Easter…It’s the holiest day of the year for hundreds of millions of people. But did Christ’s disciples celebrate EASTER to honor His resurrection?
Easter… It’s the holiest day of the year for hundreds of millions of people. In the northern Hemisphere, traditions focus on the coming of Spring. Winter is over. Fields and farms are alive with color. Trees and flowers burst with new life. And Easter traditions are observed around the world. The “Woman’s Day” website brings out some of the more unusual examples, like young boys dousing young girls with water, in Poland and Hungary. According to the website, this playful tradition has roots in ancient fertility rites. Other Easter traditions are also linked to Spring-time fertility rituals, meant to ensure good crops. In Florence, Italy, for example, they blow up carts with explosives. And in the Greek island of Corfu, they drop clay pots out of second story windows.
If that sounds strange though, how about American traditions, like an Easter bunny that lays eggs?
And what does this all have to do with Jesus’ resurrection?
You see, many well-meaning people practice these rather odd traditions, but also view Easter as a time to honor Jesus Christ. After all, the Bible DOES say Jesus died in the Spring. And after dying and being laid in a grave, He miraculously revived. He was resurrected!
But did His disciples celebrate EASTER to honor His resurrection? That’s an important question to ask. And that’s what we’ll attempt to answer on today’s program.
So join me on Tomorrow's World, as we ask, and answer, the question: “Did Jesus’ disciples celebrate Easter?”
Easter traditions are kept all over the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, most of them center around the new life of Spring. Winter’s over, and trees and flowers burst with blossoms. But even down-under, when March and April bring autumn, Easter is observed, but with a little twist. Instead of eating chocolate rabbits, Australian children eat chocolates formed in a shape of a mouse-like creature called a “bilby.” When it comes to Easter, it seems there’s something for everyone.
For many who attend church, Easter is the holiest day of the year. And what could be more important than celebrating Jesus’ resurrection?
Many sincere, well-meaning people seek to do just that. But is Easter biblical? Is the word “Easter” even found in the Bible? The answer is, the word “Easter” IS found in one place in the King James Bible. If you have a King James Bible, take a look at Acts 12:4. It tells the story of James being imprisoned and then executed by King Herod. Then, Herod arrested Peter as well. And notice what it says next:
“And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” (Acts 12:4) (KJV)
But look under the surface. The word “Easter” isn’t intended there at all. Theologian Adam Clarke explains this in his commentary on the verse. He says:
“Perhaps there never was a more unhappy, not to say absurd, translation than that in our text [KJV]…. The term Easter, inserted here by our translators, they borrowed from the ancient Anglo-Saxon service-books….” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 774).
He then explains that the goddess Easter, or Ishtar:
“…was celebrated by our pagan forefathers on the month of April…. Every view we can take of this subject shows the gross impropriety of retaining a name every way exceptionable, and palpably absurd.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 775).
So, the one place where the word “Easter” is found in the Bible, is a mistranslation. Does that surprise you? The Greek word translated “Easter” in Acts 12:4 was actually the word “pascha,” or what we say in English, “Passover.” So, Acts 12:4 should have read: “...Intending after Passover to bring him out to the people….”
What was Passover? Passover was a festival being kept by the Jews. It involved eating a meal of a sacrificial lamb, slain just for that purpose. It was in the Springtime. Many Jews still keep Passover today, in one form or another.
So, the word Easter is not found in the Bible. And the one place it seems to be, is a mistranslation. If this is so, why do so many observe it?
As stated already, many people sincerely believe they honor the resurrection of Jesus by observing Easter. And yes, the resurrection IS found in the Bible. All four Gospel writers testified to it. And we in this Work have a profound feeling and AWE for what Jesus did in dying for our sins. We believe that through His shed blood, through faith IN Him, we can ALSO attain to the resurrection. That’s the wonderful hope of every Christian.
But back to the original question: Did the disciples of Jesus celebrate Easter? IF they did, we should follow their example. If they did not, we must ask the question, “Why not?”
