Summary: Why do we call it EASTER, especially considering the history of Easter? Some have a problem with the term Easter because of the historical background. But haven’t you heard? Easter was converted from a pagan holiday to the most glorious holy day of all!
The True Meaning of Easter
Dr. Lewis Gregory
1. Why do we call it EASTER?
Easter is a Christian holiday. It is the most special of all Christian holidays. What makes it so special? Three very notable events occurred which make Easter the most significant holy day of all—the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Crosses. They’re everywhere! Crosses come in many different forms, sizes, and shapes. You see them on church buildings, in people’s homes, or in their cars. People wear them as jewelry—necklaces, rings, earrings, and lapel pins. Some people even have tattoos of the cross on their bodies. Others are seen making the sign of the cross before or after a major event—athletes are especially noted for this. Cemeteries often have crosses marking the graves.
During my tour of duty in 1967 with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, I traveled to the city of Manila in the Philippines. My visit to the city included the cemetery where the U.S. soldiers from World War II were buried. What a sight! I gazed in awe at the seemingly endless rows of white crosses (over 17,000) marking their graves. My namesake, Lewis Richey, one of Dad’s best friends, died in that war while fighting in the Philippines. I couldn’t help but wonder if his name was on one of those crosses.
The sight of all those crosses was a vivid reminder of the great price that has been paid for freedom. It was a deeply moving time for me. As a soldier myself, it struck close to home. This was partly because I was in the midst of a war in a distant land, far removed from family and friends. But it was primarily because of the contrast between all those crosses and the one cross they represented. I couldn’t help but think of what the cross symbolized, and what it meant to me personally.
The cross undoubtedly means different things to different people. A repairman came to our house once wearing a very large, ornate golden cross. It was such an unusual piece of jewelry that I finally asked him about it. He had a vague understanding about the Lord, and a somewhat general idea about the cross. However, based on his response, it was evident that he was oblivious to the true significance of the cross. What about you? What does the cross mean to you?
2. What Is the Real Significance of the Cross?
The cross itself is not really significant at all. The original crosses were just two pieces of wood crossed and bound together and used for execution. They were quite plain, rather crude, and somewhat common. Then what makes the cross significant? The significance of the cross stems from one very special person, who was crucified on a cross. It was the death of the pure and perfect Son of God, upon an old, rugged cross that gave it significance. The critical point for all Christendom occurred when Jesus Christ was executed upon the cross. Therefore, the cross is central to Christianity!
In order to grasp the full magnitude of the cross, you need to view it in its proper context. All the events surrounding Christ’s death on the cross must be taken into account. Only then can you perceive the significance of the cross.
Let's begin with a brief summary. First there is the preexistent, eternal deity of Christ, then His virgin birth, followed by His sinless life of perfect obedience to the Father. Next came His sacrificial, substitutionary, all-sufficient, atoning death on the cross, with His subsequent burial. Afterward, there was His triumphant resurrection, and then His glorious ascension into heaven. As a result of all that, Christians can enjoy His indwelling presence here on earth through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ lived a completely selfless life. He lived totally for the sake of others. He served the needs of His fellow men by feeding the poor, healing the sick, and instructing the masses. Yet, in spite of His sinless life and all His philanthropic deeds for humanity, He was arrested, convicted, and ultimately crucified. Crucified is the term used to describe someone who has been executed upon a cross for a crime. It is a very slow, extremely painful, and grossly humiliating form of punishment. Death is never pleasant, but being executed upon a cross is sheer torture.
However, unlike others who were executed, Jesus Christ did not remain in the grave. Although He was crucified and buried, three days later He arose from the grave! Hallelujah, Christ arose!
Every year on Easter morning, atop Stone Mountain in Georgia, a sunrise worship service is held to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is very inspirational for the more than 3,000 hardy souls who get up early and make the trek to the top. Our family has done it several times. On one particular occasion, the local TV station was there to cover the event. One of the people they interviewed was our teenage daughter, Amy.