Why Easter changes everything

Unlike Christmas, Easter doesn’t have a crazed shopping season preceding it. It doesn’t have its own tree. It doesn’t spawn … Continued

Unlike Christmas, Easter doesn’t have a crazed shopping season preceding it. It doesn’t have its own tree. It doesn’t spawn wild office parties. It doesn’t boast its own annual TV specials for kids. It doesn’t spawn new albums from pop stars. It doesn’t prompt people to send out boatloads of cards to friends they haven’t seen all year. It doesn’t have its own sweaters. It isn’t the date that many children (and adults) anticipate all year. It doesn’t have dozens of songs beloved by even those who don’t celebrate the holiday. It doesn’t even have its own set date.

But in the eyes of most Christians, Easter is a more important holiday than Christmas.


View Photo Gallery: In religious services around the world, Christians observed Jesus’ Resurrection after a Holy Week marking his Passion and death.

On December 25, Christians celebrate the “Incarnation.” In the birth of Jesus, God became human, or “incarnate.” That’s a miracle if there ever was one. Jesus’s birth changed the way that people relate to God. Rather than seeing God as some far-off, distant, unapproachable being, even some abstract philosophical or theological concept, removed from time and place, God was now firmly in the world, inserted into human history. “The scandal of particularity,” is how some theologians refer to this. The idea that God became a particular person in a particular town in a particular year is still shocking. Things changed with Christmas.

But everything changed with Easter.

Easter changed everything for the followers of Jesus. The Resurrection revealed for anyone who may have doubted, even after seeing him perform all sorts of miracles, who the itinerant carpenter from Nazareth really was. It showed that, truly, “Nothing is impossible for God.” And it offered a preview of the kind of life that awaits all who believe in him.

I’ve always loved thinking about how, after Easter Sunday, the disciples’ abject fear turns into gobsmacked amazement and then into lasting courage. You could say that this is one of the most inadvertent “proofs” of the Resurrection: the otherwise inexplicable transformation of the disciples.

Remember that on Good Friday, after Jesus was executed, his great project seemed to have come to an undeniable close. And though believers today know how the story ends, the horrified disciples did not. The day after the crucifixion, they were cowering behind closed doors, dejected over the apparent failure and shameful death of their teacher, and terrified of being arrested and perhaps being killed themselves. It’s a natural reaction: their leader has been hunted down, tortured and crucified; the apostles likely feared that they were next.

But after Easter Sunday, they suddenly become bold proclaimers of the Gospel, ready and willing to stake their lives on the truth of what they know and believe.

What can possibly account for such dramatic change? To my mind, only something as vivid, as tangible, as clear, as real, as a physical encounter with the risen Christ. Sometimes you’ll hear people suggest that the Resurrection was really just the disciples “remembering” Jesus and together deciding to spread his message. One theologian told me that this idea of the “shared memory” was the only credible way of explaining this to a modern world.

But to me that isn’t credible at all. Only something as undeniably real as the appearance of the risen Christ standing before them could account for transforming terrified men and women into fearless apostles–some of whom would ultimately die for what they had experienced.

You need something dramatic to change people like that.

Easter changes everything for Christians today, too. We know that life is stronger than death. Love is stronger than hatred. Hope is stronger than despair. We know that Christ is risen, and is with us. We know how much God loves us. We know what it means to “die to oneself” and to experience new life-even in small ways in our daily lives. We know that the promise of eternal life is real, because we know of those who have seen the real fulfillment of that promise.

And we know that nothing is ever beyond the power of God’s grace.

So keep the cards, and the trees, and the office parties, and the TV specials, and the sweaters, and the celebrity albums, and the shopping season, and even the gifts. Keep all that. Just give me Easter.

Give me Easter, the day that gives meaning to all of my days.

James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and author of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” “My Life with the Saints,” and his newest book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Christian Life.”

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  • nkri401

    Easter may not be as commercialized as Christmas but Cadbury seems to take the commercial angle pretty seriously.

    BTW, what’s a bunny got to do with Jesus?

    Then again, celebrating torture and crucifixion seems pretty macabre…

    IMHO

  • SODDI

    Easter changes nothing. Christians are still the same bigoted, misogynistic, vicious right-wing scum that they were last week. They still preach the same gospel of hate.

