I didn't have a chance to finish this and post it yesterday. But I wanted to address Easter as Christians know and celebrate it.
Easter is believed by many to have originated as a pagan celebration of the Babylonian goddess of fertility. However, that claim is not well documented. For 2000 years it has been celebrated by Christians as Resurrection Day - the day Jesus rose from the grave as had been prophesied in the Old Testament and by Jesus Himself. But there are things I learned in church yesterday that I either didn't know or didn't remember. I want to discuss some of those.
From the time Adam and Eve were expelled by God from the Garden of Eden for eating of the Tree of Life and separating themselves from God, to the time of Jesus' death, animals, particularly lambs, were sacrificed to God as atonement for sin. In fact, God Himself killed sacrificed the first animal(s) to clothe Adam and Eve after expulsion from the garden.
Their son, Abel, raised sheep, not necessarily for food but for clothing and sacrifice.
It is no coincidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds of Bethlehem raised sheep. But they didn't raise just any sheep. They raised sacrificial lambs for use by the temple in Jerusalem. When the lambs were born the shepherds wrapped their legs in swaddling clothes, strips of cloth wrapped around their legs and feet so their feet would never actually come in contact with the ground and they would be pure for sacrifice.
Why is this important and what does it have to do with Easter, you ask? Jesus came to Earth as the Lamb of God - to sacrifice Himself for the sins of all mankind. The Bible says when Jesus was born He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger - just like the sacrificial lambs raised by the shepherds right there in Bethlehem.
Again - how does this relate to Easter?
The Lamb of God was condemned to death and was crucified on Friday. According to the Torah, twice a day, every day in the temple, unblemished, male sacrificial lambs were killed in the sanctuary. These daily sacrifices were called the Tamid. They were offered at 9am and 3pm every day of the week.
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was nailed to the cross and hung at the third hour, which in Biblical days was 9am. That same Gospel says Jesus uttered his last words and took His last breath in the sixth hour, 3pm.
So the Lamb of God was offered for sacrifice at the same time (9am) as the first Tamid lamb and died at the same time (3pm) as the second. Coincidence? I think not.
Jesus was the perpetual sacrifice for the sins of the world, replacing the required animal sacrifices that, up until then, had been demanded by God.
Easter is the single, most important holiday for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Certainly Christmas is important. If Jesus had not been born on Earth He wouldn't have been here to die for our sins. But if He hadn't died for our sins and risen again He would have simply been a mortal man and not the Savior of the world.
Some denominations use the crucifix as their symbol of Jesus' sacrifice for us. Most, however, use the empty cross and the empty tomb instead, with the understanding that while Jesus did die for the sins of mankind, if He had not risen on the third day as promised His death would have been unremarkable.
How do we know He rose from the dead, one might ask? Simply put, the Bible documents His resurrection very well in all four Gospels. But if that's not good enough, no archaeologist, scientist, historian or any other has ever found His body. No one has ever been able to disprove the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and, in fact, Christians who know Him know the truth.
Easter is the celebration of the greatest sacrifice ever made by a man. It is a celebration of love like no other. It is the celebration of Jesus' fulfillment of His own words in John 15:13. "Greater love hath no man than this - that he lay down his life for his friends."