Have you ever been part of fertility rites during Easter? I have done so, not knowing what I was participating in. When we do Easter egg hunt or buy a Easter bunny rabbit chocolate, in our small way we are joining Easter fertility rites and rituals during this season. Rabbits are promiscuous and in some cultures are often sacrificed to the goddess of love; eggs symbolize new life into the world.
Why are fertility rites celebrated at this time of year? In cold countries, this is the period where winter season gives way to spring season. In winter, trees often lose all their leaves and look dead; when places start warming up again, the trees spring back to life with new leaves and the birds return. We also witness this change of season from dry to wet or wet to dry in hot tropical countries.
As the season changes at this time, farmers get set to plant, and society carry out fertility rites to gods and goddesses for a good harvest; in some places the rites include rabbit sacrifice, exchange of eggs as gifts of new life, and sex festivals in shrines and temples. Fertility rites are thus partly based on observing nature. However, to fully understand nature, we must go to the creator of nature.
Romans 1:20 (NIV) says: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” Furthermore, Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV) says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”
While many cultures looked at the changing season at this time of the year, and came up with fertility rites and celebrations, God instituted the Passover celebrations at this time of the year to mark the deliverance of Israel from bondage to Pharaoh (a type of death), to freedom to worship God (new life). Exodus 12:17 (NIV) talking about the Passover says: “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread [Passover], because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come…”
So, in God’s calendar, this season symbolizes God’s deliverance from death to new life. There was no way Israel could have been freed from Pharaoh without strong divine intervention. This season in the Bible goes beyond physical life (the egg) to new spiritual life through divine intervention; and this brings us to Jesus and the Cross. The crucifixion happened during the celebration of Passover (see John Chapter 19).
John 20:1-10 (NIV)(shortened) reads: “Early on the first day of the week… Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter… So Peter… went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there… the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)”
Jesus died on Passover week and resurrected at the beginning of a new week; he rose with a new body that can never die. We all will experience the winter of death in our bodies, but Jesus holds for us the promise of new life (divine spring season) with a new resurrection body. Thus many cultures in the world celebrate fertility (eggs and bunnies) during this time, but the Bible celebrates the resurrection.
Happy Resurrection Sunday, with it’s good news of our deliverance, from death to new life with Jesus, Amen!