Ricky Kirk blogs at Panta ta Ethne, and is a pastor is South Point, Ohio.
I recently linked an article from the Resurgence on my facebook page on how the resurrection of Jesus Christ has become associated with bunnies and eggs. There were a couple of comments, but I chose not to address them on facebook (it is difficult to fully speak to an issue in a brief comment thread). Today I read another great article from the Resurgence responding to an article from the Washington Post’s On Faith page by guest writer Erik Reece. His post, titled ‘Save Jesus, Ignore Easter‘, explores his view of following Jesus’ moral teachings rather than focusing on His death and resurrection. It also briefly (very briefly) describes how he left the church and her teachings (while promoing his new book, I might add).
This week I have been reflecting on the last week of Jesus’ life. I believe Jesus willingly, sacrificially, and obediently suffered, died, and was buried. I believe the power of God raised Him from the dead. I believe this is one of the most important truths in all of scripture. I believe this based on the truth of God’s word.
 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV)
So what should we do with Easter? In the words of Reece ‘American Christianity has historically been focused so obsessively on the Nicene Creed — which says Jesus was the son of God, who was crucified for our sins and rose from the grave three days later — that it never made much room for the actual teachings of this radical Jewish street preacher.’
I am not quite sure how ‘focused’ American Christianity is on the Nicene Creed. I have attended Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, and Independent churches before, and never once did any of them recite the Nicene Creed. In fact, I wonder if the churches that Reece describes his father and grandfather preaching in ever recited the Nicene Creed? The Nicene Creed was written primarily to affirm the doctrine of the deity of Jesus and refute a false teaching by Arius. It is not meant to summarize ‘the actual teachings of this radical Jewish street preacher.’
Regardless, looking at the Nicene Creed, or any creed for that matter, rather than going directly to the gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the New Testament letters for an understanding of the resurrection is erroneous at best. When one reads those accounts, the teachings of Jesus do stand in stark contrast to the religious leaders of the day. His teachings are radical. The call to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute you, to live in submission and obedience to the Father are revolutionary.
I agree there has been a large gulf between the Kingdom of God/heaven as future and the Kingdom of God/heaven as now. Many live only for heaven, never living the gospel each day. But that does not negate the reality of the resurrection, nor the call for submission and obedience now. Rather than looking at those who have failed in live up to our perceived expectations of faith, we should be ‘ looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)’
Reece states ‘This is why I’m against Easter. It celebrates the death of Jesus nearly to the exclusion of his life.’ There is a reason that many believers observe Good Friday services, reflecting on the death of Jesus. But when Sunday comes, there is joyous celebration and exultation of Jesus the Resurrected King! The observance of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday is not celebrating the death of Jesus to the exclusion of His life. In fact, it is the celebration of resurrection life! This is why the Apostle Paul states it is ‘of first importance.’
What about eggs, bunnies and baskets? I have two daughters, and they will get an Easter basket with candy and such in it. Is this evil, wrong, morally apprehensive? I don’t think so, I am not convicted of it. My girls are not reading the tales of the Easter Bunny and placing their faith in such stories. They read about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus! As a believer, if you are not teaching your children the truth of Resurrection Sunday (Easter) then shame on you! We don’t need to save Jesus from Easter, for Jesus is the one who saves us, from the penalty of sin. We don’t need to ignore Easter and become staunch legalists instituting rules and regulations on others.
What should we do with Easter? As believers, we must be bold in our proclamation that our celebration is focused on the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is of first importance! Everything else is just fluffy bunnies…