Why do we celebrate Easter? Easter is the most important event that has occurred so far in human history. It is the day Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is a celebration of the inflection point of what Scripture refers to as the gospel—God’s good news. The crucial elements of the gospel are these: Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of the ancient Jewish King David was crucified on a cross during the Jewish Passover just about two thousand years ago. Then he was buried in a tomb. But three days after his death—on Sunday morning, which we celebrate on Easter—he rose from the dead.
Jesus was then exalted to God’s right hand as humanity’s saving king.
The resurrection of Jesus is grounded in solid historical evidence and facts. The eminent historian and theologian N.T. Wright summarized the evidence by stating it this way: “The empty tomb and appearances have a historical probability which is so high as to be ‘virtually certain,’ like the death of Augustus in A.D. 14 or the fall of the Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”
“The empty tomb and appearances have a historical probability which is so high as to be ‘virtually certain.”
You can check out a summary of the evidence in an article that I previously wrote called “The Historical Evidence for the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus – Evidence for Easter.”
Easter gives us a different perspective in an anxious world where people are almost perpetually on edge because of COVID, wars, inflation, political turmoil, and our own personal weaknesses and shortcomings. Those who rely on the truths of Easter possess a realistic optimism despite all the trials of this world.
Scripture tells us that if we place our faith in Jesus, God will rescue us. We celebrate Easter because it’s an annual reminder that Jesus triumphed as the saving King who rescues us from:
- destruction, and
Easter reminds us that God has come into the world to help his people (Luke 7:16).
If you want to remember the main reasons we celebrate Easter, just remember the name Jesus. J.E.S.U.S. gives us five reasons to celebrate Easter.
J for Justice Upheld – We celebrate Easter because God’s justice was upheld.
Here is a truth that can be uncomfortable: God is both loving and holy. We find comfort in God’s love. We need his compassion, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.
But God’s holiness is just as important. Holiness means that God is pure, righteous, and set apart from sin. Holiness means that God is just, and because of that, God must bring the punishment of justice to human sin and rebellion. That is why the doctrine of hell is real.
If God would fail to be just, he would fail to be God.
Scripture tells us our only hope is to have our sins removed so that we will not have to experience God’s just and holy punishment in hell. In his great love, God put upon Christ the punishment we deserve.
“In his great love, God put upon Christ the punishment we deserve.”
We celebrate Easter because it reminds us that, in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, Jesus freed us by taking the punishment due us for our sins, and in the process “satisfied God’s holy anger against us.” The New Living Translation of Romans 3:22-25 puts it this way:
We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.
God doesn’t say sin doesn’t matter. He doesn’t just wave it off.
Jesus took our sins onto himself. Scripture says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus was our sacrifice of atonement. By his sacrifice, our sins are atoned for and taken away (Romans 3:25).
Why do we celebrate Easter? “He rose from the dead showing that he had paid the price for our sins.”
Scripture says that Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). He rose from the dead showing that he had paid the price for our sins. It was his resurrection we celebrate at Easter that proved that his death was more than a tragedy. It was part of his plan to save us from our sins. We celebrate Easter because it reminds us that the debt was completely paid.
The good news is that if we will place our faith in Jesus, which includes acknowledging our sins and pledging to turn from them, all of our sins will be atoned for and removed.
2 Corinthians 5:19 teaches us that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” Jesus took our place. On the cross, Jesus absorbed the punishment that our sins deserve.
Jesus upheld God’s justice and took the punishment we deserve onto himself.
E for Eternal Life – We celebrate Easter because eternal life was secured.
We naturally think death is the worst thing that can happen. It means the end of life. Death terminates all striving, accomplishments, and relationships.
And if we do not have faith in God’s promises, death is a terrible thing. It naturally makes us of fearful for the future. COVID, war, climate change, and the like threaten the only existence that we know.
But not those with faith in a risen Jesus.
We celebrate Easter because it reminds us that God has defeated death. In Jesus God has opened the door to a beautiful future life in eternity. Easter is the beginning of the best that God has prepared for human beings. Like Jesus, we can be raised from death and we can live with him in paradise forever.
