What do 1942, 1953 and 2015 have in common? Easter falls on April 5. It will do that only three more times in this century, all before 2050. Why is this important? It is not. It is just a little Easter trivia. It is like knowing that the earliest Easter could possibly happen, according to the chart in TLH, is March 22, although it does not occur that early in the last century or this one. The earliest Easter actually occurred in either century is March 23 in 2008.
Why would I be focused on Easter trivia? Because Easter is the Christian faith! And the Christian faith is Easter! And, Easter never ends!
Easter has a number. Actually, it has several numbers. Easter is the third day. Jesus promised that He would rise from the grave on the third day. "And He took the twelve aside and said to them, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.'" Luke 18:31-33
Of course, Easter is the first day of the week. "But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb," Luke 24:1
Easter is also called the eighth day, although I cannot quote a Scripture about that. That identification is with the theologians who speak about the eighth day as the day of eternity because the seven days are of the creation - six days being used to create and the seventh day being the day of rest. Naturally, or so they say, the eighth day is the day of eternity.
But wait, you say, you said, "Easter never ends." But Easter is just one day a year, and this year it is April 5. But then I remind you that we worship on Sundays because Jesus rose from the tomb on Sunday, and so every Sunday service is an Easter service! It doesn't really matter that we worship on Sunday, though, because we worship because Jesus rose from the dead.
You might wonder about that. Many churches worship because they think God wants them to, and this is part of their part in the bargain of salvation. Lutherans understand that salvation is not a bargain - not an agreement between God and man for God to do His part if we do our part, nor a bargain in that it is inexpensive. After all, your salvation and mine cost the life and death of the very Son of God, and that is no bargain, but a ransom beyond imagining.
As for being God's part of some agreement once we do our part, that is so wrong. Salvation is a gift: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10.
Far from being a contract or agreement with God, an idea shared by far too many who call themselves Christian, salvation is an undeserved kindness from God, poured out upon all so that all who take God at His Word and trust Him to be who He said He is and do what He has promised to do will be saved. The works that people think are their part of the trade are a response to the gift, not a thing done to earn, merit, or achieve salvation. Even at that, Paul reminds us in this well-known passage that our good works are God's works, prepared by Him and laid out in our path that we should walk in them. He plans them! He makes them possible! He sets them before us and then enables us to accomplish them. It is like we are doing something, but it is God at work in and through us making us do those things to His glory and then God rewards us for them as though we had done something by our "free" will.
Back to what I was saying, we worship because Jesus rose from the dead. Other holidays are important too, but they are important because of Easter. Christmas, for example, is the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord. God became one of us. He took on human flesh and blood and human nature and was born like any one of us, so that He might carry the burden of the Law, and having done it without sin, to die for us and rise again.
God being human is nothing to marvel at without the resurrection, really. Other religions have their gods taking on human form, but without the cosmic effect of the redemption of all men. If God merely became human (oh, the way I use words!), but it had no salvation in it for us, it would be unique and wonderful, but not Gospel because there would be nothing in it for me. Or for you.
If Jesus died on the cross (which He did) but did not rise from the dead, then we would have no knowledge or comfort in His death on our behalf because all it seemed to accomplish was His death. Paul wrote, "He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."
His death was for our sins, but His resurrection was on account of our justification. His resurrection declares in the most undeniable way that His plan worked! He paid the debt! He effectively bore the burden, satisfied the justice of God and now has life eternal to give because He earned life by His righteous life and swallowed up death for us by dying in our place and paying the entire burden of sin for us.
We don't worship just because God became man in Jesus Christ. We don't worship just because He died. We worship because He rose from the dead, just as He promised He would, and shared that victory with us - Because I live, He said, You shall also live! And He is giving salvation away like some sort of Reformation Day trick-or-treat prize. All of the other parts of the story are important too, but the lynch-pin is the resurrection. So, the Christian faith is Easter and Easter is the Christian faith.
Have a Happy Easter celebration on April 5, and every Sunday after that, and every day between the Sundays
Yours in the Lord,
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