By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield
Pagan beliefs wrestle with Christ-centered beliefs, even more, today than during our parents’ generation. What will it be like for the next generation? Even the name Easter has a pagan connotation associated with it. How long will it take for the true meaning of Christ’s resurrection to be obliviated for pagan rituals?
Easter is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, called the “Paschal Full Moon,” which lands on or just after the spring equinox.
In the Western world, the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated on the first day of the week, Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead. So, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the 14th day of the month of Nisan. Nisan is related to the Hebrew name Nissan and means miracle.
Why was Easter named Easter? This comes from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. Some historians maintain that the word Easter derives from in albis, a Latin phrase that is plural of alba, or dawn, that became eostarum in Old High German.
However, that first Easter wasn’t heralded with the usual promenade of Easter bonnets and Chocolate bunnies. It wasn’t until the 2nd century that the observance of Easter was recorded. Most likely this was because Romans thought watching the fun of these religious zealots named Christians being killed in the coliseums was more thrilling than dressing in new duds for a holiday, they didn’t believe in.
Yesterday’s blog dealt with the meek and frightened Simon Peter and Christ’s disciples who hid in the upper room Easter Sunday (See yesterday’s blog) What caused the meek Christians like Simon Peter to become bold? What made the cowardly brave enough to face hungry lions? What change in Peter and the apostles caused everyone else to believe in Jesus Christ and lay down their lives willingly for their Christian beliefs?
The disciples died terrible deaths. John was imprisoned and died on the island of Patmos. Paul was bound in chains and later beheaded like John the Baptist. Peter was crucified and hung upside down.
In Acts 1 we are told Jesus remained with His disciples for forty days, after which time He was taken up to heaven. Jesus said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).
As the disciples gazed up into heaven, they watched a cloud receive Jesus out of their sight. Two men dressed in white apparel suddenly stood by their sides. They asked why they kept gazing up and explained Jesus would come back in like manner (Acts 1:9–11).
Walking back to Jerusalem, they went into the upper room where they were staying at the time. Peter led them in prayer. They waited. Nothing happened. Yet, a change had come over Peter that even the disciples noticed. They weren’t hiding from the Jewish leaders or Romans now—they were waiting on their Lord and Savior’s next move.
Peter, determined to do the will of Jesus, needed an apostle to take the place of Judas. Two men requested the position. Their surnames were Justus and Matthias. In Acts 1:24 the disciples prayed this prayer for guidance.
“You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell.” They cast their lots. The lot fell on Matthias, who now joined the other eleven apostles.
It wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost had fully come, when everyone was together, that a rushing mighty wind filled the whole house where they were sitting that Jesus’ prophetic word came true! “There appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3,4). Each apostle was given a language they used to spread the Good News far and wide. This was misinterpreted by the outside public, who promptly uttered, “They are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13).
On fire for the Lord God, Peter explained what happened to them was spoken of by the prophet Joel:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…I shall pour out my spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath; blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:17–21).
Peter boldly declared to all the house of Israel that God made this Jesus, “whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter told them to repent, and for everyone to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The disciples were granted the gift of healing. The lame walked; the blind now could see.
When the Romans commanded them not to teach in Christ’s name, Peter and the other apostles answered: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree” (Acts 5:27–30).
During Roman rule, because Christians denied Roman gods and refused to worship the emperor, they were accused of being atheists. Thus, they were accused of treason against the state. They were also accused of secret immoral worship practices.
In front of tens of thousands of people, around three thousand Christians were martyred in the Roman coliseums. Through persecutions, beheadings, sawings, stonings, crucifixions, and burnings at the stake, the death toll for Christians rose, but nothing could extinguish the flame of that first Pentecost or that first Easter. Jesus stepped out of that earthly tomb to give us mortal beings a heavenly mission and an eternal home with Him.
Yes, Easter has pagan symbols, but Jesus Christ conquered them all. All the devil’s schemes—and that includes sin, the grave, and hell—Jesus defeated through His resurrection on Easter Sunday. The grave couldn’t contain Him, and we will never realize true living without Him.
You can receive what Peter and these apostles received by repenting of your sins and asking Jesus Christ into your heart by faith, believing in Christ Jesus. His Holy Spirit will give you the power to say goodbye to your old self and follow Him.
Our mortal bodies can’t withstand the wiles of Satan—only Christ working through us can. He told the disciples to wait for His gift. This gift of the Holy Spirit is how to ensure the message of Easter is never lost! Every generation can be victorious over the devil’s schemes.
The angels told the disciples that Jesus would return the same way he left. So, the symbol of the trumpet, of the beautiful Easter lily—that flowering pure-white fragrance that sweetens your rooms on Easter—heralds the joy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And most importantly, Christ’s inevitable return to earth!
Can’t you just hear those trumpets now?
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An award-winning author, Catherine’s inspirational historical romances include Wilted Dandelions, her Destiny series Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny. Her newest book is Love's Final Sunrise. She has been published by Guideposts Books, CrossRiver Media, Revell Books, and Bethany House Publishers. See catherineulrichbrakefield.com