The topic to which I speak is that of Easter; only a summary of considerations is provided here. The Holy Scriptures speak to this issue. However, some explanatory guidance is essential concerning the application of the scriptures in our modern day society.
Colossians 2:16-22 says “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come….”
Christian holidays are considered by Christians to be special holydays. So let no one judge you as to their validity if they are intended to honor and glorify God and you do not violate any biblical sound doctrinal principles.
Let me begin by stating what Easter is to me:
The word Easter appears once in the King James Version of the Bible (Acts 12:4). In Acts 12:4 the Greek word is the word elsewhere translated Passover. Hence, biblically the Greek word translated Easter as used in the KJV Bible most likely has to do with the Jewish Mosaic Passover celebration rather than the Christ as our Passover (1 Cor 5:7) . The word Passover includes the slaughtering of the Lamb. Hence the word Easter when not qualified has a variety of meanings. It could refer to a single day, seven day period, or any number of other days period. For me it either refers to a single day (Easter Sunday) or a three day period (Good Friday to Easter Sunday). For me Easter is really a dual celebration: (1) the killing of the lamb as payment for our sins as represented by Jesus crucifixion unto death on the cross and (2) our anticipated total freedom from earthly bondage as represented by Jesus resurrection. Thus, for me Easter begins with what we know as Good Friday (Celebration of Jesus Crucifixion) and ends with what we know as Easter Sunday (Celebration of Jesus Resurrection). Easter Sunday Worship is often shortened to simply refer to as Easter.
Some celebrate Palm Sunday the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday to mark Jesus entrance into Jerusalem and his arrest. I do not include Palm Sunday as a part of Easter because the Passover lamb in Exodus was captured on the tenth of the month (Exodus 12:3-6) but God seems to set the celebration period to begin on the fourteenth day of the month which was the day of slaughter of the lamb not its capture.
There are those who state that Christians should not celebrate Easter. Some say this because Easter appears only once in the Kings James Version (KJV) of the Bible (Acts 12:4). Some say that occurrence should have been translated using the word Passover. Acts 12:4 is discussed more fully in the document listed later in this article.
For those who voice opposition to the Easter celebration, I generally pose the following questions to them and tailor my response to their answer.
1. Are you a Christian?
2. Do you consider yourself a biological Israelite or Gentile or claim neither due to uncertainty?
3. Is the word Easter, the event itself, the timing of the event, and/or some of the things some people do during the event problematic?
4. Do you recognize Christ as your Passover (the lamb, bread, and blood) superior to the Mosaic Passover?
5. Do you annually celebrate Christ as your Passover during the annual Mosaic Passover celebration?
6. If so, when do you so celebrate and do you as a matter of human preference use a name to distinguish Christ Passover (1 Cor 5:7-8) from the Mosaic Passover?
There are two Passovers defined in scriptures. The first is the Jewish Passover or Mosaic Passover celebration or holiday or holyday as instituted under the Old Covenant as described in various scriptures (e.g., Exodus 12:13-14,24). The second is the Christian Passover as instituted under the New Covenant as described in various scriptures (e.g., 1 Cor 5:7-8 (Ephesians 4:31)) where Christ is described as the Passover under the New Covenant where Christ’s broken (lamb) body and blood is applicable to our spiritual house (1 Cor 3:15-16; 1 Cor 6:15-20) as Christ he is the bread (Matthew 26:26; John 6:48). Additional scriptures concerning the Mosaic Passover include Leviticus 17:11; 23:5-7, and Numbers 9:1-5. Additional scriptures concerning the Christ Passover include Isaiah 53:1-12; John 1:29; Acts 5:30; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 7:27; and Hebrews 9:28.
Jesus took part in the Mosaic Passover for the final time with his disciples as described in Luke 22:1, 7-20.
Easter Sunday (often shortened Easter) is a special worldwide annual celebration of Christ.
The aforementioned dual celebration characteristic of Easter is one and perhaps the major reason some denominations refer to Easter as some period of time (e.g., seven days) leading up to and culminating on Easter Sunday and some even go beyond Easter Sunday. Thus, it would be only partially right to refer to Happy Easter as Happy Resurrection Day.
