A REFLECTION ABOUT EASTER
The celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is not strictly a ceremony prescribed in the Bible as a command. The closest thing to it spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of this celebration, it is the memorial of the Holy Supper (Luke 22:19-20; 1Corinthians 11:24-26).
However, it is the first ‘church established’ celebration ever to be kept by Christians since the second century (1). Christians overwhelmed by the greatness of God’s grace poured over humanity, and specially themselves, opted to relive the suffering of our Lord, his crucifixion and his glorious resurrection, so much as to honour Him, as to pass on to further generations the historical reality of this event, the greatest of human history.
Nevertheless, through history, this has been occasion to many discrepancies than point of union among Christians.
At the beginning, Christians celebrated the passion of Jesus according to the Jewish calculation of the Pascha, starting in the evening of 14th to 15th of Nisan, regardless of the day of the week it fell on. In fact, during the 2nd century, bishop and martyr, Polycarp of Smyrna, had a disagreement with Roman bishop Anicetus over this practice. Polycarp proclaimed that he had received this custom, and that the Church in Asia minor always kept Easter according to the Jewish Passover, while Anicetus with the western European roman provinces kept what would become later the established practice of a fixed day of the resurrection on a Sunday, which not always followed the Jewish Lunar calendar.
A similar case happened later between Roman bishop Victor and Asian bishop Polycrates of Ephesus, where the western Church intended to excommunicate the Eastern Church for following the 14th of Nisan. Happily, bishop Irenaeus of Lyon mediated peace between the two parties.
These differences were increased later, after the first council of Nicea in the year 325 CE, tried to settle this problem. It prohibited to celebrate Easter following the Jewish calendar, thus demonstrating the independence of Christianity from her Jewish roots. However, it did not specify how the celebration should be calculated or gave a fixed date.
This increased even further, when Roman bishop Gregory XIII, designed and proclaimed his own calendar as compulsory for all the Western church, braking thus with 1500 years of a common universal Christian calendar, making Easter to fall on a different date from the unanimous accepted date of the Julian Calendar, the only one Christians have known until then, the year 1582 CE. and that the Eastern Church continued to keep.
Today, many scholars and Christians in general, discuss and even disagree strongly over the exact day Jesus entered Jerusalem, when He celebrated the Last Supper, and when and where exactly He was crucified and how many days He was buried before his Resurrection.
And to throw even more wood to the fire, some marginal brethren, consider this celebration as any other ‘Christian’ celebration, a pagan festival, against God’s will, as it is not commanded in Scripture.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF ALL THIS.
However, if we let ourselves be involved into these discussions, we have lost already the purpose of the death of Jesus altogether. We have strained the mosquito but swallowed the camel.
The salvation that Jesus brought to humanity was not based on the observation of days, or the following of calendars (Colossians 2:15-17).
It is true that neither Jesus or the Apostles proclaimed any specific celebrations to be kept or compulsory for Christians; because salvation had nothing to do with it, but with a conversion of heart, through faith in Jesus, in his person and his teachings.
Jesus died to pay for the sins of all humanity, in order than anyone who truly repents and accepts Him as Lord and Saviour, may be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit; and thus, become a Child of God, with the promise of eternal salvation (John 3:16).
This regeneration happens because Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for us regardless of the day or the time. Our salvation is totally based on our Faith and Repentance based on his atonement, and not in the days it happened. Without his death, the Jewish Passover would mean nothing to us, and still would continue, without any significance.
Let not discussions of days or calendars take our attention away from the spiritual value of the historical death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and instead, let us flock to the feet of Jesus, wherever we are, to ask Him for forgiveness and surrender our lives to Him, for our salvation.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
(1) Melito of Sardis. "Homily on the Pascha" (180 CE)