The Meaning of Easter

Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What does this mean? Why is it important to Christians? Why should anyone care?

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Clearly something about Jesus of Nazareth aroused the interest of his contemporaries. Many of them either thought enough of him that subsequent followers have acclaimed him as God, and others thought he was dangerous enough to be executed.

In his life and in his death, Jesus proclaimed a new world order. He was not the first to do so, and nor was he the last. His message was a development of that preached by the great prophets of Old Testament Israel, the proclamation that God would inaugurate a new period in which the people of Israel would no longer be oppressed and ruled over by pagan foreigners, and in which there would be justice and peace for all.

Jesus’s message was that this time was at hand, indeed that it was among us, right here and now.

Because the rule of justice and peace, the rule of God, depends on the individual decisions of each one of us. Each person can decide to live in this kingdom, to put at the centre of their life their relationship with other people, with the created world. And as more people declare themselves to be citizens of this kingdom, so the kingdom is brought about.

Closely linked with this was Jesus’s promise of forgiveness of sins – freedom from guilt in the same way that we free others from the wrongs that they have done to us.

See Jesus’s proclamation of the kingdom of God.

To the rulers of Jesus’s day this message was unwelcome, misunderstood and revolutionary. It was unwelcome for the Jewish leaders because they had a comfortable position of power and a working relationship with the Roman occupier. Their position with the Jewish people relied on the sacrifices made at the Temple which were believed to be necessary to obtain divine forgiveness. They understood that in order to preserve their Jewish way of life there needed to be an accommodation with the Romans. In particular they needed to minimize any suggestion of a revolt against Roman rule, which might lead to the Romans destroying the Temple, exiling the Jewish people, and destroying their historic position and their power. And so the Jewish leaders. the Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem, conspired to have Jesus handed over to the Romans for execution as a rebel.

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Simon Kershaw <>
25 February 2004