Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Now that spring is here, Easter cannot be far behind. The biblical story of Christ’s resurrection, however, fits poorly into an annual cycle tuned to the seasons of nature. There were – and are – religions built around waning and waxing of daylight, but Christianity isn’t one of them.
The biblical view of history is more linear than it is cyclical. God created the world good, but in our sin we have destroyed much of what God intended for our us. In his mercy, God called at various times patriarchs and prophets, sages, priests and kings to build a community of faith built around God’s self-revelation. In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus as the fulfillment of all salvation history and the incarnation of God’s self-expression. Jesus died for us, but God raised him from the dead as the first fruits of the coming resurrection of the just. After appearing to his own, Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and gave the Holy Spirit to the church. In God’s time, this same Jesus will return to reign over a completely restored creation. In the mean time, those who belong to him live by faith in God, in love for each other and the world God created and in hopeful anticipation of the dominion that is to come.
Easter may come every year, but the resurrection of Jesus occurred only once. The cross and the resurrection, in fact, are both “once for all” actions and they always belong together. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul cites an early Christian creed that his says is “of first importance”
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died / for our sins / according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried,
that he was raised / on the third day / according to the Scriptures,
and that he appeared … (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
Early Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection victory weekly by worshiping on the first day of the week, the day of Christ’s resurrection. They celebrated that victory by sharing the meal that he gave the church, the meal that recalls the gift of his body and blood.
The Christian church observes holidays like Christmas and Easter not primarily for their psychological effect, but as a way of recalling the story of our salvation.
Even as we observe Lent and remember the cross of Christ, we know that Christ is risen. When we celebrate the resurrection, it is still true that Jesus gave his life for us and calls us to costly discipleship.