The calendar reads “Easter Sunday.” Thus, a few cultural mainstays appear in the religious world. People will attend “the church of their choice” for special “sunrise services.” There will be skits, plays, and dramas to be played out. Throughout the week, it will be common for many to perform a cross-carrying in the community to reenact moments leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Many people with sincere hearts believe they are commemorating the resurrection of Christ and celebrating a “holy day.” Is this true? In the pages of the New Testament, you will never see the words “Easter Sunday,” nor will you find first-century Christians celebrating or emphasizing any Sunday above the rest.
One might say, “But, preacher, isn’t the word Easter in the Bible?”
It is true that the word “Easter” is found in Acts 12:4, only in the King James Version of the New Testament. In the text under consideration, James’s death and Peter’s imprisonment at Herod’s hand are discussed. The text reads that, after Peter had been imprisoned, they intended to bring him before the people after “Easter.” In this text, the Greek word pascha is translated by the word “Easter.” This is a mistranslation. The same word is properly translated into other passages of the Bible as Passover. Though mistranslated, many have taken the appearance of this one word and created a popular religious holiday. The word Easter might be in the Bible, but the absence of the holiday is deafening in the scriptures. The Bible does not indicate that Christians celebrated the resurrection of Christ in a yearly celebration.
So, “Why do churches of Christ not celebrate Easter Sunday?” I want to provide you with three points of historical significance that can help you adequately answer this question.
- The word Easter is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Eostre, who was the goddess of Spring. Each year, at the time of the vernal equinox, pagan followers of this goddess would offer sacrifices in her honor. Later, it became widely observed by Jewish Christians and Gentiles annually. Isn’t that interesting? One of the most popular holidays associated with Christianity came from pagan and idolatrous roots.
- We are provided with no biblical precedent within the New Testament to emphasize one Sunday above others and to create an annual, one-day celebration of the resurrection of Christ. This same remains true for the birth of Christ, which is celebrated during the holiday of Christmas. Both Easter and Christmas, the two most common holidays associated with Christianity, are without biblical precedence and void of spiritual truth.
- Tradition does not provide an adequate foundation for truth. Even in the churches of Christ, we make this mistake. Though something is firmly fastened in tradition, it does not mean it is firmly fastened in religious truth. While this might cause friction and confrontation with the religious world, we must maintain our stand for truth. Even Jesus was condemned for not observing “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3-5).
Though filled with the superficial faith of some, this time of year is a wonderful opportunity to teach the truth. The Lord’s church does not celebrate Easter by the standards of some in the religious world, but we celebrate the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection on the first day of every week as commanded in the New Testament (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). The resurrection of Christ is the power of the cross and the foundation of our faith. But, building our faith on superficiality and manufactured religious holidays will never take us to glory. Our Savior died and was resurrected on the third day to affirm the faith of his followers, not the infatuation of his fans. Let us examine the holy scriptures and strive to be Christ’s followers.