“Happy Easter” is the greeting. It of course does not mean much. It is a greeting: a warm and friendly “hello” that acknowledges the season of the year. It is a wish that the other person may enjoy the holiday, the break, the weekend or the day. It goes alongside happy birthday, happy Christmas and all similar greetings. Last year I noticed people wishing each other “Happy Australia Day”!
But yet Easter is the greatest time for happiness. We are not celebrating tragic grief, loss or defeat. Easter celebrates the conquest of enemies and the release of captives. We are celebrating the greatest victory that has ever been won for us. We are rejoicing in righteousness being established and the rightful ruler of the world being enthroned.
The problem with wishing each other “Happy Easter” is that it so understates the importance of the event we are celebrating and trivialises the degree of joy that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Not all pieces of music can have such intensity of excitement and pleasure as Handel's Hallelujah Chorus—but it approaches something of the sheer wondrous delight that Christians have when we consider the Resurrection.
Ponder a moment the resurrection of Jesus so that we may again grasp the enormity of what happened.
At the very least Jesus' resurrection means that life beyond the grave is possible.
But it also indicates that this man Jesus is no ordinary man. For nobody else has beaten the sentence of death. He fed the multitude and healed the sick—he taught the crowds and announced the coming of the Kingdom of God—but it is in his resurrection that he is finally vindicated. He prophesied that he would rise from the dead. And in fulfilling his own prophecies he showed that he knew more about life and death than the rest of humanity.
In his teaching and prophecies he indicated the meaning of his resurrection. He consistently pointed to the Old Testament understanding of the judgement and salvation of God. For example he often pointed to the passage in Daniel 7 where the future judgement of the world is described. And in that final judgement a man arises in the clouds to God, in order to be given all authority and power to rule over all peoples for all eternity. Jesus is that man—raised from the dead—ascended to his Father to rule and judge the world.
Jesus did not rise from the dead to die again. He rose from the dead to sit at God's right hand in all power and majesty—as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is now the ruler of the world, sending out his messengers to gather his people into his kingdom. From the original 120 Jews on the day of Pentecost there are now millions around the world drawn from nearly every nation who recognize Jesus as their Master.
But more than a judge—the risen Jesus is our saviour. For by his resurrection Jesus has fully paid the price for human sinfulness, defeated God's primary enemy Satan, overcome sin's death penalty, and assured his followers of their resurrection to eternal life. For as his death in our place paid the price for our sins, so his Resurrection showed that our sin could not hold him. Death was defeated. Satan was defeated. The reign of sin was ended. New life—a fresh start—a rebirth was now possible.
Those who have experienced this forgiveness of their past, this new birth in their present, this assurance of their future—cannot keep the joy to themselves. The music we sing—the greetings we share—the great news we proclaim—are only the tip of the joy that is ours in the risen Christ Jesus.
“Happy Easter”?—Yes we wish everybody a happy Easter—while we pray that all will know the real happiness that Christians celebrate at Easter.