Christmas or Easter?

Non-Christians probably prefer Christmas to Easter. After all, don’t most people like to give and receive gifts? Gifts that often have more value–probably even more lasting value–than chocolate (or real) bunnies and various other candies.

Too many people–through no fault of their own–lack an adequate and correct understanding of the significance of both of those holidays.

Yes, Christmas is a time of giving. No wonder. The Christmas story in the Bible mentions the gifts brought by the so-called wise men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Very precious and expensive gifts. But those gifts were brought to the Christ child, not to Mary and Joseph, and gifts were not given to the wise men in return.

No matter how valuable the wise men’s gifts were, they pale in comparison to God’s giving up part of Himself by uniting with a human woman to create a baby who was both human and divine.

His was a gift of the greatest love imaginable.

God had had established a system of sacrifices based for the atonement of sins–that is, to provide forgiveness and to make things right between the ancient Jews and God. The sacrificial system involved the killing of a Passover lamb.

That lamb had to be perfect. Spotless. No blemishes. As perfect as it could possibly be. If an imperfection was discovered at the last minute, that lamb couldn’t be used. It wouldn’t be acceptable.

That sacrificial system didn’t really accomplish everything God had wanted it to do. So, in giving part of Himself through the birth of Jesus, God Himself became the most perfect sacrificial lamb possible. Perfect because Jesus never committed even the least sin.

If He had sinned, even once, He wouldn’t have been good enough to be sacrificed for the sake of mankind.

Yet if He hadn’t been part human, He wouldn’t have been subject to the temptations that plague each of us daily. If He hadn’t been tempted and had to rely on His Heavenly Father for the strength to resist each and every temptation, His sacrifice would’ve been meaningless. Because God is fully righteous, the only acceptable sacrifice had to be sin-free.

The sacrifice of the Passover lamb necessitated that it be killed. Without the spilling of blood, its death would’ve been worthless.

And so it was with Jesus. If He hadn’t been killed on a Roman cross–His blood was spilled in the process–His sacrifice wouldn’t have been acceptable to God the Father.

But Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, and His death paid the price for the sins each of us is born with simply because we’re descendants of Adam and Eve–not only the first human beings, but the first sinners.

The fact that God brought Jesus back to life and then, after a period of days, brought Him back to Heaven gives Easter a whole new perspective. God forgives our sinful natures because of Jesus’s death, but–without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus–God would not consider any of us righteous or worthy of both eternal life in Heaven and a more meaningful life here on earth.

Christmas or Easter? What do you think?

If Jesus hadn’t been born a true miracle baby, Easter would have no significance. So Christmas is definitely something to celebrate.

But Christmas was just the necessary beginning of the story. Easter is the rest of the story.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Pictured below is my latest novel. The Kindle version is free today only at Amazon. Go here to get your copy.

Roger's newest novel

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An Easter Enigma

Christmas doesn’t confuse Christians. At least not that I know of. It’s no secret that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. In fact, He might not even have been born in winter. But we aren’t apt to knock ourselves out trying to figure out the actual date.

Easter is an interesting enigma, however. Christians typically view Jesus’s death and burial as occurring on a Friday because the Bible says the next day was the Sabbath. And the Bible says the women found the tomb empty early on Sunday morning. Hmm. That adds up to two nights, one whole day, and part of two others.

What? Jesus said He would be in the grave three full days and nights. This seeming discrepancy has bugged me–and probably a number of other Christians–for years.

It’s amazing what a search of the Internet can reveal. I found two somewhat partially conflicting articles which both explain how Jesus actually remained in the grave three full days and nights.  If you want to read the details, check out “The Two Sabbaths of Passover” and “Good Friday or Good Wednesday.” 

Jesus and His disciples ate their last meal together in the evening of what was actually the beginning of Passover day. (Remember: Jewish days ran from sundown to sundown.) Later that evening He was arrested, tried, and condemned to death. The entirety of His crucifixion and burial took place on what was still Passover day, the “Day of Preparation.”

Jesus couldn’t be left on the cross after His death because the Sabbath would be starting shortly at sundown. There wasn’t even time for the women to anoint the body properly; He was simply wrapped in a linen shroud.

How thankful we should be that Jesus’s disciple John said something in His Gospel that the other Gospel writers apparently took for granted and consequently didn’t bother to mention. He referred to that Sabbath as a “high day,” meaning it was not the regular Friday-sundown-to-Saturday-sundown Sabbath. And that makes sense. The day after Passover day itself was to be a special Sabbath. So the Old Testament taught .

So that week had two Sabbaths, and Jesus had to be buried before the beginning of the first one–the special one.

Accepting the fact that Jesus arose on Sunday, “the first day of the week,” as the Bible says, let’s count backward.

  • The first day of the week began at sundown on Saturday
  • The normal Sabbath ran from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown
  • The special Sabbath ran from Thursday sundown to Friday sundown
  • Passover day ran from Wednesday sundown to Thursday sundown

Are you still with me?

That’s assuming the special Sabbath occurred the day before the regular Sabbath. Since it began at sundown on Thursday, was Jesus  crucified on what was left of the day that ran from Wednesday sundown to that Thursday sundown?