And we’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let me offer you our free study guide, Easter: The Untold Story. In it, Mr. Gerald Weston examines the significance of the name, “Easter.” He looks at the ancient practice of worshipping the Queen of Heaven. And he asks the question, could we be worshipping Jesus Christ in vain? This issue strikes at the very heart of what it is to be a Christian. If you’ve not read this booklet, you need to order it today. Request your free copy of “Easter: The Untold Story.”
Just click the link in the description and order it now.
In the first part of our program, we asked the question, “Is the word ‘Easter’ found in the Bible?” And the answer is, only in a mis-translation of the King James Bible. Now let’s look at the examples of Jesus and His disciples. Did THEY celebrate Easter? Let’s find out what they did, and what they taught. We’ll break it down into three points. The first point is:
#1: AS CHRISTIANS, WE MUST FOLLOW THE EXAMPLES OF JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES
This point may seem simple, but don’t overlook the obvious. Too often, people base their beliefs too much on tradition and not enough on Scripture. We think many of you DO read your Bible faithfully. You WANT to be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
During His ministry, Jesus called many disciples. He commanded them, “Follow Me,” as in Mark 2:14. This wasn’t just an invitation to walk with Him to the next village. It wasn’t just a sentimental feeling. In a very real sense, He was saying, “Look at what I’m doing and follow My example.”
He repeated this many times. In Matthew 10:38 Jesus said, “...he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” You see, following Christ’s example and teaching is what is expected to be a disciple.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles followed the same pattern. They urged the brethren to follow their example in practice and doctrine. Notice what Paul told the Philippians:
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17).
Notice what Paul also told the young evangelist, Timothy:
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith…” (2 Timothy 3:10).
Did Paul mean that his brethren should just BLINDLY follow him? No. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he said “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”
Paul wasn’t perfect. Nor were the other apostles. The New Testament is very honest about their mistakes. And yet, Christ worked THROUGH them, so they could TEACH by word and example. Paul said, “don’t just blindly do everything I do or say… look at my example, and if it measures up to Christ, then follow it.”
This is a consistent theme in the entire New Testament. This is what should guide our life: Following the example of Jesus and the apostles. That’s WHY the New Testament has been preserved, so we can know what they did. Luke wrote in Acts 16:4:
“And as they [Paul and Silas, that is] went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.” (cts 16:4–5).
The brethren in the first century followed the teachings of Christ and the apostles. As Christians today, we must live by the same rule.
Peter echoed a similar theme in his second letter to the brethren. He said this:
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior….” (2 Peter 3:1–2)
Did Peter just make up commandments for them to follow? No--he taught them what He had learned from Jesus. And he lived it in his personal example.
John also taught this. In 1 John 1:2 he wrote:
“...the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us….” (1 John 1:2–3)
John and the other apostles were passing along what they saw Jesus do, and what they heard Jesus teach.
Why is this important? Because many traditions of modern Christianity simply go AGAINST the example of Jesus and His disciples. Mr. Gerald Weston brings this out in the free booklet Easter: The Untold Story. We are offering this publication today. This booklet will help you see that some of the basic teachings of mainstream Christianity are NOT found in the Bible. Take for example, chapter four. It’s entitled: “Three Days and Three Nights.” Was Jesus in the grave a full three days and three nights? Or just parts of three days and three nights? Can you really know? And does it matter?
In a simple and straightforward way, this booklet will lay it out for you. Use it side by side with your own Bible. Don’t take our word for it. Prove it for yourself. Again, this is a free publication… it’s already paid for. The generous co-workers of this Work have “paid-it-forward”, for you. They want you to have this booklet. So, give us a call or go online and order yours now.
Welcome back. In the last segment, we saw that Christians must follow the example of Jesus and His disciples. That should be our guide. With that foundation, let’s go on to the next point. Number 2...
