What Is Easter?
- According to Christian Scripture (Isaiah 53), Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and Savior of the World.
- The resurrection refers to Jesus coming back to life (or being raised from the dead) three days after his death on the cross.
- Christians believe that when Jesus laid down his life on the cross, he paid the full penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice.
- Subsequently, by raising from the dead, the Lord defeated the power of sin and death and purchased, for all who believe in him, eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Easter in the Bible
The biblical account of Jesus’ death on the cross, or crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection, or raising from the dead, can be found in the following passages of Scripture: Matthew 27:27-28:8; Mark 15:16-16:19; Luke 23:26-24:35; and John 19:16-20:30.
The word “Easter” does not appear in the Bible and no early church celebrations of Christ’s resurrection are mentioned in Scripture. Easter, like Christmas, is a tradition that developed later in church history.
As the most solemn and preeminent celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, it’s unfortunate that many of Easter’s customs are mixed with pagan associations and secular commercialization. For these reasons, many Christian churches choose to refer to the Easter holiday simply as Resurrection Day.
When Is the Easter Season?
Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline in preparation for Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent and the Easter season. Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent and the Easter season.
Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Easter. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begins on Monday and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
The week preceding Easter is called Holy Week. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the celebration of Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. Jesus’ death by crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday.
When Is Easter 2021?
- February 17 – Ash Wednesday
- March 28 – Palm Sunday
- April 1 – Maundy (Holy) Thursday
- April 2 – Good Friday
- April 4 – Easter Sunday (Western Christianity – Roman Catholic, Anglican Communion, Protestant Churches, etc.)
- May 2 – Orthodox Easter Sunday (Orthodox Christianity – Eastern Orthodox Churches)
Determining the Date of Easter
In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25. Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.
Since the days of early church history, determining the precise date of Easter has been a matter for continued argument and there are many misunderstandings about how the date of Easter is calculated. At the heart of the matter lies a simple explanation: Easter is a movable feast.
The earliest believers in the church of Asia Minor wanted to keep Easter celebrations in line with the Jewish Passover since the death and resurrection of Jesus happened right after the Passover. Followers wanted Easter always to be celebrated after the Passover. And, since the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. Eventually, Western churches decided to establish a more standardized system for determining the date of Easter using a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. For this reason, Eastern Orthodox churches usually celebrate Easter on a different day than Western churches.
Key Bible Verses About Easter
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (ESV)
1 Corinthians 15:3–8
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (ESV)