It is Easter time again! I love Easter, with its focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus. I also love the cultural things that spring up around Easter: hot cross buns, chocolate, family gatherings and the like. But it is worth briefly considering why we celebrate Easter together as a church family.
It might seem like a strange topic to consider. After all, it’s just what churches do, right? Every church I have had contact with has celebrated Easter in some way, whether with special services or outreach events or at least a sermon on the resurrection. It’s what we do.
But as soon as we say ‘it’s what we do’ we have appealed to tradition as our authority, which is not infallible or reliable. We need a firmer foundation than that.
Traditionally, churches in our tradition have not celebrated Easter or Christmas. Calvin didn’t celebrate these days in his church in Geneva. Churches pastored by the Puritans did not either. Why not? Because there is no command in the Scriptures telling us to. If we use the Scriptures as our guide, then we have no command to do it. We have descriptions of Jesus’ death and resurrection, sure. We have the Lord’s Supper which we are to regularly partake in because it is commanded, and that points us to the cross, sure. But an Easter celebration or church service? It’s not commanded.
The Reformers and Puritans had this approach in response to the very complicated church calendar from the Roman Catholic Church, which celebrated all kinds of things, many of them based on tradition and not Scripture.
So one way to approach this question is to say that there is nothing compelling us to have a special service on Good Friday. We don’t need to have a special celebration. We are not breaking God’s law if we don’t celebrate it.
However, I think we still have some good reasons to celebrate Easter as a church family. Let me just outline two.
One, it is a wonderful evangelistic opportunity. Most in our culture care nothing for Jesus or for his church. Yet some still want to come to church for a traditional reason, and when they do we want them to hear the gospel. In addition, many of our friends and family might be interested and perhaps more open to considering Christianity as we explain what Easter is and what it means. We have a state-sanctioned evangelistic opportunity, so it makes sense to take advantage of this.
Two, it is helpful for believers to be absolutely clear on the core of their faith. We learn much at church and I pray all churches explain the gospel clearly and regularly. But all believers need to know with clarity why Jesus died, what the resurrection means, and have confidence in these central truths. Often even Christians who have been in church circles a long time cannot confidently explain these things to others, and direct teaching on these areas ensures that believers hear, are encouraged, and can explain them well to others.
Easter is here for another year. How exciting it is to meet together and to speak directly about the death and resurrection of our Saviour and Lord!