Although Jesus would’ve been dead on our Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights–thank goodness Jewish days can’t change nighttime–do the days work out right? Those days would’ve had to run from just before sundown to just before sundown. And three full days by the Jewish calendar would last until just before sundown on the “first day of the week.”

But that doesn’t work. Jesus had already arisen before the women came to the tomb that morning and found it empty.

One of those articles insists that the two Sabbaths must have had an extra day in between. Jesus died late on our Wednesday, he said.  As “Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus would have risen on the Sabbath itself but not be found alive again until the first day of the week. That would explain three full days in the tomb while eliminating a fourth night .

I have no idea what the accurate answer is, but I have no problem thinking of Jesus dying late on Wednesday rather than Friday.

The important thing is, Christ arose. I hope your Easter was a blessed one.

How about leaving a comment?

 

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

An Extra Post: an Original Easter Song

NOTE: If you follow my other blog, As I Come Singing, you’ll receive this same post this Wednesday. But I  couldn’t resist sharing it with my On Aging Gracelessly readers today as something extra.

Then dawned Sunday, the first day of the week,
When into the garden silently came
Troubled women to anoint the body of their friend,
Who–Friday on a cross–had been slain.

These women had endured his trial; these women had watched him die.
They’d wept as they saw his body torn by pain.
But they never stopped to think–they never realized–
That what he had told them was true:
That they’d see him in the flesh, alive again.

The women approached the tomb in the stillness of the dawn,
When they saw that the rock was gone from the door.
“Fear not,” an angel said, “the one you seek is not dead,
But has risen and lives today, and his spirit will live with you evermore.”

Then dawned Sunday, the first day of the week,
When out from the garden joyously ran
Shouting women to proclaim that one who had been slain
Had lived, died, and arisen as God and man.

About this Song:
This is one of my oldest songs–thirty to forty years. I used rhymes a lot more back in the early days of my song writing. And this particular song falls  more distinctly into the folk sound I’ve never really outgrown than some of my more recent songs.

Honestly, there’s one thing about this song I don’t like, and I don’t know what to do about it. That’s the part about the angel saying Jesus’ “spirit will live with you evermore.” While Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to believers following his ascension, I don’t believe any of the Gospel accounts of the women in the garden had the angel(s) say anything about that.

Poetic license is one thing, but purposely and knowingly misquoting an angel is something else.

Suggestions, anyone? How about leaving a comment?

I hope you have a blessed Easter and that your thoughts are more about the significance of Jesus’s coming back from the dead than about the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs. I can assure you the Easter bunny was NOT present at the empty tomb on that glorious Sunday morning.

~*~

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I’ll be back again next Wednesday.

Best regards,
Roger

Something that’s Always Puzzled Me about the Easter Story

As important as Christmas is to Christians–if Jesus had never been born, our Bibles would contain no New Testament–Easter is more important. Christians serve a living Savior, not one whose earthly ministry came to a drastic end when He died on the cross.

The accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection appear in all four of the Gospels. And they’re told from the viewpoint of the four different writers, each of whom was either present at the time or writing down the account from someone who was.

I’m not bothered by what some people consider inconsistencies.

Rather minor issues, as far as I’m concerned. Like whether one woman or several went to the tomb on Easter morning, only discover that their friend–their Lord–had risen from the dead. And whether the woman or women encountered only one angel or two.

I dare you to interrogate two people who witness the same event and expect them to agree on every detail. Not because they necessarily disagree, but because each one was focused on a different part of what they both saw. In the excitement of discovering that Jesus was alive again, who could blame the Gospel writers for sharing the parts of the story that seemed most relevant to each of them?

Okay, so what is it about the Easter story that has always confused me? The fact that  Jesus was dead three days prior to His resurrection. But if you count the time,  he was in the tomb from late Friday to early Sunday. So He was dead all of one day and part of two others.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be an issue. The important thing–ultimately the most important–is that Jesus was really dead. Agreed?

But wait. The Bible makes a big deal about Jesus being dead three days. The Bible isn’t wrong, is it?

As much as I tried to ignore this question over the years, it didn’t cease to bother me until I read a very interesting article on the Internet. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe everything I read on the Internet any more than I believe everything reported in the news.

But this article was articulate and convincing. So much so I’ve never forgotten the basic idea it presented. When I recently mentioned it to a biblically knowledgeable friend, he said the article was correct.

Some of this may be familiar to you, but possibly not all of it.

Jesus was crucified during Passover week. The holiest of the Jewish holidays. His body was taken down from the cross before sundown so it wouldn’t desecrate the Sabbath. And the Sabbath is Saturday, right? Or actually from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. So He must’ve been crucified on Friday. “Good Friday,” as it’s commonly known.

Ah, but this article pointed out that the Jews celebrated an extra Sabbath during Passover week. The day before the normal Sabbath. That means Jesus was actually crucified on Thursday and spent Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night in the tomb. Two full days, much of a third. Now THAT fits the Bible’s account perfectly.

I can’t tell you how I treasure that tidbit of knowledge. And the next time someone mentions Good Friday to you, just smile at them if you don’t feel like getting into an argument. You know what seems to be the truth now.

What do you think of that? How about leaving a comment?

May each of you have the most blessed of Easter Sundays. And just remember one thing: the Bible doesn’t say anything about the Easter bunny being present at the empty tomb.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger