What Are You Celebrating?
When I see bright-colored eggs and chocolate bunnies in pastel-colored displays, I know it must be near Easter. Unless you understand the calendar timing of Easter Sunday, you probably have to check online like I do to find when Easter falls each year.
Easter isn’t a big marketing holiday but stores do their best to feature lots of eggs, egg-coloring dyes, baskets, and chocolate and marshmallow bunnies and chicks. And don’t forget the food! Ham is a favorite along with some scalloped potatoes or au gratin perhaps, and if you’re traditional, some hot-cross buns.
But what are we celebrating with all of this?
Is there a difference between Easter and Resurrection Sunday? Well, yes and no. And what about all those other traditional days people observe like Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday?
How are all of these things related—or aren’t they?
Ash Wednesday & Lent
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season that runs for forty days up to Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness for forty days and His temptation by the devil at the end of the fasting (Matthew 4:1-11).
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey as He was hailed by crowds of people crying out, “Hosanna (Oh Save!) to the Son of David (Matthew 21:1-11)!” It is the beginning of Holy Week that concludes with Easter Sunday. When Jesus entered Jerusalem that day it was a fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-5).
Maundy Thursday commemorates the last night Jesus spent with His closest followers as told in John chapters 13 through 17. It begins with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, which included His betrayer Judas (John 13:1-17), on the night He ate the Passover feast with them (Luke 22:14-23).
As believers, we need to reflect on the atoning death of Jesus—the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Not just for His sacrifice but the purpose of His sacrifice.
The very purpose of Jesus dying on the cross was to provide a way for all humanity to be reconciled with God the Father. God came to earth Himself as the Son of God to offer Himself for all people.
Easter or Resurrection Sunday?
Although most of us know this day of celebration as Easter, I prefer the use of Resurrection Sunday because it expresses what’s most important. It’s uncertain how it became known as Easter but an early connection to its origin is to the Saxon goddess of spring, Eastre.
The important thing is to distinguish the difference between how the world around us observes Easter and why believers celebrate it. Without the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no hope of eternal life and there is no true redemption (1 Corinthians 15:13-17).
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day after His death was the primary focus of the gospel for the early church, as seen throughout the book of Acts. It is central to Christian theology. The hope of salvation and eternal life hang on the physical resurrection of Jesus.
So, what are you celebrating on Easter? It’s easy to react to the idea of a pagan origin to Easter but the resurrection of Christ is biblical and important. It really doesn’t matter what you call the day (Romans 14:5-9). What is important is why we celebrate it.
Scriptures to Immerse Yourself in the Story
Maundy Thursday & Good Friday
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Ambassador, author of several books, and one member of the pastoral team of Poimen Ministries. This article was republished in part with permission.