Why do we celebrate Easter? “Easter is the beginning of the best that God has prepared for human beings.”
So, by faith, we have placed our hopes and security on Jesus’ promises. It means that we care about COVID, but not too much. We care about war and the possibility of a nuclear bomb, but it does not dimmish our hope and optimism for the future. And we could apply this to all the other fears that plague us (climate change, diseases, etc.).
The primary focus of our hope isn’t on present hardships, but on being with King Jesus after death where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Truth be told, the closer we get to God, the more we can look at death as something joyful, the way the apostle Paul did in Philippians 1:22-23:
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.
So, like Paul, we want to remain in this world to do good things, but we also desire to be with Christ in eternity, for it will be the best thing imaginable.
“It will be the best thing imaginable.”
So, we set our focus on our ultimate joy, eternity in heaven.
We are not afraid to die.
S for Satan Defeated – We celebrate Easter because Satan was defeated.
This aspect of Easter is often called the “Christ Is Victor” Motif (Christus Victor). By his death, burial, and resurrection, Christ won a great victory over the spiritual forces of evil in our lives.
Through his death on the cross, Christ disarmed the powers and authorities in the spiritual realm.
He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ. (Colossians 2: 14-15, NLT)
“He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ.”
The death and resurrection of Christ was the gamechanger in the battle between Satan and the human race.
Satan gained a certain foothold when he first tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God. This led to a type of enslavement of human beings under the influence of the devil.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2: 1-2)
The predicament we faced was that humans had chosen to belong to the demonic order through a collective history of sin.
This is why the Bible teaches that the “whole world” is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5: 19) and that’s why Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8). Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross destroyed Satan’s work.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Why do we celebrate Easter? “He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death.”
Now, through Jesus’ victory which we celebrate at Easter, those who place their faith in him are placed in a position of authority above Satan and the demons. We are spiritually raised up with Jesus.
God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2: 6-7)
Through the cross and resurrection of Christ and our steadfast faith, God gives us victory in these battles. Satan has been defeated, those who trust in Christ are set free, and God will reign victoriously (Revelation 12:10-11; 20:1-21:1).
U for Universe Renewed – We celebrate Easter because Jesus inaugurated a renewal of the universe.
The Word of God teaches that creation itself was corrupted when Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden (Romans 8:19ff). Since that time, we have lived under the curses of a corrupted world order (Genesis 3:14-19).
Destruction reigns in the midst of life.
We celebrate Easter because it reminds us of the future paradise in store for those who have faith in Jesus. This is because Jesus’ resurrection is a foretaste of God’s promises.
Scripture promises that God will create an entirely new mode of existence for his people where he will dwell among them in a new heaven and a new earth.
Why do we celebrate Easter? “God will create an entirely new mode of existence for his people where he will dwell among them in a new heaven and a new earth.”
We can better understand this destination and the eternal life of the faithful with God in eternity if we grasp four brief, but related, concepts.
1. God with us
The first and most important concept is that God himself will personally dwell among us in eternity.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3–5)
The real joy in eternity is that we will be God’s sacred dwelling place. We will experience his intimate and full presence.
Why do we celebrate Easter? “We will experience his intimate and full presence.”
2. New heaven and new earth
A second concept focuses on our dwelling place: the new heaven and new earth. In eternity all things will be re-created. God’s people have always looked forward to a renewed life where toil, difficulty, and death will be removed. Note the following passages which refer to the new heaven and new earth:
Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create. (Isaiah 65:17,18a)
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1)
This existence will not be subject to decay (Revelation 22:3–5) and we will live in new spiritual bodies—bodies that are powerful, imperishable, and glorious (1 Corinthians 15:42–44; see the entire chapter).
3. No curse
A third concept is that we will live without the curse of the fall. We will live through eternity in sheer happiness. We will not experience pain, crying, mourning or death; everything will be made new.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3b–5a)
We will experience the peace and joy of God’s presence and God’s rest throughout eternity (Hebrews 4:1, 6, 9–11).
4. Eden restored
A fourth concept is that eternal life will be a paradise life, similar to life in the garden of Eden. We will have access to the tree of life, an access which will ensure endless living and endless healing. The tree of life, itself, will bear fruit all the time, for all the people. Everything will be made new.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1–3a)
We will experience a “garden-of-Eden-like existence,” and God himself will ensure that it will never end.
