Most Americans have been to a funeral. We all understand the solemnity of the occasion and the sorrow of the loved ones left behind.
Imagine for a minute being at a funeral or a wake. The casket is closed and the mourners are gathered to pay their respects. For some reason, the casket is opened for a final view of the deceased. Imagine the shock of those present if the casket, once opened, was found to be empty. What happened to the body? Did the funeral directors make a grievous error? Did someone play the cruelest of jokes? Where is the body?
Now imagine that the one who has died walks into the room, restored to life and health. He is able to speak, to laugh, to hug those who were just moments before grieving his death. You are there to witness it all. You've seen the impossible first hand.
Would you ever be the same?
That is, in the most basic sense, the story of Easter. One who was dead is now alive.
But for Christians across America and around the world, Easter is even bigger than that. What, you may ask, is bigger than someone being brought back to life? What's bigger is the reason He died in the first place.
According to the Bible, Jesus died on the cross not for any sins He committed but for the sins we committed. His resurrection was the final nail in the coffin of death-our death. As Christians, we believe that His death-and triumph over it-is the reason we get to live eternally with God in heaven. That's what Christians all over the world will be celebrating this Easter.
And the Bible will be at the center of that celebration for a great number of Americans. According to this year's State of the Bible research from American Bible Society, more than half (54%) of Americans will be including Scripture in their Easter celebrations. As they do so, they will experience just a small part of what it was like for those first Christians.
It's a story well worth knowing. Seeing the women who wept on finding the tomb empty and later rejoiced at the news that Christ had risen. Apostles who were dumbstruck at seeing alive the leader whose crucifixion they had witnessed just three days prior. Thomas who, once doubting, was invited to place his fingers in the nail holes of the now-risen Jesus.
That's the Easter of the Bible.
For those Christians who don't currently make Scripture a part of any Easter celebration, I hope that they will do so this year. And whatever your faith background, let's go beyond the bunny and investigate the Bible's account of Easter.