#2 THERE IS NO RECORD OF JESUS’ DISCIPLES CELEBRATING EASTER
Dr. Samuele Bachiocchi is a noted church-history expert who wrote the book From Sabbath to Sunday. On page 84, he said this:
“…[T]hough the resurrection is frequently mentioned both in the New Testament and in the early patristic literature, no suggestion is given that primitive Christians commemorated the event by a weekly or yearly Sunday service” (From Sabbath to Sunday, Samuele Bachiocchi, p. 84).
You can search the New Testament from one end to the other, and you won’t find the disciples celebrating Easter. In 1986, a book called The Apostasy of the Lost Century was written by a man named S. Gusten Olsen. Notice what he said:
“When Polycarp was writing his Epistle, Sunday was still a working day…. Not even the association of the resurrection with the symbolism of the sun seems very prominent until the middle of the second century” (The Apostasy of the Lost Century, S. Gusten Olsen, p. 100).
Did you catch that? Mr. Olsen said the idea of the rising sun being symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection--think, sunrise service--was not part of the thinking of the early disciples. The tradition of the rising sun representing Christ’s resurrection didn’t take shape until the 2nd century. Is this because Jesus’ disciples didn’t CARE about the resurrection? Nothing could be further from the truth! When Jesus appeared to His disciples from the grave “...they still did not believe for joy, and marveled...” (Luke 24:41). They were amazed--and grateful! When Thomas, who saw Him later, realized what had happened, how did HE respond? John 20:28 records, “...Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
The disciples had a DEEP respect and sense of awe for the miracle of the resurrection. But NOWHERE do we have a record of their keeping a service to commemorate it. Even if they HAD celebrated it, it would NOT have been Sunday morning. We find this passage in John 20:1.
“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1).
Verse 2 says: “Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him’” (John 20:2).
Did you catch that? Mary was at the tomb before sunrise. It was STILL dark and Jesus was already gone. Jesus did NOT rise from the grave at sunrise, as so many assume.
Did the early disciples talk about the resurrection? Yes--many times! Paul, in his defense before the Sanhedrin, said, “Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged…” (Acts 23:6) He wrote a whole chapter ABOUT the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. And in 1 Peter 1:3, notice what the Apostle Peter said:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…. In this you greatly rejoice.” (1 Peter 1:3, 6).
The apostles were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. And they were to tell the whole WORLD about it. But nowhere in the New Testament is there a record of an Easter service. It’s just not there.
On the contrary, the disciples WERE keeping a different feast day to honor Jesus Christ. What was that different feast day? That brings us to our final point in this program. Number 3:
#3: JESUS’ DISCIPLES KEPT THE CHRISTIAN PASSOVER TO COMMEMORATE HIS DEATH.
As we saw earlier, Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples. But during His last Passover just before His death, He assigned new symbolic meaning to the bread and wine. Notice how Mark describes it:
“And as they were eating [the Passover], Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many’” (Mark 14:22–24).
Jesus used this ancient feast day to institute new symbols about His own coming sacrifice. He explained, “By taking these symbols, you are entering the new covenant.” He was explaining how they could come under His shed blood, and be forgiven of their sins!
The Apostle John also noted that same last Passover, but with other details. He recorded that Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Notice what Jesus said, in John 13:15.
“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you…. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:15, 17).
That is a direct command to follow in His steps. Jesus commanded His people to take bread and wine, as symbols of His broken body and shed blood. And He commanded them to wash each others’ feet as an outward expression of humility and Christian brotherhood. He instituted the Christian Passover.
This is very different from what most modern Christians observe today. But there it is, right in the Bible. And He said we would be blessed if we followed His example.
What about the apostles? Do they tell us to observe the Christian Passover? Yes. Paul wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 11, verse 23:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–24).