Biblically, Easter in terms of paralleling the Jewish Passover does not necessarily do so in terms of the number of days of the Jewish Passover, a seven day feast, since the time from Christ crucifixion to his resurrection is certainly not seven days according to the biblical record.
So then Easter Sunday (or shortened form Easter) is that Christian Passover Day when we celebrate in a special way Christ as our Passover with respect to his crucifixion sacrifice (Lamb slain) and resurrection victory (giving us hope for freedom from earthly bondage).
Some use the word Eastertime as the period surrounding Easter Sunday. So then Eastertime is the celebratory period that involves recognition of Christ final days, his crucifixion, shed blood, burial and resurrection and perhaps even representing his ascension.
The etymology of the word Easter is uncertain. Some say it has its origin is the German word oster meaning east which some say has its roots in the Latin word aurora meaning The east and dawn rationale are reasonable separate and together. The reason is that the sun rises in the east at dawn; the resurrection account speaks of dawn (Matthew 28:1) In any case the origin of the word is insignificant; what we mean by it today is what is important. We use the word Easter includes the honor of the discovery of Christ resurrection in the early sunrise dawn the third day. Hence, the association of Easter with the resurrection.
Easter Sunday and Eastertime generally approximates the Mosaic Passover since Christ is the Christian Passover under the New Covenant (1 Cor 5:7-8) similar to but superior to the Mosaic Passover of the Old Covenant.
The Mosaic Passover is applicable to all biological Israelites. However, the Christian Passover is only applicable to those persons, Israelite and non-Israelite, who are disciples of Christ.
In Exodus God tells Moses that God is going to send the tenth plague upon Egypt so as to slaughter the first born of every house in the land (Exodus 12:12). But God tells Moses he would protect the Israelites houses who had the sign of the blood God has designated (Exodus 12:13).
God told Moses to tell the congregation of Israel to take a lamb (sheep or goat) on the tenth day of the first month of the year (Exodus 12:1-5). They were told to keep the lamb until the fourteenth day of that month; on the evening of the fourteenth the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel were to kill the lamb (Exodus 12:6). They were told to put the lamb’s blood on side/door posts of their houses (Exodus 12:7) and were to then eat the lamb in haste (Exodus 12:8-11) so that they could be ready to go before Pharaoh came after them (Exodus 14:5-9). So that when the death angel came throughout the land, the angel would pass over every house that had the blood of the lamb as instructed (Exodus 12:12-13).
And the Lord God said:
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you (Exodus 12:14-16).
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even (Exodus 12:18).
Notice that the Passover is best described not as a single memorial day but as a period of days where the word day in Exodus 12:14 is used figuratively to refer to a space of time beginning the fourteenth day of the month for seven days. Notice that God commanded a seven day feast to be associated with this memorial. The feast is known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread such that any bread the Israelites ate during those seven days was to be unleavened bread as no leavened bread (with yeast) was to be in their houses. Yet, it is also right to call it the Passover Feast or simply Passover. Note that some people say Passover is the day preceding the seven day period. Hence, they say there is a Passover Day and a Feast of Unleavened bread. Either way the event of Exodus is memorialized as that is what is most important. Luke 22:1, 7 also speaks of this celebration.
The Christian Passover generally approximates/overlaps the Jewish Passover period. For example, in 2019 Easter Sunday is April 21 and the Mosaic Passover period is April 19-27. In 2020, Easter Sunday is April 12 and the Mosaic Passover period is April 8-16. In 2021, Easter Sunday is April 4 and the Mosaic Passover period is March 27-April 4.
However, Easter is not the Mosaic Passover as Easter’s traditions and celebratory elements do not align with the Mosaic Passover in form or time.
Eastertime is sometimes used to refer to the multiplicity of celebratory days (e.g., Palm Sunday, Good Friday) surrounding Easter Sunday.
For some, this Eastertime period begins on the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday, forming a seven day feast/celebration period similar to but not the same as the seven day feast of unleavened bread. One major difference is that the celebration ends on Easter Sunday instead of the celebration beginning on Passover Day.
