Or is it? Maybe I should say "Happy Resurrection Day". Reason I bring this up is because the word "Easter" derives from pagan origin. You may know this but follow its etymology back and you come up against "Astarte" the goddess of fertility and reproduction. Really, every ancient pagan pantheon had its reproductive deities. Their days of honor falling around the same time every year—Springtime. Astarte was worshipped under many names. She appears in the Old Testament under "Ashtoreth", and "Ashteroth". Being a deity representing fertility, Solomon must've been tempted to rely on her false promises of abundance and happiness and subsequently to get his eyes off of God, the God of David his father (see 1 Kings 11:5-6). I'm not trying to draw parallels between him and his mistakes and any modern practices connected with Easter. Let's face it, part of me couldn't care less about this kind of stuff, but I do think it's worth knowing and understanding. And when those who don't believe know more about this stuff than do Christians, it's embarrassing and even a little disconcerting.
As long as we're celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus, right? Because that's what it's all about. That's what makes us who we are in Him. The fact He died for us, offering Himself in ultimate sacrifice. His tacit acquiescence, His utter willingness to lay down His life silently had manifold and earthshaking consequences. One of which was the ending of the necessity for atoning immolation. It doesn't end there, obviously, but today (and tomorrow), we're going to look at the uniqueness of His sacrifice.
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body has Thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure." (Hebrews 10:4-6) The writer of Hebrews is referring to David's psalm in which he expresses sorrow, atonement and repentance regarding his sin with Bathsheba. David says: "For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:16-17)
Look at this quote from French anthropolgist René Girard (from his little book Sacrifice, the italics are mine): "If the term sacrifice is used for the death of Jesus, it is in a sense absolutely contrary to the archaic sense. Jesus consents to die in order to reveal the lie of blood sacrifices and to render them henceforth impossible. The Christian notion of redemption must be interpreted on the basis of this reversal."
Okay, so every culture at one point in history has practiced sacrifice. Ending the life of someone or something as a means of honor or appeasement to a fickle deity. One of the vexing conundrums of anthropologists, they have sought long and hard to explain such a practice as beneficial to human culture, society and development. I'm not here to debate on the merits of the practice. Without it, I'd be lost and I’m not ashamed to admit it. If Jesus hadn't obeyed His Father in dying for me, in my place, I'd have no chance in hell of ever becoming right with God. Sure, I could reject belief in God altogether. Apply my short earthly existence to the tenets of Western culture, ignoring what it took to give rise to the modern (and rapidly declining) way of life and call it good. But:
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (Romans 5:7-8) Droll: Really? Such an intriguing story is too good to pass up and pass over. You mean, that through the atoning death of Jesus, I can actually know God? Because that's the idea. It isn't just about gaining Heaven and escaping hell.
And Happy Resurrection Day.