    The only thing that’s different is that they’ll act more self-righteous, puffed up and pious for the next week or so, until it’s time for the next christian hate-fest.

  • Mrmustache

    You obviously have no idea what the gospels really say. You are mindlessly spouting off a hodgepodge of atheist rhetoric based on movies and news clippings. If you were to read the New Testement (Jesus’ story) you would find that the main message is to love. What humans do with the label of Christian is many times not based on the Bible. Love. That’s it. Love God, love others. Basic message of the bible.

  • djhennessy

    Thank you, Jim.

  • SanMan605

    The season of Lent, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday do NOT celebrate the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is a time to reflect and, indeed, grieve for His suffering and death at the hands of sinners like us all. Easter is the celebration of His resurrection, His victory over death, His glorification through and with God the Father. I invite you to read and learn about Jesus and His Good News. Don’t judge Christ’s message as you see it practiced by fallible Christians. May the Peace of Christ be with you, my friend.

  • SanMan605

    I’m so sorry you feel this way. I would challenge you to learn about what Jesus had to say while He was with us here on earth. Judge His message by HIS behavior, not by fallible Christians. And despite your hateful feelings towards us, we still love you, because Jesus loves you. Sending you His peace and love…

  • ccnl1

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    Saving Christians Infamous Resurrection Con/- (assuming JC existed)

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university’s theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    “Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary’s bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus’ crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary’s corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke’s Gospel records it. ( Also included in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles).

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary’s special role as “Christ bearer” (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus’ Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary’s assumption also shows God’s positive regard, not only for Christ’s male body, but also for female bodies.” ”

    “In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we

  • sharie510

    If you’re right you have nothing to lose.
    If I’m right you have everything to lose.

  • DrRosemaryEileenMcHugh

    Thankyou, Jim, and Happy Easter!

  • cpmondello

    I find it quite arrogant that the author believes he speaks for all Christians;

    “Easter changes everything for Christians today, too. We know that life is stronger than death. Love is stronger than hatred. Hope is stronger than despair. We know that Christ is risen, and is with us. We know how much God loves us. We know what it means to “die to oneself” and to experience new life-even in small ways in our daily lives. We know that the promise of eternal life is real, because we know of those who have seen the real fulfillment of that promise.”

    What “kind” of Christian is he talking about? Id say the Quakers are the closest to what many believe Jesus would believe: anti-war, love they neighbor, equality, etc. Bust for those who control the Republican Party, the Catholic Church and many of our public school systems, these, who make-up the majority of those who call themselves “Christian” are the cruelest people I have even come to know. Its to bad really, I as an atheist can’t point to “people of faith” where they need to change to attract more followers and supporters. But, this is a liberal ideology, for example, ‘Interfaith’ groups, where people try to get along, find common ground. This is considered weakness in most Christians eyes, and yes, I speak for most because most are from the groups I mentioned above. The reason why war has been so successful, is because when religion and politics are allowed to combine, both in their fundamentalist versions, only two things matter; “right” and “wrong”; us against them, you are with us or you are against us. This ideology has created the current Republican party, as it did with Hitler, Constantine and anywhere else where the “sword” and not the “Sermon on the Mount” was the motivator. My suggestion to Christian is, tell your extremist counter-parts to put a sock in it. This is what Christians say non-violent Muslims should do; confront their extremist brothers and sisters. I will not hold my breath for any changes, and the

  • West3

    Rabbits (fertile creatures that they are) represent new life – just like Jesus’ resurrection.

  • usapdx

    Happy Easter James and all for this is the grand day of the year for us. But food for thought, what if Judas did not turn in Christ? According to the gospel of Judas which where put out by the Council of Nicaea as well as other gosples, Judas was ask by Christ to turn him in. If this was true, what does this tell us?

  • Cweb1

    Yet your response is born of something ” not ” love…so I choose not your path.

  • Cweb1

    Christ’ love will overcome all evil and misinterpretations and misapplications of Christianity, whether on purpose or unintentional, and sorry you’ve been hurt and don’t know true Christianity.

  • Cweb1

    Easter celebrates Christ overcoming death, and the triumph of His love for us, his children…his creation..it celebrates the hope we have of His mercy.