Some like the Catholics extend the celebration for some weeks after Easter Sunday. A quote from the USA Conference of Catholic Bishops (USACCB) website follows:
“Easter is the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost. It is characterized, above all, by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death, expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia! All faith flows from faith in the resurrection: “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, is your faith.” (1 Cor 15:14)”
USCCB also says:
“The word “Easter” comes from Old English, meaning simply the “East.” The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth and hope, is a symbol for the Christian of the rising Christ, who is the true Light of the world.”
Eastertime is the time frame in which the worldwide body of Christ celebrate in special ways the events surrounding the crucifixion, blood shedding, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That Jesus Christ through whom crucifixion including shed blood we have forgiveness of sins, redemption, and salvation unto eternal life similar to way the lamb was slain and his blood was the key to the death angel passing over the Israelites (Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Cor 5:7-8; John 1:29).
Of course, there are some traditions that have arisen that commercialize and take away from the purpose of the celebration; some of which should be discarded. Yet, the existence of improper elements of the celebration does not invalidate proper celebration any more than someone showing up drunk and acting up at a family reunion invalidates the family reunion.
Some begin this celebration with Good Friday on the Friday prior to Easter Sunday to celebrate the death and burial of Jesus. Some even begin the celebration prior to Good Friday with such practices as Palm Sunday, Lent, etc. The idea of the Easter period is to celebrate the crucifixion death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
One might view the period Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday as the period defining Christ as the Christian Passover (1 Cor 5:7-8) corresponding to the Mosaic Passover defined by the arrival of the lamb, its slaughter, blood application, and exit from Egypt to new life. In this sense Easter Sunday represents the Christians exit from Satan’s grip unto the eternal life in Christ Jesus.
The following describes the Catholic tradition regarding events surrounding Easter Sunday as Catholics seemingly have the extensive celebrations surrounding Easter Sunday. These events begin on Ash Wednesday and ends on Pentecost Sunday. These events span a period of time that approximates 100 days depending on the year. For example for 2020 Ash Wednesday begins on February 26 and Pentecost Sunday is on May 31 for a total of 95 days.
Key Events are outlined below:
Ash Wednesday (Approximately 40 Days Before Easter Sunday)
Lent (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday)
Palm Sunday (Sunday Before Easter Sunday)
Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday)
Holy/Maundy Thursday (Thursday Before Easter Sunday)
Good Friday (Friday Before Easter)
(All Weekdays from here until Pentecost are now called Easter Weekdays)
2nd – 6th Sunday of Easter (5 Sundays After Easter Sunday)
The Ascension of Christ
Pentecost Sunday (Approximately 50 Days after Easter Sunday)
Ash Wednesday – remembrance that all have sinned, need for contrition and repentance, and are dust to which we shall return.
Lent – a period of prayer, fasting from food and festivities, and other self denial to include giving of one’s time, talent, and treasures especially to the have-nots. It lasts approximately 40 days.
Palm Sunday – Celebrates Jesus entrance into Jerusalem right before his arrest and crucifixion.
Maundy Thursday – Celebrates Christ last meal, his washing of his disciples feet, and his command to his disciples to love one another.
Good Friday – Time of Christ crucifixion, death, and shedding of blood.
Protestants generally focus on Easter Sunday only with some including focus on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
Indeed the Christian Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday period generally overlaps the Jewish Passover period. For example consider years 2019-2021 as shown below:
2019: Passover: April 19-27; Palm Sunday: April 14; Easter: April 21
2020: Passover: April 8-16; Palm Sunday: April 5; Easter: April 12
2021: Passover: March 27 – April 4; Palm Sunday: March 28; Easter: April 4
Given that Christians are in a sense a part of spiritual Israel though not all Christians are a part of biological Israel, it is appropriate with weight though not binding to recognize and remember as part of the Easter celebration the Jews deliverance as memorialized in Exodus 12:13-14, 24.
The Bible does not give the exact date of Jesus death in terms of our calendar. The exact date does not matter. When we celebrate does not matter so long as we come as close as possible to what the Bible says. What we call that celebration does not matter as long as we understand what the word Easter means to the Christian community.
See my article entitled The Words Easter and Passover for more information on the word Easter as translated in the KJV (Acts 12:4).
To God Be the Glory!