Here comes Peter Cotton Tail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail,
Hippity, hoppity Easter’s on its way.
Bringin’ ev’ry girl and boy
A basketful of Easter Joy
Things to make your Easter
Bright and gay!
He’s got jelly beans for Tommy
Colored eggs for sister Sue
There’s an orchid for your mommy
And an Easter bonnet, too. Oh!
Here comes Peter Cotton Tai
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail,
Hippity, hoppity Easter’s on its way.
Wow! What a sappy song. But sadly enough, it’s the first one that comes to mind for some of us. For a holiday that carries as much weight as Easter does, you’d think there would be some more memorable music dedicated to one of the most significant dates on the Christian calendar. Of course, as Christians, we have plenty of songs to sing on the day of Easter, but when was the last time you heard Easter music played in the mall while you shopped? Or have you ever heard of a radio station with an Easter-music-only format in the months leading up to its actual celebration? Probably not, and it’s because Easter is a second-class holiday. Admit it. Even overt attempts at commercialization have failed to turn Easter into a top-tier holiday like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or even Halloween. It seems no amount of chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, discounts on designer fashions, or sumptuous brunch buffets are going to give Easter the credibility it deserves. So every spring it just kind of sneaks up on us, usually accompanied by that oh-so-unpleasant switch back to Daylight Savings Time.
Easter’s On Its Way!
As believers, Easter should be the highlight of our year. And it shouldn’t take copious amounts of chocolate, the allure of a new outfit, the thrill of hunting for Easter eggs filled with candy, or the promise of a big meal to get us excited about its arrival. No, Easter should get our adrenaline up because it celebrates the most important event in human history – the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Now don’t get me wrong. Christmas is right up there in terms of its significance. After all, without the incarnation, there never would have been a resurrection. And as Paul reminds us, “… if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:14 NLT). He doesn’t stop there. “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 NLT). But wait, there’s more. “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT).
What’s Paul telling us? That the resurrection of Jesus Christ is EVERYTHING! Without it, we have nothing. All our preaching is pointless, our faith is useless, and our sins remain unforgiven. Because if Jesus was born just to die, then we’ve put our faith in a mere man. Without His resurrection, Jesus becomes just another martyr to a cause, a casualty to man’s indifference and intolerance. He came, He lived, He served and He died. Case closed. Cause over.
But Easter is an annual reminder that the story didn’t end in a tomb outside the city of Jerusalem. Easter is a celebration of life and hope. It’s a day set aside to remember Christ’s death on the cross in our place and His resurrection from the dead to guarantee our own ultimate victory over death. Which is why in anticipation of Easter we don’t sing “Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way,” but instead we sing, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
Once Easter’s Gone.
Easters have a habit of coming and going. Like a lot of holidays, they’re here before we know it and gone before we realize it. When the big day arrives, we dress up, show up, celebrate and sing. Then we go home. When it’s over, we go on with our lives. We put away the Easter baskets, store the plastic eggs in the attic, and hang our Easter outfits in the closet. But shouldn’t the message of Easter last longer than a single Sunday? Isn’t this day about more than records for highest attendance and impressing one another with high fashion? What happened that day at a borrowed tomb outside the city walls of Jerusalem was earth-shattering, life-changing and death-defeating. The Son of God died a humiliating and excruciating death at the hands of men – even though He was innocent of any wrong-doing. He died in our place. He took on our punishment. He suffered on our behalf. And when He died, we died along with Him.
Or have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was. Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also share his new life. We are sure of this because Christ rose from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 1He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. – Romans 6:3-10 NLT
Because Jesus died, we have new life. And that new life gives us the capacity to live differently. We have the Spirit of God living within us. We have the Word of God to guide us. So according to Paul, we don’t have to let sin tell us how to live. We don’t have to give in to lustful desires. We don’t have to use our bodies for sinful purposes. Instead, we can throw ourselves wholeheartedly and full-time into God’s way of doing things.
It’s Easter Every Day.
The message of Easter is that Christ arose. The reality of Easter is that we have new life. Not just some time in the future when Christ returns or He calls us home. But we have new life right here and now. We can live differently. In fact, it’s expected that we will live differently in this world. Peter reminds us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT).
You have everything you need to live the life you’ve been called to live. Why? Because Christ died, rose again, and sits at the right hand of God the Father. He isn’t a martyr for a lost cause. He’s the Messiah and the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is alive and well and interceding on your behalf right now at the throne of God. And because He ascended, the Holy Spirit – the very Spirit of God, descended, indwelling each of us who have placed our faith in Christ as our Savior. The Holy Spirit guides and directs us, convicts and comforts us. He makes intercession for us in the forms of prayers we don’t even know how to pray. He gives us the capacity to understand the Scriptures and apply them to our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who makes spiritual growth and our transformation into the likeness of Christ possible.
Every day that you wake up should be a celebration of new life. It should be like Easter Sunday morning every morning in your home. Your sins are forgiven. You are no longer under condemnation and the penalty of death. You are accepted and loved by God. You are a child of God. You have the very nature of God within you. You have a new nature and a new capacity for living like Christ. You no longer have to give in to sin. The resurrection of Christ has made all things new. And you have a new destination, a new home and a new future in store for you.
He Rose Again. He’s Coming Again.
Here’s the best part of all. When Jesus rose again, He knew He would be coming back again. He told His disciples so. “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there” (John 14:1-4 NLT). Even the angels reminded them on the day Jesus ascended that He would be coming back. “Men of Galilee … why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:11 NLT).
He’s coming again! That’s the real message of Easter. He’s going to return for us. Which should remind each of us that this place is not our home. We are strangers here and are simply passing through on our way to somewhere better. The story is far from over. The full ramifications of the resurrection are far from complete. So this Easter, let’s celebrate and sing with all our hearts. But let’s take that celebration into the rest of the year as we live in the reality of His resurrection and the promise of His return. “He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”