  • SODDI

    I’ve read history – you know, the real stuff, not the made up bible stuff.

    For most of christianty’s history, Easter teachings were “The Jews killed Jesus. Kill the Jews.” And christians went about that task with fervor. The catholic church only stopped this teaching in 1965 – 20 years AFTER the concentration camps were opened. The lutherans only stopped in 1996.

  • SODDI

    The rabbit is a pagan symbol.

  • SODDI

    That’s Gnosticism and by the codes of his religion, a Jesuit like Martin is oath-bound to torture you then burn you at the stake for uttering such heresy.

  • destinysmom

    Legend/tradition holds that a rabbit was the first living creature to see the risen Christ in the garden.

  • Sara121

    If the Jesus story is true, then he died and then came back to life two days later. Not much of a sacrifice there. A minor inconvenience perhaps. And god as the father figure, since he got to have his sone come back to heaven with him, never actually gave or lost anything either. There is no genuine sacrifice anywhere in this story on the part of god or Jesus.

    Now if Jesus has just simply died, no heaven, no hell, no afterlife, just dead, gone, done, worm food, THAT would have been a genuine sacrifice for his beliefs.

    The sentiments of love over hatred and hope over despair are certainly nice ones, and stand independently of any religious story, but they certainly aren’t borne out by a story of faked sacrifice.

  • usapdx

    SODDI, ………… I ask a question. There was a gosple by Judas that was put out with other gosples by the Council of Nicaea. Read history and get a current calendar. What wrong with a open mind?

  • ThomasBaum

    Sara121

    You wrote, “If the Jesus story is true, then he died and then came back to life two days later. Not much of a sacrifice there. A minor inconvenience perhaps.”

    If one were to think “If the Jesus story is true” and that Jesus took ALL of the sins of All of humanity (past, present and future) and went to all of the “hells” that were custom-built by those that have and have not occupied aforementioned “hells” than one just might think that it was more than just a “minor inconvenience”.

    Some will not go to the “hell” that they have built and those that do go to the “hell” they have built will one day get out since Jesus “won” the “keys” to ALL of the aforementioned “hells” by going to these “hells” and not just for a visit, so to speak, and will use these “keys” in due time, God’s Time.

    Isn’t it something that in God’s Plan, God can not keep one from going to “hell”, that is that person’s decision, but God went to hell for ALL and ultimately ALL will be in God’s Kingdom.

    You also wrote, “Now if Jesus has just simply died, no heaven, no hell, no afterlife, just dead, gone, done, worm food, THAT would have been a genuine sacrifice for his beliefs.”

    Jesus did not die for “his beliefs”, I’ve never heard this before, did you make this up or have you heard it somewhere else?

  • nkri401

    destinysmom,

    Not sure if you are serious but your explanation makes most sense so far…

  • IHate66

    The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, warns of adding anything to the bible, such as the Council of Nicea did to support Catholic viewpoints. These “fake” gospels were never accepted by the original church fathers who divinely assembled the Bible.

    Judas was part of the plan but it was his decision to sell out Jesus. Of course, Jesus knew he would do it just as he knew the Jewish leaders would turn him over to Pilate so He could be crucified.

  • Secular1

    Sara121, you go gurrl. I agree with you 100%, no more & no less. The whole trinity stuff is so ridiculously nonsensical that it challenges everyones credulity. If it were not couched in the so called divine horse manure, every one would reject it outright. Then again whole sacrificed his own son for us all, blah, blah, blah is so taxing. My question to all the kool aid drinkers is, who asked their sky daddy to sacrifice his son (who is also himself). As far as I am concerned, it is all unrequited benefaction and I feel no obligation when I am told that for that unrequited benefaction I must do this, that, etc, etc. I am amazed at people expounding on this nonsense, which they find it ridiculous, if the sky daddy was substituted with the name of their boss. They would find that grotesque, suffocating and rebel against it. But when they are told it is their sky daddy, the worst is acceptable. I wonder how many people would find any ameliration if they found themselves in teh shoes of Job, and instead of sky daddy it was their boss. I bet each and every one would like to put that boss on a rack, and take immense retributive pleasure in that.

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