I’m not sure who started the conversation, speaking of the Easter Bunny – it was either my father-in-law or my daughter Jenna – but I knew that it was a good opportunity to push the subject deeper:
“Do you remember what Easter is actually about?” I offered.
My daughter, who is seven, returned, “Jesus died on the cross.”
I pushed further. “Well, he did that earlier in the week. What happened on Sunday?”
Dead silence, at least for a moment. “Um… the Easter Bunny came?” I could tell she wasn’t convinced by her response. In fact, earlier in the week she clearly told us that she knew the Easter Bunny wasn’t real. She had even broached the subject with my mother-in-law, confirming her suspicions that the Easter Bunny was cultural hot-air. She just didn’t know where I was going with this.
“No, Jesus rose from the grave. That’s why we celebrate Easter. He rose and is still alive.”
“But he’s in heaven…not walking around.” This was my daughter’s response. Speaking of rising from the grave simply didn’t compute, because Jesus is “in heaven”, not here with us. Though not quite right, behind the thoughts is truth that needs careful attention.
“Oh, but he did walk around first, and he’s coming back. That’s what we believe.”
Now, it is more and more clear to me that many believers have this same idea: resurrection is about going to heaven when we die. Death is just going to a better place. We’ve replaced Christ’s physical resurrection with his “going to heaven.” Now, those in Christ, when they die, are headed for a better place. But this is not permanent. Our hope is not for a heavenly eternity. It is for resurrection. The resurrection Jesus experienced was bodily. He ate and drank with his disciples. He could be touched. Now, the body was different than the past, but it was physical still, it was real. He was not just a vapor or mist.
That is our hope. We want to see and feel green grass. We want to smell fragrant spring blossoms. We want to taste a good meal with our friends, and hear the sizzle of the food’s preparation. We want more than just “streets of gold.” And that is what the resurrection of Christ promises. Not just heaven, but heaven and earth. We aren’t spiritual beings trapped in physical shells. We are total beings – spiritual and physical – that long for redemption from the bondage of sin and its decay. Freedom from skin is not the point. We want the skin on our back redeemed and restored.
That’s what we celebrate at Easter. Not just Christ in heaven. But Christ risen and all that means for us, now and later.