Easter is only a few days away and before rushing to the supermarket to purchase hot cross buns or chocolate bunnies, we should perhaps reflect on the real meaning of Easter, understand its importance in our spiritual growth and how to use it as a moment of spiritual reflection.
Easter is the oldest and most important Christian celebration that brought to mankind the hope of salvation and eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However, this spring celebration had a different meaning before the crucifixion of the Messiah.
The Jewish Easter “Pesah”, known as the Passover, was celebrated for the first time in the evenings that preceded the exodus of Jews from Egypt, where they had been enslaved for 430 years. For this celebration, the Jews sacrificed a healthy lamb between 3pm and 5pm, roasted and consumed it with unleavened bread and bitter greens. The blood of the lamb symbolised the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and the bitter greens represented the difficult life and treatment they endured.
Exodus 12:1-11 New International Version (NIV)
The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the raw meat or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
How did the Jewish Passover become a Christian Easter?
Biblical evidence indicate that Lord Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem during the annual Passover:
Matthew 26:17-20: On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, `The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
John 19:14: It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
Through His passions and teachings, Lord Jesus added a new meaning to the Passover. Since the sacrifice of lambs had an important role in the Jewish religious celebration, the crucifixion of Jesus represented for those whom believed in Him, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The slaying of the Passover lamb and the applying of the blood to doorposts of the houses (Exodus 12:11-13) is now illustrating Christ’s atoning sacrifice and Blood on the cross. Those for whom He died are covered by His blood, protecting us from the angel of death just as the blood of lambs protected the newborn children from the plague that hit Egyptians. As such, the Holy Disciple Paul urges us to celebrate the Passover in a new perspective:
“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old leavened bread with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Jesus’ teachings and life:
the foundation for a healthy spiritual growth
Jesus did not experience a sense of moral decay that the saints and mystics of all times had and confessed. Not only because He was perfect and the Son of God, but He also demonstrated it through His way of living and teachings.“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)
Hence, along with the remembrance of His sacrifice, we should also remember the divine advices and examples He has left us for spiritual development, while maintaining a healthy spirit in good or turbulent times:
- Humility- “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”(Colossians 3:12)
Pride and arrogance are detrimental to spiritual growth and unfortunately the insatiable desire of being better than others, owning more than others seems to be present in our society. Similarly to Jesus, we must remain humble and serve others rather than become competitors. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
2. Words are Powerful-“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29)
The word is a powerful tool we have to express and communicate, to think and to create events in our lives. It is the manifestation of our spiritual being. Hence, our word can create the most beautiful dream and reality, but it can also destroy everything that exists around us. Reflect on your ways of communicating. Give up on gossips, quarrels and unnecessary conversations that do not promote growth or happiness. As Jesus Christ warned us, we are held accountable for every empty word we speak (Matthew 12:36).
3. Earthly wealth is a hindrance to spiritual growth- “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14).
Urged by the desire to improve our living standards, we forgot that as human beings we are emotional creatures whose spirit must be fed and looked after; not with food and material possessions, but with love, knowledge, care, respect and faith.
You certainly have heard of people who healthily and happily lived beyond 100 years and they all described the same secrets to a long happy life: positivity & kindness.
Besse Cooper, 116
“Mind your own business and don’t eat junk food. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated, work hard and love what you do.”
Bel Kaufman, 101
Laughter keeps you healthy. You can survive by seeing the humor in everything. Thumb your nose at sadness; turn the tables on tragedy. You can’t laugh and be angry, you can’t laugh and feel sad, you can’t laugh and feel envious.
Chasing wealth and pleasures can be consuming temptations. They will never end and will never satisfy the ego who always wants more. Prioritise your needs and focus on the spiritual growth.
4. “Prayer is the strongest form of generative energy”-Dr Alexis Carrel
Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
We are souls experiencing an earthly life. No materials or words can restore the inner peace like a prayer does. Whether you are religious or a believer in a Higher Power, you know that mediation and prayer are the only means through which our souls connect to their origin.
Jesus Himself “spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12) to show His gratitude & genuine love, to ask for guidance and forgiveness for those who hurt Him.
“Prayer is the portal that brings the power of heaven down to earth.”
Today’s Christian Woman
Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.
Corrie Ten Boom
Just like Jesus did, we must be thankful for what we have, for happy or turbulent moments; we must show our love, faith and believe that everything we wish to accomplish can be done if we abide in Him, and His words abide in us (John 15:7)
5. Violence is not the answer-“..for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55)
Jesus Christ was and is the definition of love and patience. Even when judged and criticised for His teachings, He never argued nor replied with bitter words. On the contrary! He shared His wisdom, making peace among people.
Similarly, we must be slow to anger and not seek revenge. As the Biblical words say, we must love “not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18)
Whenever life’s challenges or people’s personality/mistakes disturb you, learn to control your negative emotions and seek to understand why you feel that way or how you can help someone understand their mistake.
Whatever you choose to do this Easter in terms of celebrating the great work of Jesus, remember to place Him at the centre of it and follow His examples in your day to day activities.