmodern society, we don’t have to listen to the claims of men, we have the authority of Jesus. And, that means there is a solid basis on which to build our lives . . . Jesus is the standard of truth, and he’s verified that by raising from the dead,” Russell said.
The Hope of Eternal Life
Larry D. Collins, managing director and meeting planner, North American Christian Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio said, “Easter is a focused time when I recall more precisely through worship, Scripture, and drama what Christ did for me, because of his immense love for us. He won the spiritual war between good and evil, for all time. Our hope can be magnified through a better understanding of the Easter story.”
He said we take this special time each year to celebrate that Christ fulfilled God’s plan through his life, death, and resurrection.
“We celebrate because Christ changed the course of history for those he came to save from sin. The Easter story gives us hope as Christians, that our lives here are nothing compared to our eternal life ahead, because of Christ’s love, and his actions to implement God’s plan to redeem us back to him,” Collins said.
“We can honor Christ at Easter through thankful remembrance and prayer and invite someone to church to hear the Easter story,” he said, “and we can share the hope we have in Christ in practical ways by showing others how he changed our lives.
“Live out your faith journey every day and be sure to invite others to your church for Palm Sunday, Easter, and Christmas, too. Address questions others have about your faith in a way that engages them in ‘your’ story and tell them how it changed everything for you,” Collins said.
Loving Others, Displaying Christ
In places like Hollywood, where people aren’t always as open to the gospel, English teacher and writer Caroline Vandenbree said Easter can be celebrated by loving people and sharing your faith in practical ways like inviting someone to lunch, answering questions as they come up in everyday life, or taking the gospel into the streets.
Vandenbree, who lives on the West side of Los Angeles and teaches at Synergy Quantum Academy, an urban community high school, said one of the best ways to honor Christ at Easter is to introduce someone who needs Jesus to him on Easter, and invite them into the worship service with us.
“We’re encouraged at our church (to see that) the way to get to know people is to become a volunteer and serve somewhere. We put people on what we call ‘volunteer staff,’ once they’re baptized, and understand what the church is about. We have a lot of members who come all the time, but they bring their friends, so we have a lot of visitors,” said Vandenbree, who is a member of Erwin McManus’ church, Mosaic Hollywood.
“We have hope in Christ, to live our lives in him, and we have the hope of eternal life,” she said.
“To me, Easter is a day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and it’s the best day of the year, because without the resurrection, we don’t have any hope. It’s also a day where most people are open to gathering with Christians at church. So Easter is the most exciting time for church,” Vandenbree said.
Making the Gospel Accessible
Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado, a church that has had over 600 baptisms in four years, is attracting thousands of worshipers on Easter by going beyond the walls of the church. For the past eight years, the church has rented out the local civic center downtown, Union Colony Civic Center, and it holds its Easter services there. The first year, the congregation was made up of 400 people and 1,200 people showed up at the civic center. A month after Easter, 56 of those people were baptized. Currently, about 3,000 attend the two services at the civic center on Easter Sunday.
“We hold a community service. It’s a big deal, but honestly, the key for me is to boil it down to the simple story of what Christ has done for you, and how the resurrection has changed your life. It gives your life power, a sense of identity, and hope,” said lead minister Arron Chambers, author of Eats with Sinners, among other books. Chambers is not only a lead minister, but he serves as the head track coach at a local high school.
“For me, it’s about the Monday morning after Easter when you’re having coffee with your friend or your neighbor,” he said.
“It’s all about building relationships with people in the community, families, and high school kids. I live this. For me, it’s the most effective way to introduce people to Christ,” Chambers said.
“At times,” he said, “it’s messy and you’re not going to be wearing your Easter finest. Sometimes, it’s putting on work gloves, serving somebody a bowl of soup, or blowing into a whistle at track practice.
“It’s not the glamorous things, it’s doing life with people, and bringing the resurrection to life through our relationships,” he said.
Ginny McCabe is a bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, media professional, speaker, and teacher. Her work may be seen in publications like Journal-News, Reuters, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her books have been published by Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins and Standard Publishing. Connect with her at www.ginnymccabe.com.