Sunday School Today: Easter, Christianity and Other Religions

The Biblical View of Easter

The word Easter is of Saxon origin, “Eastra,” refers to the goddess of spring, in whose honor sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the 8th century, Anglo-Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

The Greek word Pascha, and the Hebrew word Pesah, mean “the Passover,” and are so translated in every passage except in Acts 12:4, where it is translated “Easter.” In the earlier English versions of the Bible the word “Easter” had been frequently used as the translation of Pascha. But in the latest revisions the word “Passover” was substituted in all passages but the one in Acts 12:4 (referring to the Passover Festival). The event represented by Easter is unique to Christianity.

Most religions in the world today follow dead leaders. Buddhism is a religion that follows the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the teacher and founder of the Buddhist religion. His followers called him Gautama, or Gautama Buddha, just as Christians say Jesus Christ. The word Buddha is found in Sanskrit and means “to become enlightened,” or “to become wise.” Gautama Buddha died about 483 BC. There are no stories about him rising from the dead, and he is still dead; therefore, the Buddhist religion is based on a dead founder. Hinduism (the religion of India) has no historical founder. Most of their beliefs are based on tradition. There isn’t anyone they can turn to and say, “We pattern our life after him.” Hinduism has no foundation apart from the traditions and logic of man. Confucianism is a religion that came from the teachings of Confucius. He lived in China from 551 to 479 BC. He died, and there are no stories about him rising from the dead, and he, too, is still dead; therefore, Confucianism is based on a dead founder. All religions in the world today are based on dead founders, or the traditions, logic and philosophies of man. All of these religions have a very weak foundation.

Christianity, on the other hand, is not a religion. Man in his arrogance and ignorance looks at Christianity as just another religion. The one thing that makes Christianity unique is that its founder and leader is alive. He was dead, but He rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation fact on which Christianity is built. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” The proof that Jesus was the Son of God depended on His resurrection from the dead. Five different times Jesus declared that He would be crucified and buried and on the third day would rise from the dead: Matthew 12:39-40; 20:17-19; 26:30-32; Luke 18:31-33; John 2:19-22. If He had not risen from the dead we would not have known whether He was who He claimed to be. But the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:4 that He was “established (demonstrated) as the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness.” There can be no question as to Jesus’ death on the cross. All four gospel writers tell us that Jesus “gave up His spirit.” Death did not conquer Him—He gave up His life of His own accord. Jesus said in John 10:17-18; “This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” There were many witnesses who saw Jesus die on the cross, but there were no eyewitnesses to His resurrection—that is, no one actually saw Him come out of the tomb; however, most of the greatest legal minds of the centuries who have weighed the evidence concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ have pronounced it to be flawless.

Jesus Is Alive

Matthew 28:1-15

The story the chief priests and elders made up to discredit the disciples’ story that Jesus had risen from the dead had a lot of loopholes in it.  First of all, it meant death for a Roman soldier to fall asleep while on duty, and if they were all asleep, how could they know whether Jesus’ body was stolen or arose, and, if stolen, who stole it? Breaking the seal on the tomb and rolling back the stone would have been very noisy work. The noise would have aroused the soldiers. Secondly, it would have been next to impossible to carry a body out of town without someone seeing it. If the chief priests had really believed that Jesus’ body had been stolen, they would have offered a reward for its recovery. The recovery of the body would have set at rest for all time the question of Jesus’ resurrection. But they did not because they believed a miracle had taken place.

The Risen Savior

Luke 24:36-49

Jesus was referring to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that occurred on the day of Pentecost just 10 days after His ascension to heaven. That is recorded in Acts chapter two.

Copyright © 2000 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone may reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author’s written consent.

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