Towers of rainbow-colored baskets, brimming with foil-wrapped chocolates and fluffy stuffed animals, line the aisles of big-box stores while famous movies of rabbits with cottontails dance across television screens. While delightful additions to Easter, the most important Christian holiday, traditions like these paint a different picture than Scripture does. What does the Bible say about Resurrection Day?
Resurrection Day was, and is, about the pain-filled, sacrificial death and miraculous regeneration of Jesus.
When is Resurrection Day in the Holy Week Calendar?
Resurrection Day is the final and most celebrated day of the Holy Week. Lesser-known days of holy week include:
Palm Sunday: The sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday recognizes Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Gathered to celebrate Passover, the crowds paid homage to Jesus as king, waving palm branches as he rode through the streets on a donkey (Mark 11:2-10). Days later, shouts of praise turned to calls for persecution.
Today, churches often engage children in Palm Sunday celebrations that include making and waving palm branches.
Maundy Thursday: Celebrated the Thursday before Easter, this day commemorates the last supper Christ and his disciples enjoyed together. It reminds us of His mandate, or mandatum (Latin), to “love one another” (John 13:34).
Good Friday: Perhaps the least celebrated of the days of Holy Week, Good Friday is often associated with pain and suffering. It reminds us of the cruelty of Christ’s crucifixion. But it is good (or holy) because through Christ’s death, those who believe are free. 1 Peter 3:18 comforts us with these words, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”
The solemnity of Good Friday services, often held in the evening, remind us of the terrible abuse and death Jesus experienced. Though our hearts should fill with gratitude at the Lord’s sacrifice and suffering, our thoughts must move beyond grief to blessing—to the final and momentous day of resurrection.
Resurrection Day: Also called Resurrection Sunday, this day celebrated one week after Palm Sunday. It represents the date of Christ’s miraculous resurrection from the dead and is the day upon which the entirety of Christianity hinges. As 1 Corinthians 15:17 explains, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” But we can our faith in Him is secure. For instance, God’s word confirms the disciples’ testimony with these 10 powerful prophecies Christ fulfilled.
What Happened Before Resurrection Day?
Even before Christ’s resurrection, God used traditional religious symbols to emphasize the message of Jesus’s victory on the cross. At the same time, some of Jerusalem’s religious leaders allied with the Roman government, while unknown disciples cast off fear and came out of hiding.
- The veil was torn. As Jesus exhaled one final ragged breath, the massive temple curtain that separated worshippers from God split from top to bottom. God’s divine gash split a sixty-foot-wide screen because Christ’s sacrifice eliminated the need for a priest to enter the Holy of Holies. Instead, Jesus provided a “new and living way” through “his body” to salvation. (Hebrews 10:19-20 NIV)
- The tomb was secured. Determined to quash the possibility of a Messianic return, the Jewish religious leaders approached Pilate. "Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive, that deceiver said, ‘After three days, I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day" (Matthew 27:63-64 NIV). Power-hungry and eager to maintain peace, Pilate acquiesced. Placing a guard of up to 50y men at Christ’s tomb—each soldier would be executed if he fell asleep, allowed anyone access, or proved negligent.
- Two men choose Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, private disciples of Christ, surrendered their reputations and braved loss of social position and possible death when they requested Christ’s body from the cross.
A form of punishment reserved for criminals, those executed on the cross usually remained for days. Removal for treason was rare and only then for family. Even before Resurrection Day, however, the tomb transformed the hearts of fearful men and women into faithful followers.
What Happened on Resurrection Day?
Overwhelmed by grief, the women closest to Christ—his mother, aunt, and a few others hurried to the tomb as soon as light edged over the horizon. Jesus deserved more than a forgotten burial in a borrowed tomb.
As they neared the vault, one of them asked, “Who will roll away the stone?” (Mark 16:3) Suddenly, the oils, perfumes, and other supplies lay scattered on the ground at the sight before them. The barrier had been removed, tossed aside like a child’s plaything.
Entering the tomb, an angel announced the good news. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here. See the place where they have laid Him.” (Mark 16:6 NKJV)
But Mary Magdalene and the other women believed graverobbers had taken Christ’s body. After they reported Christ’s body was missing, Peter and John rushed to the empty tomb. Only grave cloths and a folded handkerchief remained.
Though the disciples left, Mary remained in the garden—heartbroken. Weeping. Suddenly Christ spoke, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (John 20:15 NKJV)
Finally, Mary understood. Jesus, glorified, had risen. The Messiah had conquered death.
The disciples spoke in hushed tones, cramped in a room with their hearts racing “for fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19 NIV). “Recheck the doors,” one of them whispered. Unexpectedly, Jesus stood among them—flesh and blood. And as evening fell, Jesus commissioned the disciples—breathing life into them (John 20:19). The resurrected one raised those He loved to lasting hope.
Like the disciples, we who know Christ as Savior hold to the promise of eternal life. While Easter provides the opportunity to enjoy special traditions complete with baskets, bows, and bunnies, Resurrection Day offers more—an empty tomb and a risen Savior.
What Can We Learn from Resurrection Day?
There is so much we can learn from Resurrection Day, so many ways that it changed our lives. Here are three special things to consider on this Resurrection Day:
Resurrection Day was Intentional
Even from the first book of the Old Testament, the Godhead planned for Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Consider Genesis 3:15 (NIV), “…he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The word translated crush comes from the Hebrew word shuph, which also means to overwhelm.
While the Roman rulers, soldiers, and disciples believed death’s final strike overpowered Jesus on the cross, they did not understand the promise of resurrection day, which the Lord stated thousands of years in advance.
Yes, Christ endured the sting of death. Satan struck His heel. But Jesus chose the nails that He might crush the serpent’s head and overcome through the power of the resurrection (Revelation 1:18).
Resurrection Day was Only the Beginning
Imagine the horror. Someone you adore and, perhaps, nurtured from childhood kneels at the feet of two soldiers. Their arms arch and, suddenly, multi-flanged straps tipped with metal balls lash against the tender legs, back, and sides of the man you love. Delicate skin shreds like thin strands of thread as kidneys, liver, and lungs bleed. Suffer. Struggle.
This crime against Christ, witnessed by a broken mother, seemed senseless. Hopeless. The distraught disciples who followed Christ to the foot of the cross could not understand. Their horror would soon turn to happiness and sorrow to a celebration, for what appeared to be the end was only a beginning.
The beginning of what, you may ask? Of eternal life.
Scripture assures that Christ is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and that we who believe in Him as Lord and Savior will have eternal life.
Resurrection Day Leads to Relationship
In Paul’s letter to the Philippian’s, he wrote, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11 ESV)
Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells Christians, and we can live in a relationship with Jesus. In other words, we can know Him personally and walk with Him day by day through the mundane tasks of life.
Just as Jesus did with the disciples, He is with us as we laugh, weep, struggle, and minister in the assignments we are given while we live out Resurrection Day every day.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/rickschroeppel
Tammy Kennington is a writer and speaker familiar with the impact of trauma, chronic illness, and parenting in the hard places. Her heart is to lead women from hardship to hope. You can meet with Tammy at her blog www.tammykennington.com where she’ll send you her e-book, Moving from Pain to Peace-A Journey Toward Hope When the Past Holds You Captive.