Many people will awaken like the springtime all around us and make their annual appearance at an “Easter service” somewhere. Easter is not complete without a sunrise church service, so they will force themselves to rise with the Robins and be there somewhere. Many denominations (and some churches of Christ) will attempt to draw seasonal attendees with special festivities, an Easter sunrise service, a special Easter sermon and an Easter egg hunt to follow. How all of that will play out with the pandemic situation being what it is remains to be seen.
Should we or should we not observe an Easter celebration? Should we who preach mount the pulpit to proclaim the oftentimes expected “Easter sermon” on the resurrection of Jesus? And if a preacher does proclaim the resurrection of Jesus on that particular Sunday is he capitulating to human expectations? When is it ever wrong to preach the resurrection of Christ? The argument is that Easter is the one time of the year when the religious world at large is reflecting on the resurrection of Christ, therefore preach it! Would it, on the other hand, be the better part of wisdom to preach on the resurrection of Jesus if one so desires, but separate truth from tradition on the matter of Easter celebrations?
The apostles of Jesus Christ went everywhere preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:18, 31-32; 1 Cor. 15:1-4). As Paul said, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). But, I fail to find anywhere in the New Testament where the apostles, or anyone else, went anywhere observing “Easter services.” I can go to the church histories of Williston Walker, Augustus Neander, Philip Schaff, and others, and read of the early observance of Easter ceremonies. Early in church history one Sunday out of the year was set aside to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. According to the noted historian Williston Walker the first definite record of such a celebration was in the year 154 or 155. I cannot, however, find anything in the inspired histories of Luke, Paul or Peter telling of such a practice. Nor was there a word from Jesus about such matters. Accordingly, I am at a loss to find example, command or inference in the New Testament that would lead me to believe that the Easter festival has any divine sanction at all.
If we do not observe an Easter celebration does that mean that we are sour heads who are so legalistic as to ignore the resurrection of Christ? Some would think so, I am sure. I have little control over what others may choose to think. The fact that Paul did not teach an Easter observance did not prevent his extolling the resurrected Savior! To the church of Christ at Rome, he said that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 the great apostle left no doubt that he remembered the resurrection of Christ. He declared it as the assurance of our own resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-22). Make no mistake: we assemble every Lord’s day to memorialize, not a dead Savior, but He who died and rose again! (1 Cor. 11:23-26).