The True Meaning of Easter

WWII US Military Cemetery Manila, Philippines

WWII US Military Cemetery Manila, Philippines

Dr. Lewis Gregory

Easter is a Christian holiday. It is the most special of all Christian holidays. What makes it so special? Three very notable events occurred which make Easter the most significant holy day of all—the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Crosses. They’re everywhere! Crosses come in many different forms, sizes, and shapes. You see them on church buildings, in people’s homes, or in their cars. People wear them as jewelry—necklaces, rings, earrings, and lapel pins. Some people even have tattoos of the cross on their bodies. Others are seen making the sign of the cross before or after a major event—athletes are especially noted for this. Cemeteries often have crosses marking the graves.

During my tour of duty in 1967 with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, I traveled to the city of Manila in the Philippines. My visit to the city included the cemetery where the U.S. soldiers from World War II were buried. What a sight! I gazed in awe at the seemingly endless rows of white crosses (over 17,000) marking their graves. My namesake, Lewis Richey, one of Dad’s best friends, died in that war while fighting in the Philippines. I couldn’t help but wonder if his name was on one of those crosses.

The sight of all those crosses was a vivid reminder of the great price that has been paid for freedom. It was a deeply moving time for me. As a soldier myself, it struck close to home. This was partly because I was in the midst of a war in a distant land, far removed from family and friends. But it was primarily because of the contrast between all those crosses and the one cross they represented. I couldn’t help but think of what the cross symbolized, and what it meant to me personally.

The cross undoubtedly means different things to different people. A repairman came to our house once wearing a very large, ornate golden cross. It was such an unusual piece of jewelry that I finally asked him about it. He had a vague understanding about the Lord, and a somewhat general idea about the cross. However, based on his response, it was evident that he was oblivious to the true significance of the cross. What about you? What does the cross mean to you?

What Is the Real Significance of the Cross?

The cross itself is not really significant at all. The original crosses were just two pieces of wood crossed and bound together and used for execution. They were quite plain, rather crude, and somewhat common. Then what makes the cross significant? The significance of the cross stems from one very special person, who was crucified on a cross. It was the death of the pure and perfect Son of God, upon an old, rugged cross that gave it significance. The critical point for all Christendom occurred when Jesus Christ was executed upon the cross. Therefore, the cross is central to Christianity!

In order to grasp the full magnitude of the cross, you need to view it in its proper context. All the events surrounding Christ’s death on the cross must be taken into account. Only then can you perceive the significance of the cross.

Let’s begin with a brief summary. First there is the preexistent, eternal deity of Christ, then His virgin birth, followed by His sinless life of perfect obedience to the Father. Next came His sacrificial, substitutionary, all-sufficient, atoning death on the cross, with His subsequent burial. Afterward, there was His triumphant resurrection, and then His glorious ascension into heaven. As a result of all that, Christians can enjoy His indwelling presence here on earth through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ lived a completely selfless life. He lived totally for the sake of others. He served the needs of His fellow men by feeding the poor, healing the sick, and instructing the masses. Yet, in spite of His sinless life and all His philanthropic deeds for humanity, He was arrested, convicted, and ultimately crucified. Crucified is the term used to describe someone who has been executed upon a cross for a crime. It is a very slow, extremely painful, and grossly humiliating form of punishment. Death is never pleasant, but being executed upon a cross is sheer torture.

However, unlike others who were executed, Jesus Christ did not remain in the grave. Although He was crucified and buried, three days later He arose from the grave! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

Every year on Easter morning, atop Stone Mountain in Georgia, a sunrise worship service is held to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is very inspirational for the more than 3,000 hardy souls who get up early and make the trek to the top. Our family has done it several times. On one particular occasion, the local TV station was there to cover the event. One of the people they interviewed was our teenage daughter, Amy.

When they asked her what she thought about the event, she exclaimed, “I’m glad to be up here. This is what Easter is all about. Today is the most important holiday for Christians. It is the day that we celebrate our risen Lord!”

He is risen indeed! The apostle Paul recounts the event, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people, including His own disciples. Forty days following His resurrection, He returned to God the Father. He did this by ascending bodily into the sky, until He disappeared in the clouds. Now, He is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realm, where He always lives to make intercession for us.

Paid in Full!

Praise God—Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins! He did this by willingly taking our place, and dying as a ransom for our sins. “You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death” (Colossians 1:21–22). The demands of God’s righteous system of justice were met through Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf. Since Christ was the perfect sacrifice that God required, He now declares our sin debt paid in full. Therefore, God offers a full pardon from all sins for those who will accept Jesus Christ as their redeemer.

The pardon that God offers you comes entirely as a result of His grace, without any merit on your part whatsoever. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Dr. J. I. Packer points to grace as the basis of this pardon. “Justification,” he says, “is the truly dramatic transition from the status of a condemned criminal awaiting a terrible sentence to that of an heir awaiting a fabulous inheritance.” You are justified in the sight of God because of His grace being extended to you through the cross.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is God’s sole provision for your salvation. Only Christ is capable of redeeming you from Satan’s dominion of sin and death.

That is exactly what Christ did. “[He] gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). He submitted Himself to be crucified at the hands of wicked men. He willingly subjected Himself to be nailed to a cross, and there He died! “He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). The cross, in the biblical sense, represents Christ’s sacrificial death for sinful humanity.

His death was not limited to any particular race or class of people. The death that Christ died encompassed all mankind. “That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). Christ not only died for us, but also as us. His death was in actuality our death. When Christ died on that cross, you died too! Furthermore, when Christ arose, you arose too! Christ became one with you in death in order that you might be one with Him in life. And that’s the real meaning of Easter.

Taken from Introducing The New You, to read more…

7 Responses to “The True Meaning of Easter”

  1. rick Says:

    I love the real story on EASTER

    Reply

  2. Samuel Says:

    I am gone say that I am so blessed to have such a great man of God who hear God’s voice and share what God put on his Heart God Bless you for this teachings my home Church is blessed that we get it from you thanks!

    Reply

  3. Ana Castro Says:

    Pastor,
    Obrigada pela reflexão, Jesus disse: toma sua cruz e siga-me, eu tenho feito isto. Não é fácil, é doloroso. Tudo rege contrário da vontade de servir, mas serei uma serva fiel até o fim dos meus dias.
    Deus o abençoe, Pastor.
    Ana Castro

    Obliged by the reflection, Jesus said: seizure cross and follow, I have been doing this. It is not easy, is painful. Everything governs opposite of the will of serving, but I will be a loyal servant up to the end of my days.

    Reply

  4. Delurdy Says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful message about the meaning of Easter. I was blessed while reading it. Thank you very much, Dr. Gregory for hearing the Lord and sharing such an edifying Message.
    In Him,
    Delurdy

    Reply


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  1. […] Of course the short answer is that Easter is the term most readily identified around the world with the celebration of resurrection Sunday. Hence, I elaborate on this in my message about “The True Meaning of Easter”. […]

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