When I was in elementary school, my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Lyons, held a class activity during Holy Week that traumatized me for life. She called each of us, individually, to the front of the room and asked us an apparently simple—but loaded—question: What does Easter mean to you?
Yikes! For an immigrant kid from Taiwan who had rarely been to church, the prospect of making a fool of myself discussing spiritual issues in front of my American peers nearly had me wetting my pants.
I remember sitting agonizingly at my desk waiting my turn. As the students with names beginning with letters at the front of the alphabet took their spot at the podium, I listened intently for something I could plagiarize. However, statements like “Jesus died for us” and “the blood of the lamb” made absolutely no sense to me. It’s as if they were speaking a completely foreign language.
Having no way to fake it, I hesitatingly made my way up toward the teacher’s desk before my classmates’ laser-focused eyes. To make matters worse, Mrs. Lyons prefaced my impending humiliation by enthusiastically exclaiming, “I can’t wait to hear John’s answer. He’s from China. Class, listen up. This should be quite interesting.”
After all these years, just replaying this horrific unfolding horror scene still sends shivers up my spine. Much of it remains repressed for my personal self-preservation, but I do remember mumbling something about hunting for eggs and getting gifts from a rabbit.
Immediately afterward, the incredulous looks on my classmates’ faces and the guffaws that followed my “answer from hell” shamed me to no end. Red-faced and nearly in tears, I was exposed on the spot as a heathen among believers—a true alien from another land who knew nothing about Jesus, Chevrolet, or the American way. Mrs. Lyons politely dismissed me, but I knew my reputation was toast.
Well, over a half a century later, I’m now looking to redeem myself.
In the midst of another Holy Week, it’s time for all of us to ponder the question: What does Easter mean to us?
Surprisingly, it’s still a difficult question to answer. Even after years of studying the Bible, listening to countless sermons, and examining church doctrine, I’m not sure I could give a better response than my eight-year-old self caught in the crossfire.
Ask me to explain the significance of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, and you’ll probably get an incoherent word salad of religious gobbledygook. Quiz me about what goes on at a Seder meal or Tenebrae services, and my primitive answers would no doubt make you cringe—just like Mrs. Lyons when I described my encounter with the Easter Bunny.
Here’s the one thing, however, I now know about Easter that I didn’t know back then. On this coming Easter Sunday—and every upcoming Easter Sunday—believers like myself will acknowledge and commemorate the moment that Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior, rose from the grave and conquered death.
That’s important to know. In fact, as Christians, that may be THE most important thing to acknowledge about our faith. Everything else about Jesus—his miracles, his ministry, his morality—they all become secondary by comparison. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
It’s only through the resurrection—through the conquering of death—that our faith has significance. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
Because Jesus conquered death, those of us who believe have now been given eternal life. That magnanimous act is still hard for me to comprehend. There’s a lot about grace and truth that goes into the explanation behind it. We can talk about that some more at another time. But given my cultural background, I’ve eagerly accepted that precious gift. I hope you have too.
Remember, regardless of your pedigree or heritage, that same gift of salvation is free to all. I promise it’s the best gift you’ll ever receive from anybody—rabbit or otherwise.
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.