We had a foot of snow where I live just a little over a week ago. Today it's a little warmer (and all the snow is all gone) but it sure doesn't seem like we should be celebrating Easter, for goodness sake. What is up with this early date for Easter anyway?
I have to admit that the easy answer sounds awfully pagan. The date always changes because it is tied to the Spring Equinox. More precisely, it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
It's confusing but just describing it that way leaves an awfully lot out of the story. Why the Sunday after the full moon after the equinox became the designated day for Easter is the important thing. As always, there is more to the story -- a definitive reason for its being that way -- and the reason is profound. It has everything to do with deliverance and redemption -- the concepts behind our need for a Savior.
Why Sunday? This seems blatantly obvious. Jesus' resurrection was on "the third day" after his death on good Friday, hence Sunday. What is more significant is that the Jewish Sabbath was on Saturday (shabbat in Hebrew) and this was the day that held such significance for the Jewish people. It was one reason that Jesus got himself in trouble -- he had the audacity to heal, and work, and ... whatever on the Sabbath. The fact that Jewish believers changed their holiest day to Sunday (the "first day of the week") after Christ is one of the strongest indicators that something very significant happened on that first Easter Sunday. Religious traditions don't just change willy-nilly -- and this offers strong apologetic support for the claim that the resurrection wasn't just some group hallucination. It was a real event that forever altered the course of humanity in general, and the church in particular.
Why the tie to the full moon and the Equinox? The answer is rich in Jewish history and can be summarized with just one word: Passover. The Jewish people celebrated Passover on the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. It was, and is, a celebration to remember the events that led them from their slavery in Egypt to their freedom to become that nation God meant them to become -- a nation from which a savior would emerge to save all men. Passover was celebrated in family homes. Its themes were those of redemption, freedom and deliverance. And if there is any doubt about that, one need simply read a description of the Passover Seder to recognize its ties not only to Christ's mission on Earth, but to the significance of the Last Supper.
So yeah, it's 35 degrees and the flurries are flying on the day before Easter. But let's not blame it on the pagans. Let's just honor the more significant ties to the prophetic foundation of Christ's connection to the Passover and all that it meant to the Jewish nation and its promised Messiah. In that light, you can read this story about the date for Easter and realize that its slippery date is the least of our worries. The most debilitating aspect of Easter to our faith has nothing to do with eggs and bunnies and rot-your-teeth-out candy.
The worst thing about Easter these days is that it doesn't seem to matter at all.
More on that tomorrow ...