For many people, Easter is about colourful easter eggs and easter bunnies. But there is far more to it. Easter is a 2000 year old Christian feast with even older Jewish roots, but its meaning is still highly relevant...
Who is Jesus Christ?
One can hardly speak about Christianity without mentioning Jesus Christ. In fact, the term “Christianity” is derived from his name. At the same time, there is much confusion about Jesus’ identity. Is he human? Or is he God? Was he a wise ancient teacher, or rather a fraudulent blasphemist who was rightly sentenced to death?
Son of God
The first thing to make clear is that Jesus Christ is God. More precisely, he is part of the triune God. The Bible calls him “the Son of God”, to distinguish him from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (see for example John 1:18).
Although the term “Son” might evoke the idea that first there was just God the Father, and only later God the Son was born, the Bible makes clear that the Son is eternal. This was one of the first doctrines that was elaborately phrased by the early church: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made" (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, 381 AD).
God and man
This same creed continues: "For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human." God the Son is at the same time 100% divine and 100% human (Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 2:9). About 2000 years ago, the Son of God was born as a human baby. This is called his incarnation (“coming in the flesh”). He grew up in a normal human family. But He was not a “normal” man, since he knew no sin. And while He was human, He also remained God.
Jesus is the Savior
The goal of the incarnation was the salvation of sinful humans. When God created the first humans, they were perfect. But they rebelled against their Creator, and thereby became sinful and worthy of God’s judgment (see Genesis 3). This had severe consequences, not only for them but also for their offspring, which inherited their sinful nature (Romans 5:14-21). The situation of humanity was utterly hopeless: they had earned God’s wrath and could not save themselves.
Only God could alter this hopeless situation. And He did! "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus came on earth to announce God’s Kingdom and to teach people about God. But He also came to suffer and die in their place. He was righteous and sinless, but took on himself the sins of humanity. "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53).
Jesus is the risen King
The story does not end with Jesus’ death. After three days, He was raised from the dead and now He lives forever. He is in heaven till the end of the world, when He will come back to judge humanity and create new heavens and a new earth. He is the eternal King of the universe who reigns with righteousness (Luke 1:32-33). That’s why Christians worship him as their Lord. And at the end of times, every knee will bow for him, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus Christ has many names
When the angel Gabriel announced the birth of “the Son of the most High”, he told Mary to call his name Jesus. That was his personal human name. In the Bible, we find many more names, such as “the Son of God”, “the Lord”, “our Savior”, but also “Christ” or “Messiah”. That last term is used in the Old Testament, before Jesus was born, to indicate the Savior whom God would send. Jesus indeed is this long awaited Messiah, although many Jews do not recognize him as such.
There are still other names that indicate some of Jesus’ attributes, such as “the good Shepherd”, “the Son of man”, “the Word”, and so on. All of these names express some aspect of Jesus’ multi-faceted personality, and are sometimes combined.
Our knowledge of Jesus is limited
We don’t manage to fully understand or express who Jesus Christ is. But whoever believes in Him, may look forward to an eternal future in which he will know Jesus completely. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).