Easter or Resurrection Sunday? Does it Matter?

By John Fulton

I grew up Catholic and remember every year the handing out of palms fronds on Palm Sunday, getting out of school early to go to Good Friday mass, and waking up early to hunt through the house for my Easter basket with its delicious chocolate bunny.

One year, I told my mom to make it easy to find my basket. She took my request to heart and placed signs outside my door and throughout the house with arrows on them to take me right to the basket. I was a little irritated. I hadn’t meant THAT easy.

This was Easter, the beloved holiday and remembrance of the fact that Christ had risen and now reigns, and that God’s new covenant was in effect. The next seven weeks until Pentecost would focus on the effects of Easter and the resurrection on the world.

Decades later, after setting aside the faith to worship Science, I returned to the faith.  But I did not come back to Catholicism. Instead, I started attending a Protestant church.

Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry came, but no mention was made in service. It was just another day.

Good Friday came, but there was no special service. It was just another day. 

But then the real shock came. I came into church on Easter morning and was greeted by a lusty, cheerful, “Happy Resurrection Sunday!” 

Resurrection Sunday, I thought. What the heck is Resurrection Sunday? 

Since then, I have sat in many a service that never talked about the significance of the resurrection and the empty tomb, but instead informed me that the day should not be called Easter, because that is named after Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess who brought new life in spring after the death of winter.  They said that to celebrate Easter is therefore to celebrate a pagan goddess, is not biblical, and so as to not worship an idol, we should call it what it is, Resurrection Sunday. 

I have felt the contempt and seen the looks on faces when I’ve said “Happy Easter” to Resurrection Sunday protestants and heard the lectures on how I’m celebrating a pagan God. I even embraced saying Resurrection Sunday for a time and experienced just the opposite in reverse.  Both sides holding the other in contempt.

So, is it Easter, is it Resurrection Sunday? Does it matter?

It is true that celebrating the day of the resurrection, whatever you call it, is not biblical. Neither is celebrating the day of Jesus’s birth. Passover, Purim, doing the Lord’s supper in remembrance of him; are all mentioned in the Bible; but not Christmas or Easter. Both come out of later traditions, and both usurped pagan holidays as their day of Celebration. Christmas, the day for Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun; Easter, the celebration of Eostre in the spring.  Both days were celebrations of solstices and equinoxes. Neither are called out by the Bible to celebrate.

An thus we have a third camp in Christianity, albeit a minor one, that says we should not celebrate either holiday, especially given how the secular world has overtaken them and turned them into commercialism gone wild.

So, is it Easter? Is it Resurrection Sunday? Should it be ignored? Does it matter?

Which of the three choices is best? What would the Risen Lord Jesus and God the Father desire of you? For we desire to hold true to our God, do we not?  We don’t want to celebrate at the altar of idols, nor give our worship to pagan gods. Surely, we don’t want to join with our early Christian brothers and engage in cultural relativism so we can enjoy the fleshly excesses of the pagan rites?

In my own journey, I have actually been in all three positions at different times. I have happily celebrated Easter as the day of the Lord’s resurrection, the institution of the New Covenant, and a day for much joy for my sins were gone. I’ve embraced the idea it’s a celebration of Eostre, and I should proudly call it Resurrection Sunday, for that’s what it is. And yes, I’ve even accepted that it’s not in the Bible and every day should be as any other day, wholly focused on the Lord and not engaged in the commercialism of the secular world. In the end, I came back to what Christians have known it as for millenia; and all of Christianity, not just Roman Catholics. I came back to the place of Happy Easter, a day worthy of celebrating, for God did a marvelous work.

But what does scripture say? In truth, its answer is quite simple. “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:5-6, NASB 95).

In light of the discussion at hand, if you observe the day as Easter, observe for the Lord.

If you observe it as Resurrection Sunday, observe it for the Lord.

If you observe not the day and regard as every other day, regard as any other for the Lord.

Whether you observe it as Easter, Resurrection Sunday, or not at all; observe it for the Lord.

As Paul states, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? It is before their master that they stand or fall.” Whatever you call the day, you must be fully convinced in your own mind and clean of conscience that you observe the day for the Lord. Of this Paul concurs, “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:7-10, NASB 95).

So, if you want to call it Easter, call it Easter; you do no wrong. 

If you want to call it Resurrection Sunday, or New Covenant Day; you do no wrong. 

If you observe it not at all; you do no wrong.

But if you hold others in contempt for what they call it, or whether they observe it at all; beware, for you will stand before God for judgement and one does not want the blood of a brother on their hands. 

Now Paul adds these other key points. He tells us, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.  However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.  But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.  But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:1-13, NASB 95).

The early Christians applied Paul’s point to the celebration of Christmas and Easter. Eostre is nothing; there is no God, but one. They understood that the attributes falsely applied to Eostre were in truth attributes of God. It is He who brings life from death; it is He who resurrects the dead; it is He who brings the new life of spring out of the death of winter. They took a day falsely dedicated to Eostre and dedicated it to the Lord, the true possessor of those attributes. The same goes for the day for Sol Invictus. Sol Invictus is not the unconquerable god whose light will bring back life to the world; it is not his rejuvenation that brings hope of better things. Those are to be found in Yahweh, and they knew that.

But as Paul says as well, if calling it Easter will cause a weaker brother to stumble, for to them Eostre is something, then may I call it Resurrection Sunday or celebrate it not at all. If celebrating it at all will cause a weaker brother to stumble, then may I not celebrate it. But to those who through knowledge celebrate it as Easter, I will celebrate with them. To those, who in clear conscience celebrate it as resurrection Sunday, I will celebrate with them. In all cases, may it be done for the Lord.

So, Easter, Resurrection Sunday, or not at all is irrelevant; so long as it is for the Lord.

Finally, beware of pastors, leaders, brethren, who through knowledge have become puffed up and judge the servant of another regarding how they treat or call a day. They are false teachers, false brethren, sowing discord and division among the body. Weak in faith, lacking in understanding, devoid of God’s love; they lead others astray and destroy the conscience of the weak. Like ravenous wolves they tear apart the body of Christ and make for themselves disciples who are ten times the servant of Satan as themselves. Do not join them in their dissipation. Love the brethren; love your enemy; speak only that which edifies; seek unity with all to extent its within your power; devote yourself to building up the body of Christ. Seek the Lord.

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Images by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay


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