Mercifully, Jesus Christ decisively defeated all the powers of evil—including the conventional yet false Olympian gods behind the GTS. What’s more, his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness knows no bounds. Consequently, he persists in calling his churches back to him. He even calls and enables you and me to live as prophetic Christian witnesses tasked with showing his churches the differences between serving the gods and serving him. Today we will reflect briefly on the differences between Easter and Resurrection Day.
Our English word, Easter, is derived from Eostre, the name of a Germanic goddess. Based on what little is known about her, we might rightly think of her as a pale imitation of our much better known Venus: goddess of love and one of the six Olympian gods who still dominate our world.
Eostre/Venus is associated with spring and the renewed fertility that goes with it. This fertility is symbolized by rabbits and eggs. Consequently, we have Easter bunnies (costumes, dolls, pictures), decorative eggs, Easter egg hunts, and even movies like Easter Parade.
Of course Bacchus, god of consumption, wants to participate in Easter festivities as well. We show our devotion to him as well by celebrating Easter with large chocolate Easter bunnies, lots of chocolate eggs and other candies (like jellybeans), Easter baskets full of goodies, now including even electronic devices (honoring Vulcan, god of technology), yet another feast, and perhaps even new spring outfits and shoes.
We have now identified Eostre/Venus and the Easter traditions typically associated with her. Let us be clear that Venus is an Olympian goddess and that all of these traditions associated with her and Bacchus are Olympian as well. There is no witness to Jesus here.
Given our Olympian context and this set of Olympian traditions, how might we, as churches, witness more clearly to Jesus Christ?
Abba raised his son Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. Venus had nothing to do with this. Let’s start calling the anniversary of this event Resurrection Day instead of Easter.
Let us also replace the traditional but deceptive greeting, “Happy Easter,” with more fitting words. Our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters have a more suitable substitute. On Resurrection Day, and for the duration of the Resurrection season, one Christian will greet another by saying, “Christ is risen!” The other will respond with, “He is risen indeed!” This greeting points to Jesus with much greater clarity.
Finally let us, as Christians and churches, recognize that now is the kairos, the right time, to set all observance of Easter traditions gently to one side.
As churches, this means, for example, no sponsoring of Easter egg hunts in a vain attempt to entertain our own children or to attract other children and their parents to our Lord's Day worship. Jesus provides us with more meaningful ways of witnessing to him.
As Christian parents, our non-observance of Olympian Easter will likely annoy our children and their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We’re likely to be labelled fanatics to justify all the self-righteousness indignation that will be brought to bear on us until we again conform. Here’s our chance, however, to contrast the superficial comfort of eating too much candy, in honor of gods too cruel to care, with the enduring joy of walking with Jesus on the difficult path of freedom that leads through love to eternal life.
Witnessing to Jesus means saying “No!” to these Olympian temptations, but it isn’t only a “No!” It is a hearty “Yes!” as well and more so.
Most of our churches already have bright alternatives already in place. According to the Christian calendar, the Thursday before Resurrection Day is called Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word meaning Commandment. It’s called this because, at the Last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, New King James Version).
Jesus understands love as a radical commitment to nurture and protect. Before giving his disciples this new commandment to love, Jesus washed their feet (John 13:1-20). As part of our recollection of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection this week, we might start with reflections on the meaning of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as one expression of his love.
The Friday before Resurrection Sunday is known as “Good Friday” because of the unfathomable freedom and love for us, all human beings, even all creation, which Jesus shared with us by dying in our place and on our behalf. And such a cruel death too. If we share words of truth about this event with our children and companion church members, and demonstrate these words in our lives, no one will notice the absence of chocolate.
Christ is risen! By raising his son Jesus Christ from the dead, Abba vindicated him. He revealed that the crucifixion was not the victory of Satan, the gods, the Flesh, and all their human minions that it appeared to be to their Olympian eyes. On the contrary, it was Christ’s decisive victory over all of them. This is a victory that you and I may witness to even today and every day. Who needs fake rites of spring when Jesus is inviting us now—and others through us, if we will only witness to them—to participate with him in eternal life? Now that’s a tradition worthy celebrating.
He is risen indeed!
Copyright © 2018 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.