Originally celebrated as a pagan festival of the spring equinox, the word Easter appears only once in the New Testament, in Acts 12:4. A more appropriate translation is "Passover." Jesus Christ is the Passover. He is salvation from destruction, both temporal and spiritual. He is the author of spring and every season, God having "created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9).
In the days leading up to the crucifixion, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the ruling Jewish Council for "30 pieces of silver" (Matthew 26:15). That was the exact price fixed by Roman law for selling and buying slaves. Ironically, Judas had sold into bondage the only one capable of freeing all men from the slavery of sin.
Following the somber Last Supper, in which the Savior instituted the sacrament and washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus undertook the weight of Gethsemane.
As a working garden, the olives of Gethsemane were crushed under tremendous pressure, yielding the virgin first press of pure oil. So it was with Christ. Bleeding from every pore, straining under the burden of all men’s sins and sickness from Adam to the end of the world, the Savior yielded to the pure and priceless Atonement.
Allowing himself to be captured and brought as a "lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7), Jesus is the true lamb whose sacrifice is universal. As John earlier declared,"Behold, the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36).
After ordering the scourging of Jesus, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate brought him before the angry mob. Arrayed in a purple robe and crowned with bloody thorns, Jesus silently bore Pilate’s declaration, "Behold the man!" (John 19:5).
Man of Holiness is one of Christ’s names (see Moses 7:35). Unwittingly, Pilate had borne a second witness of the Savior’s divinity. Seeking to release Jesus, Pilate would later petition the crowd, "What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call King of the Jews?" (Mark 15:12).
From the chief priests came the condemning reply: "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). So it has ever been with those who "draw near" to God "with their lips, but whose hearts are far from" him (Joseph Smith History, verse 19). The Caesars of our blood course through veins of power, pride, selfishness and greed.
The corrupt Sanhedrin were fearful that if they "let him thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and our nation" (John 11:48). They traded innocent blood for Barabbas, a murderer and seditionist.
Trudging the sand-swept road to Calvary’s Hill, nailed to a cross between two thieves, Jesus was "lifted up by men so that all men might be lifted up by the Father" (3 Nephi 27:14).
In agony he hung. By midafternoon on that fateful Friday, with power to save himself, Jesus gave himself for each of us, saying, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
Laid in a borrowed tomb, his body hastily prepared by mourners before Sabbath nightfall, Jesus would soon answer a prophet’s penetrating question: "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14).
On Easter Sunday at the garden tomb, angels declared, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5). Through resurrection, Jesus was "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Paul declared, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Conquering the grave and physical death, Jesus’ resurrection is a testament to the free gift of rebirth for all. Conquering the effects of sin by suffering in Gethsemane, Christ conquered spiritual death and "became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
Without Jesus, there is no lasting joy in life because there is no eternal purpose in death. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Easter reminds us of rescue from the long adagio of winter, both physically and spiritually.
Jesus Christ is the renewal of life, the Lamb of God, the true Passover, the King of kings.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor. William Monahan begins service July 2012 as a mission president.
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