The REAL Easter Story
March 1, 2016
What do Bunnies, Flowers and Eggs
Have to do With the Resurrection of Jesus?
Spring is all about the “resurrection” of life in the natural world. Plants come alive, animals give birth, and everything awakens to the light after the darkness of winter. This month the Christian world will celebrate Easter, so I thought I’d share a few fun Easter facts:
. The word “Easter” is derived from the name of a Norse goddess called Eastre or Ostara
. Eggs, rabbits and pastel colors (the colors of spring flowers) are symbols of fertility.
. Eggs were sacred to many ancient civilizations. Dyed eggs were hung in Egyptian temples, and used as amulets for fertility and prosperity. Today, many in the Eastern Orthodox Church dye eggs red to represent the blood of the sacrificed Christ.
. The Easter sunrise service can be traced to the ancient Pagan custom of welcoming the Sun God at the vernal equinox.
. Jewish Passover customs are rooted in ancient agricultural rituals, and include eggs, along with salt to represent the earth and a lamb symbolizing newborn life. The sacrificial lamb eventually became affiliated with Jesus.
If you’re looking for biblical confirmation of what you’ve always been taught about Easter, take some time to read the gospels horizontally, comparing the resurrection story from one account to another. Here’s what you’ll find:
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE TOMB?
Matthew: Jesus appears to two women named Mary
John: Jesus appears only to Mary Magdelene
Luke: Jesus appears to two disciples in spirit but they don’t recognize him, and also to several women at the tomb
Mark: The only occurrences of the empty tomb story
WHAT DID THEY SEE?
Matthew: An angel
Mark: A young man
Luke: Two men
John: nothing and no one
DO THE WOMEN TELL THE DISCIPLES WHAT THEY SAW?
Matt: They tell the 11 remaining disciples
Mark: They tell nobody
Luke: They tell 11 disciples plus other people
John: Simon Peter and another un-named disciple
This year, consider stripping away the religious narrative and celebrating spring as a personal rebirth ritual. What would you like to heal, release or create in the coming year? Perhaps you might write these things on a piece paper and bury it in your garden among the emerging plants and seeds, where your intention can grow!
Here at The Conference on Death, Grief and Belief, we believe it is important to be familiar with the cultural and religious influences that impact our understanding of death and beyond. This is why theological discourse is a popular feature at the conference, and in 2015, we were honored to have as our keynote speaker, Bishop John Shelby Spong, one of the most outspoken and powerful voices for progressive spirituality in the world today. Below is a brief video of him discussing the historicity of what scholars call “The Easter Experience.”
For more information (and some excellent biblical scholarship from Bishop Spong), read this article.