“He is risen!” And fellow believers would respond with equal excitement, “He is risen indeed!” It’s a traditional greeting among Christians celebrating Jesus’ resurrection for only God knows how long. But for many that’s about all the excitement that Easter elicits. It’s sad, but I get it. After all, think about how our culture celebrates Christmas compared to Easter. Let’s make a few light-hearted observations of these two most important holidays. Then I’ll make a few recommendations of how we might encourage an appropriate excitement for the risen Lord Jesus.
Easter is often a pop-in, but Christmas… Even people who have no interest in Jesus start listening to Christmas music and hanging decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Depending on the person’s Christian denomination, they may even celebrate for days after the 25th of December. Easter often gets an hour that Sunday morning from those who don’t ordinarily go to church. They may even attend an egg hunt. Yes, many observe Lent for forty days prior, but if we’re honest that’s a little depressing, isn’t it? Going without something we ordinarily enjoy for more than a month? I’m being a little facetious, of course, but by comparison, the weeks of anticipation for Christmas make complete sense. Not only will we not do without, we can see cool stuff beginning to pile up under the tree. What do we give and receive at Easter? Well…you know.
“Chocolate bunnies?! Again?!?” As much as I like sweets, it’s hard to get really excited about the same annual chunk of chocolate (which will more likely be a deceptive shell). Yes, some hunts include plastic eggs filled with other types of candy, miniscule toys, or even some object lessons about Jesus’ death and resurrection. And a few still use real hard-boiled eggs, but let’s be real. Even body-builders can only eat so many of those things. Still, watching the children run around the yard on a beautiful spring day looking in the grass for the eggs can be fun. Which begs the question…
Have you looked outside? Easter day is usually gorgeous or at least warm enough to enjoy leaving the house. During Christmas, even if you live in the deep south, the winter season can force even the most introverted families and friends to huddle around the living room fireplace for hot cocoa and smiles. By the time Easter rolls around, you can’t keep most people indoors. They’re eager to get outside for some personal space in the sun. Yet, that might not be the biggest reason Easter draws a smaller crowd than Christmas.
Zombies are scarier than babies. Babies are born every day, and most of them are so cute they just draw us with their adorable magic. Yes, they do cry occasionally and require some regular maintenance. We can handle them, though. All they want is some milk, a clean bottom, and somebody to hold them close. But a dead man who’s come back to life? I’ve only seen that in trailers for horror shows! And it’s only exciting in a good way if the walking dead doesn’t want anything from us or keeps his distance. Jesus, however, is very much alive, wants everything, and He’s coming. Not cool…if we don’t know His backstory and ours.
The term, backstory, is relatively new but immediately communicates to many in our culture. A backstory reveals how and why a character (usually fictional) in literature, film, or television came to be who they are now. Movie critics seem to agree that one reason DC’s Justice League did so poorly at the box office was the lack of backstories to most of the story’s characters. All of MARVEL’s major characters have detailed and gripping accounts of their past highs and lows, questions, and searches that shaped them to this point. Such personal narratives build empathy and excitement with the audience. Most of our culture doesn’t know Jesus’ backstory or their own, for that matter.
There are at least two key differences with Jesus’ backstory: He’s not a fictional character, and He is not a product of His past. God had always planned to send Jesus to earth, not as a zombie to take something from us, but as the only Savior and King who can give us real life. (John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8, etc.) And, again, another reason so many don’t get excited about Easter is that we don’t know our own backstory.
Our culture daily preaches to us that the height of life are good things here and now in this world: human relationships, physical possessions, health and beauty, reputation, personal achievements, etc. And all of those are truly important, but they are far from the most important. For none of them are perfect; none of them last; and all of them enslave us to trying to make them perfect and lasting. Seeking life in this broken world is addictive and just as futile: the cravings become greater, but the return will eventually be less and less. That’s because of our backstory of sin: self-focused love instead of God-focused love.
God created Man for relationship with Him and not because He was (or is) lonely or egotistical. In John 14-17, Jesus alludes to the perfect relationship among the one Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – from all eternity. God doesn’t call us to relationship with Him because He needs us but because we need Him for real life and all the excitement that flows from knowing Him. But what does it mean to “know” Him? That’s the second part of our backstory that relates to Easter.
The Bible and even our own experience tells us that, apart from God’s work of a new spirit in us (John 3:3-8), each of us wants to rule our own lives or to trust in someone or something other than God to be the center of our lives. And part of the reason we suffer so much is that we depend on the undependable. We adore what is not completely, perfectly, and eternally adorable. Only God is fully worthy of all our affection, loyalty, and service. That’s also why He must respond accordingly when we trade our treasure in Him for lesser things – much lesser things. And His response is actually what Man daily lives to achieve: separation from Him . . . but eternally.
If Easter is ever to exceed Christmas in the excitement due its day, we must understand that Jesus Himself said that He came to die in our place (John 12:27) and to be raised to rule over us for our eternal joy in Him, all of His blessings that flow from His self-sacrificing love, and a healthy perspective for proper stewardship of all His blessings – physical, spiritual, and relational. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
No one gets really excited about an organ donor until we know that we need one of their organs to live. Not only do we need Jesus’ full sacrifice to live, Jesus’ followers get all of Him because of His resurrection. For all who look to Him for His forgiveness of their rebellions and new life – beginning here and now through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit – He is their living, perfect, and eternal “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14), prophet (Mark 6:4), Savior (Luke 2:11), friend (John 15:13-15), Lord (John 13:13), advocate (1 John 2:1), holy Servant (Acts 4:29-30), author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22), victorious One (Revelation 3:21), and so much more.
Let’s daily and lovingly remind each other of our great need for Jesus and His great gift of life for us. He died in the place of all who look to Him, and He is risen for all who live for Him and wait for His return.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!