Why Easter?
Keith McFarren
February 18, 2024
Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24
As Christians, we are known as an Easter people.  We like Easter bunnies and Easter eggs.Chocolate Easter bunnies, solid chocolate, not the hollow ones.  But that’s not why we’re known as Easter people.  We’re known as Easter people because our Christian ancestors realized the just how important Easter was, how important the Resurrection of Jesus was, so they developed a season of preparation for it…a season that we call Lent.  
Lent is a season within the United Methodist Church and all Christian churches knownfor innerself evaluation andfor repentance as well as a time for study anddevotion.  For over fifteen hundred years we have used this season called Lentto prepare our hearts for the important day that we call Easter.
    Easter is an answer to a very important, often asked question.As a matter of fact, it is such a dramatic, earthshaking answer that for over 2,000 years artists of every kind have been trying to portray its significance through all kinds of music, throughgraphic art that ranges from coloring books to priceless paintings hanging in art museums throughout the world, to poets and to playwrights.Easter’s answer has been documented in thousands of ways.  And of course, no one can even come close to guessing the number of sermons that have been preached on Easter Sunday.
    So,if Easter is such a monumental answer…what must the question be?It sounds a lot like the game show Jeopardy doesn’t it?  We have the answer but not the question.  So if we are given the answer…and the answer is Easter…what then is the question?
    To find the question we need to go way back in time…way backto the book of Genesis, to the first chapter, and into the Garden of Eden.Back to a time when the world was perfect.  The sun was always out…but it didn’t get too hot or too cold.  To a time when you didn’t have to mow your yard because the grass was always the same perfect length.  Back to a time when there were no herbicides because there were no weeds.  Back to a time when animals weren’t afraid of humans and humans weren’t afraid of animals.Nor did animal’s prey on one another (neither did humans for that matter).  In fact, the world was so good and so beautiful that God, the creator of all of this, smiledand “…looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way” (Genesis 1:31).
But here is where the story goes off on a tangent and gets kind of strange.  Not strange in that it’s hard to imagine, but strange becauseyou’ve seen it so many times in your own lifetime.  
Anyways,one day, in this big, beautiful, perfect world,something went terribly wrong.  One day, the Bible tells us, a serpent (a serpent we know as Satan) suggested to Adam and Eve (the ones who were the caretakers of this perfect place) that life could even be better than it already was.“Take my advice” the serpent said, “even though things are good now…things could be a whole lotbetter.”
And guess what?  Being gullible human beings, Adam and Eve believed the serpentand by listening to him and doing what he told them to do instead of what God told them to do,they blew it all…they blewa perfect world right out of the water…because in doing so they misused the one unique gift that God gave them – and that gift was the power of choice.
Soby listening to the serpent, who of course was Satan, and who of course, can dress up and look like anyone and talk in a very convincing manner, Adam and Eve started a terrible, terribleplague in the world, a life altering plague that theologians and philosophers and preachers all call sin.
And even this wouldn’t have been too bad, except that sin brought something else with itwhen it arrived and that something else is called consequences.
    John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, believed that Adam was a perfect man before he ate the fruit.  He bore the complete image of God.  But when he ate the forbidden fruit, something happened to him.  When he ate the forbidden fruit, Wesley suggests thatit is as though the image of God was radically damaged.  
The moral aspects of God’s image were lost.  
The natural aspects of God’s image were scarred but not destroyed.
Over all, humanity retained some degree of rationality, and emotion, and will, but because the moral and natural aspects of God’s imagewere all severely damaged and scarred, they helped to increase the power of sin.
    In short, Wesley says, “The glory [of God]departed from [man]. Intimacy between God and man was gone.  Separation was the result.  Spiritual sickness unto death was [now] the [new] condition” (Steve Harper, John Wesley’s Message for Today, Zondervan Publishing, 1983, p. 30).
    Wesley’s thinking in all of this seems to go against what a lot of people think today.  Many people today aren’t really concerned about sin.  People todaytry to explain sinfrom a philosophical standpoint, saying that it is nothing more than “just simple mistake” or by pointing out that, “Everybody’s doing it, or Oh, well, nobody’s perfect.”
It’s easy to get used to our own sins; we learn to live with them because they really aren’t that bad.  All you have to do is read the newspaper or watch TV or look on social media and you’ll find that other people have committed sins worse than ours.  
But what about when our sinsbegin to get out of hand?  What about when theystart to multiply and one sin becomes two and two becomes four and four become sixteen and exponentially on down the line?What about when the little ones start to grow and become bigger ones?  What about when our sins start tomultiply and theybegin to affect our physical and mental and spiritualhealth?  What happens when our sinfulness begins to affect our family and our career and our own wellbeing and self-respect?
    There are all sorts of consequences for our sinsbut the greatest consequenceis death.You remember what God said – “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
So, death entered into the worldand all of a sudden,it’s running rampant.Suddenly we read that Cain killed his brother Abel and then there is the story of the flood that killed everyone and everything except those on the ark that Noah built.And if you read Genesis 5 you will find what we might call the first obituaries ever written as we read the names of various people,some biographical information about them, how long they lived and it always ends with the words “and then he died.”
So this was/is the problem.  Sin came into the world as a result of man’s disobedience to God…and because of sin and its consequences…death came knocking at our door…yours and mine…and the worst part about dying is that we have to live with it all our lives.  Watchingfamily and friends die is one thing…but eventually the time comes when we have to face it ourselves because death is a part of life.
    This is the situation we’re faced with as human beings…the only thing we know for sure when we are born is that someday, because of what happened with Satan in the Garden, we are going to die.  We don’t knowhow and we don’t knowwhen but we all know the outcome.  No matter how successful you are, no matter how much you have accumulated or anything else you can think of that might exclude you, you will never become an exception to the rule.
But there is more to this dreadful sounding story and it all goes back to that day in Bethany, a little village east of the Jordan River, when John the Baptist introduced a man named Jesus by declaring, “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
    Up until this time a lamb was sacrificed every morning and every evening in the Temple for the forgiveness of the people’s sins.But suddenly we have among us this guy named Jesus whom Isaiah prophesied would someday be led to the slaughter like a lamb (Isaiah 53:7).  
    We know Isaiah’s prophesy came true and that Jesus was crucified.  But if that was the end of the story, if the story ended with Jesus’ death, it would seem as if sin had not only won the battlebut it also won the war since death even defeated Jesus the Son of God.
But wait!  There is more to the story.  This is where Easter comes in.This is what Easter is all about because Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus who, three days earlier was crucified, which points to the fact that not only has Satan’s evil power of sin been broken but the power of death been defeated.
Let’s face it, Adam and Eve’s decision to go against God’s wisheswas life changing for all mankind.  After all, their choice to go against God, their choice to sin, didn’t just affect them…it affected all of us as well.“…the disease of sin,” Wesley writes, “has spread itself over the whole man, leaving no part uninfected” (Wesley’s Message for Today p. 30).
But Jesus came, we’re told in the second chapter of Hebrews,and thatonly by his death and his resurrection “could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:15).
So, Easteris the answer.  It is the answer to the scariest, most profound, most often asked, most perplexing, most hopeless question ever asked by mankind: “What can be done about death?”
The answer to that question is the victory that we call Easter… and because of this victory we, as Christians, are delivered from the irrational, yet ever present fear of death.  Christ’s death and resurrection have set us free from the unknown…and death has been overcome and defeated…and because death has been overcome and defeated…we have nothing to fear because those who believe in Easter have been given hope for the future.