While the secular world is focused on chocolate Easter bunnies, colorful baskets, and marshmallow eggs, it is easy to forget that, in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago, the first Easter Sunday changed the course of human history. Regardless of whether you believe that an itinerant rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday, He has touched your life, in more ways than you probably realize.
You may take umbrage at that statement if you are a non-believer or practice a faith besides Christianity. What is indisputable, however, is that for centuries the development of Western civilization, including the exploration leading to the discovery of the New World, was in its genesis motivated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the remarkable events in the life of Christ have also touched Africa, Asia, and Oceania and explain why Christianity is the world’s largest religion, claimed, in one form or another, by nearly three-tenths of the world’s inhabitants.
As Christians prepare to begin celebrating Easter this evening, it is instructive to remember that Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua) would have been just another forgotten Jewish victim of Roman persecution if not for His resurrection. The Shroud of Turin is, in the view of millions, compelling physical evidence of it.
After Christ’s resurrection, He walked the earth for 40 days. On occasions when He gathered with His disciples, He initiated three world-changing events:
He breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
He reaffirmed that Peter was His chosen leader, commanding him to “feed my lambs” and “sheep” (John 21:15–18).
And, on day 40, just before ascending into heaven, He preached the Great Commission, as it has come to be known (Matthew 28:18–20):
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Over time, the teachings of Christ — most notably about love, compassion, personal responsibility, and forgiveness, virtues that those who became known as Christians sought to exemplify — led to developments in democracy, capitalism, and the moral framework of civil society, all of which rose from the Judeo-Christian foundation of belief in God, the rule of law, and the precept to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Christianity has fostered art, music, architecture, literature, printing, medicine, science, schools, the calendar, charitable organizations, exploration, kingdoms, and empires.
The most basic tenet of Christianity that inspires and motivates men and women to this very day was articulated well by a most unlikely, and unworthy, Christian apologist, Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France and conqueror of much of Europe: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His Empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him.”
And so millions have died for Him, as perhaps hundreds are doing in the Middle East at this very moment. A succession of events culminating in Easter Sunday demonstrates that Christ represents the greatest power in the universe. Christians know that we will be with Jesus for eternity and that He died for our sins.
Many of us have experienced His power firsthand. He has reached down and provided us with comfort, hope, healing, opportunity, and resources in our darkest hours. His love inspires us to glorify Him in our work and in all that we do. We have seen Him work miracles in our own lives and in the lives of those we love. We know in our hearts and minds that He is with us always, “to the very end of the age.”
In view of Christ’s resurrection, and because I was born and raised Jewish before converting to Christianity in 1975, I have always been fascinated by a supernatural incident that happened in the Jerusalem Temple on Good Friday. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the curtain in the temple shielding the Ark of the Covenant was “torn in two from top to bottom” the moment that Christ died on the cross (Mark 15:38). The curtain was what separated man from the Holy of Holies, the seat of God. To the Jews of Jesus’s time, it was the most sacred spot on earth.
The power of Christ’s death tearing the curtain in two signified the opening of a direct passageway to heaven, forever ending any separation between God and man. The torn curtain was also the symbolic beginning of Christ’s personal relationship with His followers, marking a lasting human connection between heaven and earth.
It meant that Christ, through the power of His Holy Spirit, would inspire mankind to great heights. The torn curtain and the Great Commission are the two theological underpinnings for Christ’s powerful influence on world civilization. It’s true whether we believe it or not.
This weekend we celebrate the greatest man in world history and commemorate His coming into glory, His revelation of His true identity through His death and resurrection. Jesus lives and walks with you today. You are free to acknowledge or ignore Him, but know that He sends His messengers to guide your path. (And if you want to make Him laugh, tell Him your plans for the future.)
For those who believe that Christ is the ruler of the universe, there is no greater power than the love He has for us (even if His love is not returned). And when our earthly days come to an end, He will reveal Himself to us. While we don’t know exactly what happens next, what we do know is that the love of Christ and His mercy will endure forever because, today, He is risen!
Amen, hallelujah, and Happy Easter.
— Myra Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign’s creative team and the 2008 McCain campaign’s ad council. E-mail her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter@MyraKAdams.