Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those people who believes in Christian supremacy. I am okay with Judaism, I had maybe one Muslim friend in college, I have known Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. This is not about how Christianity is the only right way, and everyone is doomed to hellfire. Let’s toss that one out right away.
Nor is it about that we must all become Christians to live upright righteous moral lives. I wanna toss this out too. Let me tell a bit about myself. I’m odd. I don’t bother saying otherwise. Roughly half of my life nowadays, I shave my face, neck, arms, upper chest (lower doesn’t need), legs, and pretty much whatever else smooth, apply makeup, and go to work in heels and everything else. I’m genderfluid. No, I do not want a sex change, and yes that is my real hair. I also spend an inordinate amount of time game programming and writing, and not nearly enough dating. I wrote my own religious text, designed two video games, and I am currently designing my own D&D style game called New Gaia. I live at home with my parents. My life is a mess. But one thing I know is that Jesus doesn’t need us to all live under morality, or even to become Christians. Remember, Jesus was a Jew, trying only to reform Judaism. Not make a cult.
Nor is it about how atheism is a horrible belief system. I’m gonna toss that out too. Almost, I will however talk about something that troubles me, though. The “free thinker” mentality.
Statistically, being an atheist does not make you a free thinker. Oh, sure, you see these huge amounts of Christians in surveys. But, when it actually comes down to it, most of these fall into two categories: secular Christians and nominal Christians. Nominal means “in name only”, the point being that maybe they were raised in the church as a child, and maybe they attend for Christmas and Easter. Next, let’s include some regular attendants here, even ones that come across as super-religious. These people, however, are our secular Christians. Ultimately, they are like the old Jews (today’s Jews are better than this, we mean the Pharisees). The morality, the letter of the law, is all important. Being a nice person. But God doesn’t do “nice person discounts”, what God cares about is neither reputation, nor the appearance of kindness (I’ve met some real pieces of work who were all about teaching their kids politeness), God cares about grace, and the truth. Looked at it this way, an atheist is not a free thinker at all, they are following along with mainstream secular society. A society that cares about how much one makes, being a good enough person, following along with what is politically popular. This is the majority opinion, not a free thought.
But I’m also not here to talk statistics. What is the title again? Why Easter Matters.
First, however, I’m gonna go off track, yet again. Why does Jesus matter? Is it because Christianity matters? No, Christianity was religion that started by his followers, not by Jesus, who mainly wanted them to share a way to a better life. It kinda went off the rails by having a bunch of people basically redefine it (most notably the Catholics). As far as I am concerned, you could be a Jew or a Hindu or a Shinto or an Alawite, and still be following Jesus. Jesus matters, because of why he appeared in history. This was a time when Israel was ruled by the state of Rome, and by the chief priests and Pharisees. So, a theocracy that basically delineated one’s entire life according to arbitrary laws, and an authoritarian polytheistic (yet largely secular) regime.
Why does Easter matter? And yes, I know I have gone on tangents, but hopefully some of you have heard so far. Let me give a scenario for the next 20 years. You’ll probably think it sounds too science fiction, but you don’t understand what I’ve already been seeing in the works.
In 20 years, you, an atheist, who have consistently voted for your leaders. Atheism has another issue, when you don’t see a higher power as the source of authority in your life, you basically venerate leaders and great people. As a result, we have voted for the strongest and those who promised the most. One by one, they led the nation to what they wanted, and as a result the nation is now a mix of theocracy and liberal totalitarian statism. Essentially, Sweden today, but 100 times more so. All people are carefully watched by the internet, by cameras everywhere, even examining their eyes for possible oddity in their personality and having them brought in for questioning about possibly thinking (nvm, doing, even having an idea) the wrong way about something. They tell you that if you don’t work hard enough, you can be punished. They tell you if you happened to be born as an undesirable thing, like say a privileged white male, you can be punished. And heaven help you, if you say something politically incorrect.
Did you notice? This is the same climate as Jesus was born in. A theocracy with secular authoritarian underpinnings. Where people are slaves, and are threatened with death at every turn. This isn’t “free thinking” this mentality led to slavery. But then something weird happens. You see, a group of people decide that they aren’t taking their daily fluoride pills. They aren’t having their retinal personality scan. They don’t seem to care that cameras everywhere reporting on their possibly “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic” behavior (to quote today’s meaningless parlance that seems to have nothing to do with the actual meaning of those words), they are living their lives on their terms and actually having fun. They are dating, and doing all kinds of unpopular fun things. Stop having fun! We need to arrest these subversives now. So they round them all up, to shoot them by firing squad. Only… they can’t be killed. At all. They try poison next. No effect. They try blowing them up, and it’s like their body is super-solid. They nuke the town. These people break out, and continue to do their thing. Nothing this state can do can make them afraid anymore.
We see Christianity as a threat because we see it as an end to freedom. But actually, God’s “rule” is not rule at all. The real threat is the state. The state that wants to kill our happiness with fear and with taxes. Who wants to cover the reality of the resurrection.
We hear a load about the passion, but we tend not to focus on this version of the resurrection as a whole story.
The Death of Jesus
(Psalm 22:1-31; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)
45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,e lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”f
47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He is calling Elijah.” 48One of them quickly ran and brought a sponge. He filled it with vinegar, put it on a reed, and held it up for Jesus to drink.
49But the others said, “Leave Him alone. Let us see if Elijah comes to save Him.”
50When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. 51At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split. 52The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.
54When the centurion and those with him guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
55And many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to Him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
The Burial of Jesus
(Isaiah 53:9-12; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)
57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who himself was a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut into the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The Guards at the Tomb
62The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and Pharisees assembled before Pilate. 63“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was alive that deceiver said ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64So give the order that the tomb be secured until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him away and tell the people He has risen from the dead. And this last deception would be worse than the first.”
65“You have a guard,” Pilate said. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66So they went and secured the tomb by sealing the stone and posting the guard. The Resurrection
(Psalm 16:1-11; Psalm 49:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-9)
1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2Suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled away the stone, and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4The guards trembled in fear of him and became like dead men.
5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; He has risen, just as He said! Come, see the place where He lay.a 7Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ See, I have told you.”
8So they hurried away from the tomb in fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples. 9Suddenlyb Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” They came to Him, grasped His feet, and worshiped Him. 10“Do not be afraid,” said Jesus. “Go, tell My brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see Me.”
The Report of the Guards
11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12After the chief priests had met with the elders and formed a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money 13and instructed them: “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole His body while we were asleep.’ 14If this report reaches the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
15So the guards took the money and did as they were instructed. And this account has been circulated among the Jews to this very day.
This is why Easter is important. Not because Jesus comes again to end your freedom. But because Jesus comes end to end those who will take your freedom. Those who will resort to lying to keep you enslaved.