Easter or Firstfruits?

I hope everyone had a good Resurrection Weekend!  I know I did.  I was asked to teach a Bible class lesson on the Passover and I think those Christians were delighted to learn more about their Jewish roots.  I maintain that it’s impossible to truly understand the Lord’s Supper without first understanding the feast from which it was instituted, which is Passover.  Anyway, yesterday 2 billion Christians all celebrated the resurrection of Jesus.  It’s such a central concept to my faith that I really forgot how ridiculous it sounds until I was explaining it to my Friendspeak partner (Friendspeak is where we use the Bible to teach foreigners (mostly Chinese) who want to learn conversational English. Some are interested in Christianity, some are just in it for the language experience) It was an interesting experience trying to explain that, yes, I really do believe Jesus came back to life after being totally and completely dead.  And even more than that, I believe he’s coming back and that when he does I too will be made new with a new body just like Jesus, whether it’s while I’m still alive or after I’m dead.  Just like Jesus came back to life, so will I.  He was the first, and he’s promised the rest will follow, which brings me to the subject of this post.

The following is an article I wrote that was printed in several church bulletins over the weekend.  It was suggested to me that I repost it here. Enjoy.

Easter or Firstfruits?

Why do we hold to the traditions that we do? It’s a good question, one that men such as Stone and Campbell were asking in the 19th century and the result of their questions was what we now call the Church of Christ. So now ask yourself: Where did Easter come from? Strangely, for such a central Christian holiday, Easter is not mentioned in the Bible at all. It appears once in the KJV, but the Greek word there is really “pascha” (Passover) and was clearly included due to translational bias. So where did it come from then? It appears that the tradition of Easter itself comes right out of the Catholic church’s want to take over pagan holidays and make them Christian. One of the most celebrated holidays of the ancient world was the Vernal Equinox, in the Spring when the days and nights are close to the same length. The Canaanites would worship Asherah the fertility goddess and beg her to bring fertility to their crops and families in the coming season. In fact, the Assyrian word for the fertility goddess Asherah is “Easter”, a transliterated form of Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of fertility and the dawn. Even more disturbing is that Asherah’s symbols of fertility to those pagans were the egg and the bunny. Now you might ask, “Well, should we celebrate Easter at all?” and the answer is definitely “Yes!” because the power behind the Gospel, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:12-19, is that Christ has indeed risen from the dead, and it happened on Sunday after Passover. So we should celebrate it for certain, but perhaps with some mindful changes from the scripture. As it turns out, there was a feast instituted by God that was on the same day Jesus rose from the dead, the Feast of Firstfruits. In Leviticus 23 God instructs the Israelites to bring to God the very first of their ripening spring harvest as a sacrifice to God. This was to occur the day after the first Sabbath after Passover, or as we might say today, Sunday after Passover, which today is called Easter. But why is this significant? The idea behind the Feast of Firstfruits is that if we give God what little we have now, He will provide the rest. It is the same with Jesus! Jesus has risen from the dead and the power of death has been broken. By raising Jesus on the Feast of Firstfruits, God has said clearly to us today that Jesus is the first, and He promises the rest (you and I) will follow in the coming resurrection! That’s definitely something worth celebrating! Happy Firstfruits.

Peace to you,

James

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