KEEPING THE FAITH: The resurrection is more than a hope for heaven

Ronnie McBrayer
Ronnie McBrayer

On Easter morning a Sunday School teacher began to quiz her class of young children about the real meaning of the day. She asked them, “What is Easter?” and the students were quick and ready to respond. One boy said, “Easter is when we get together with family, eat turkey, and everyone is thankful.” 

Another child enthusiastically answered, “Easter is the holiday when we grill burgers and hotdogs, shoot off fireworks, and celebrate our country’s birthday.” It went on like this, to the teacher’s chagrin, until a little girl said, “Easter is when Jesus was buried in a tomb and a large rock was rolled over the entrance.”

The teacher nearly squealed in delight, until the girl finished her explanation: “And on Easter morning the stone is rolled away so Jesus can get out. Then, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.” No, not quite, but the question remains a good one: “What is Easter?”

Many believers spend Easter morning listening to exhaustive explanations of the resurrection miracle (though miracles, by default, are inexplicable). The gospel accounts are analyzed; scientific objections are dismantled; skeptics are scolded. It is apologetic calisthenics, a vigorous defense of the holiday, but it’s not quite the answer.  

Other believers give Easter explanations that deal almost exclusively with the afterlife. The resurrection of Jesus is presented as our ticket to board a divine bus, transporting us to heaven after we die. Yet, the Scriptures never directly say, “Jesus was resurrected from the dead so you can go to heaven when you die.” The eventual application is made to that effect, but that is not quite the message of Easter either. 

Rather, the New Testament says, over and over again, that since Jesus is raised from the dead, he must be Lord over creation. Jesus is raised from the dead, he must be what life today is all about. Jesus is raised from the dead, therefore God must be doing something life-giving in the world.

So, Easter is not about defending or propping up Christian theology (besides, Jesus didn’t come to provide a “belief system” or a collection of doctrines). Rather, it is a revolution of transforming life for the world. Nor is it an escape hatch from reality: It is a powerful, redemptive way to live today. 

The goal, then, is not to explain Easter, but to live it and “get in” on it. We must do more than use the resurrection as a hope for heaven. We must use it to instigate heaven on earth. We must do more than say “He is Risen!” We must become proof of Christ’s resurrection power in the world. 

For if we have reduced the resurrection of Jesus to mere religious dogma, or if we employ it as a means to evade our responsibilities in the present, we are doing far less than responding to the question, “What is Easter?” with an enthusiastic, but incomplete answer. We are missing the point altogether.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, speaker, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at