Last Sunday many observed Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Passover on the evening of April 21 will commemorate His death.
How can He rise before He dies!
Here is a quote that pretty well sets the stage for all the confusion: “The earliest Christians celebrated the resurrection on the fourteenth of Nisan (our March-April), the date of the Jewish Passover. Jewish days were reckoned from evening to evening, so Jesus had celebrated His Last Supper the evening of the Passover and was crucified the day of the Passover” (www.christianity.com).
What did the “earliest Christians” celebrate?
Jesus was the earliest Christian! All of the references from various religious persuasions seem to agree that Jesus was scourged and crucified during the daylight part of Nisan 14, fulfilling the Passover of Exodus 12 on the day specified. That’s good because the Bible says it and that’s what He did! But Jesus wasn’t resurrected that day! He certainly didn’t celebrate being resurrected that day! Like that bravado line in the action movies, for Him it was a good day to die!
The only sign he gave of His Messiahship was that He would be three days and three nights in the grave (Matthew 12:39-40). A child with elementary math skill could count on his fingers that He had to be resurrected on Nisan 17.
The night before, beginning the 14th, his disciples—the earliest Christians—had their feet washed by him and shared the New Testament Passover with Him. They ate unleavened bread symbolizing Christ’s broken sinless body and drank a little wine picturing His shed blood. These early Christians were not celebrating His resurrection on Nisan 14.
About 23 years later, neither were Paul and the Corinthians—Gentile early Christians. Paul wrote that as they observed the Passover on Nisan 14 they were “proclaim[ing] the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). These early Christians were “keep[ing] the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:8) which included the seven Days of Unleavened Bread along with the Passover.
So how’d we get to today’s confusion?
Where Jesus is supposedly resurrected before He’s crucified?
Following Jesus and the Apostles, Christians in the churches of Jerusalem and Asia Minor continued to commemorate Passover on the 14th. But the churches in and around Rome changed to the practice of celebrating Easter on the following Sunday.
At the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Emperor Constantine decreed that Christianity be totally separated from all things Jewish. Calling the Passover Jewish didn’t make it so. Passover is one of the “feasts of the LORD” (Leviticus 23:2). The one who proclaimed that was the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ. Paul said that Jesus so embodied what the Passover was all about that He is “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7). How could Passover be any more Christian!
Nevertheless, Constantine established that Easter would forever be on a Sunday and never on Nisan 14.
In the 16th century the Western Roman Church decided that Easter would fall on the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox—according to the Gregorian Calendar. It could occur any time between March 22 to April 25. The Orthodox Church opted to follow the Julian Calendar.
This year the Orthodox Church will observe Easter May 1. At least they will be picturing the resurrected Christ after His death is proclaimed April 21.
Some say “It’s the meaning that matters.” The historian Eusebius called it “a question of no small importance.” The Bible says “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
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