Jesus instituted new Passover symbols, and Paul was teaching exactly the same thing. He goes on to say:
“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Paul was following the example of Christ. And Paul taught his brethren to follow Jesus’ example, as well. In this light, it’s interesting to note what Philip Schaff, the 19th-century early-church historian, said about the Christian Passover. He said this:
“The Christians of Asia Minor, following the Jewish chronology, and appealing to the authority of the apostles John and Philip, celebrated the Christian Passover… [This observance] was probably the oldest and in accordance with the Synoptic tradition of the last Passover of our Lord, which it commemorated.” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, Philip Schaff, p. 201–202).
In other words, this was the earliest observance of the Church. Jesus and His disciples kept the Christian Passover, in commemoration of Jesus’ suffering and death. Even after His resurrection, there was no hint of a sunrise service kept by the apostles. Notice what else Mr. Schaff wrote:
“The Christian Passover naturally grew out of the Jewish Passover… It is certainly the oldest and most important annual festival of the church, and can be traced back to the first century, or at all events to the middle of the second, when it was universally observed, though with a difference as to the day….” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, Philip Schaff, p. 198).
Did you notice that? The “Christian Passover is the oldest and most important annual festival of the church.” That’s quite a statement. And yet, how many modern Christians keep the Christian Passover?
On today’s program, we’ve seen that faithful Christians must follow the example of Jesus and His disciples. We saw there is NO RECORD of Jesus’ disciples ever celebrating Easter. Instead, we saw that they observed the Christian Passover. If you are a disciple of Christ, shouldn’t you be observing the Christian Passover today?
There’s so much more to this story. We’ve only scratched the surface. But you can study it in depth, yourself. To do that, you need our free study guide, Easter: The Untold Story. In this booklet you’ll find a wealth of information. Chapter 5 discusses the significance of Passover. Chapter 6 explains the timing of the events of the days right after Christ’s death. And chapter 7 asks the question: “What happened on Sunday?”
This booklet is absolutely free. The truth is too precious to put a price tag on it. And that’s why we don’t ask for money. Jesus said, “Freely you have received--freely give.” So call the number on the screen or, order on our website. Either way, check up on what I’m saying. You won’t regret it.
In today’s program we saw the Bible requires Christians to follow the example of Jesus and His disciples. We also discovered neither Jesus nor His disciples kept Easter. On the other hand, they taught and practiced the Christian Passover, with new covenant symbols.
When Christians observe the Christian Passover, they partake of bread and wine, in commemoration of Jesus’ death. They are expressing faith in His sacrifice to cover their sins. If you’d like to learn more about the Christian Passover and its significance in your life, just let us know. We have representatives who can get in touch with you, if you ask. The Living Church of God has ministers all over the globe, committed and dedicated to teaching God’s truth and working with those who respond to God’s call.
And don’t forget to order your free literature. It’s entitled Easter: The Untold Story. Learn how mainstream Christianity transformed the original Christian Passover to a day honoring a pagan fertility goddess. You may be shocked.
And thank you for watching. Join us each week as Gerald Weston, Richard Ames, Wallace Smith and I bring you the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the prophecies of Tomorrow’s World. Jesus Christ is coming soon, to set up His Kingdom, and stop the misery of this troubled and confused world. May God speed that day.
Every year, billions of people observe a joyous Easter Sunday celebration. For some, it may be one of the few times each year they come to church. For others, it may be the culmination of observances going back to Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday in preparation for the festive day.
Many of these people have no idea that their Easter celebration owes far, far more to pre-Christian myth than to anything Jesus Christ or His Apostles believed, practiced or taught. A few think they can “sanctify the pagan” by turning old worship of Astarte or Ishtar into a “Christian” rite; others just assume that this is what Christians have always done.
The truth is that Jesus Christ did command His followers to keep annual observance in memory of His death. And He gave His followers one sign that would prove or disprove His Messiahship. Shockingly, very few people alive today realize that the Good Friday to Easter Sunday tradition is actually in utter opposition to the truth of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection as foretold in Scripture. If you want to learn that truth, read on!