Nothing will ever destroy it.
S for Sins Removed – We celebrate Easter because our sins are removed.
We often try to ignore our personal sins. Or we are just blind to our sins (2 Corinthians 4:4).
But when it comes to sin, we all fall short.
We try to live the right way, but our sinful nature gets the best of us. We all experience these failures, whether we believe in Christianity or not. But Christians are in a spot to be able to more easily admit to and face our sins.
We can be more truthful with ourselves because admitting our sins is the first part of our faith in the gospel.
We learn to acknowledge our sinful ways and how they violate God’s holy and righteous path.
We can acknowledge them now without despair because of the truth of Easter. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, they can all be forgiven. This is why the Christian message was called “the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18).
Why do we celebrate Easter? “We can acknowledge our sins now without despair because of the truth of Easter.”
There is no sin that God will not forgive, and that’s why we celebrate Easter.
Now, because of our faith in Jesus, his cross, and his resurrection, we embrace our new life in him with the aim to live the right way.
But we still fall short.
Sometimes we say things that we should not say. Sometimes we do things that we should not do. And sometimes we keep doing what we should not do. But because of our faith in what Jesus did at Easter, God promises to forgive our sins as we confess them (1 John 1:5-9).
Again, I have found that without Jesus’ forgiveness, the people of this world play games with the truth about sin. They deny sin. They can even make sinning look like a virtue. Yet the Bible explicitly warns us about those “who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:2).
“Jesus helps us to be truthful about our sins.”
But Jesus helps us to be truthful about our sins. We turn from them with the pledge of a clear conscience toward God that “saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
We confess our sins and turn from them, and God forgives us.
We celebrate Easter because Jesus’ resurrection proved that he paid the price and rose victorious over our sin.
We start fresh.
- Sin dug a gulf in our relationship with God. The cross and resurrection bridged it.
- Sin resulted in estrangement from God. The cross and resurrection reconciled it.
- Sin made war between us and God. The cross and resurrection made peace.
- Sin broke fellowship with God. The cross and resurrection repaired and restored it.
That’s why we celebrate Easter. And it’s not just a matter of “celebrating” it, meaning to observe it or participate in it. We have every reason to wholeheartedly, joyfully celebrate it.
How Do You Respond to Easter?
During his life on earth, Jesus Christ accomplished many great and wonderful things: he led a life of holiness and love, he taught eternal truth, and he walked more closely with God, his Father, than any one before him. Yet, of all the things which Christ accomplished while he was here on earth, the most important was his victory which we celebrate at Easter.
Again, if you want to remember the main reasons we celebrate Easter, just remember the name Jesus. J.E.S.U.S. gives us five reasons to celebrate Easter; they are gifts to be received by faith in him:
- J for Justice Upheld – We celebrate Easter because God’s justice was upheld.
- E for Eternal Life – We celebrate Easter because eternal life was secured.
- S for Satan Defeated – We celebrate Easter because Satan was defeated.
- U for Universe Renewed – We celebrate Easter because Jesus inaugurated a renewal of the universe.
- S for Sins Removed – We celebrate Easter because our sins are removed.
So, how should we respond to these gifts? What’s the right reply to these events the Bible calls the gospel, or good news?
“What’s the right reply to these events the Bible calls the gospel?”
God gave us this good news so that we can be saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2: 8-9). Grace is a “free gift,” the unearned eternal blessings of God in the good news of King Jesus. These events (Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and enthronement) don’t save people in and of themselves, but they provide the ground upon which God, in full harmony with His holiness, is free to save those who have sinned against him. This free gift is received by faith.
For by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you find yourself in a place where you are ready to place your faith in Jesus, we encourage you to find a church and be baptized as an expression of your faith. Baptism is a covenant-making ceremony, where by faith you turn away from sin, accept the gospel promises in Jesus, and pledge yourself to him to live as his disciple.
For more about baptism, check out the free ebook What Does the Bible Say about Baptism?
 [N. T Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 710.