The Deeper Meaning of Easter
Easter is an event celebrated by Christians around the world through participation in sunrise services, choir singing, sermons, and Easter egg hunts. Easter, along with Christmas, is one of the most celebrated of Christian holidays.
What is Easter’s deeper meaning? You already know that Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus and that Easter memorializes His death, but why would His death be accompanied by so much festive celebration?
The Bible, a Christian’s primary source of information on Jesus’ life, contains only a handful of facts relating to Jesus’ childhood and young adulthood. However, Baba has said that from the beginning, Jesus was a pure, selfless, and constantly loving person who unselfishly dedicated His every action to the good of the world.
Baba also said that early in His life, Jesus announced, “I am God’s Messenger; I have come as a servant to all of God’s children.” Jesus saw the divinity in every person. He knew that to serve God in each individual was to serve society, and to serve society was to serve God directly. This stage of Jesus’ life corresponds to the state in Hindu philosophy called dualism, where one serves as God’s obedient messenger. During this stage, God and His messenger are two separate entities, and life is seen as a play with two principal characters: God and His messenger.
After selflessly serving humanity for some years, Jesus came to realize that He was something far beyond the body—far beyond physical life or death. Jesus realized Himself to be the child of immortality, the Son of God.
As the Son of God, Jesus was now no longer just the servant of God; He identified Himself fully as belonging to God’s holy family and saw all beings as members of that one holy family. In other words, He became “Christed,” or fully identified with all of God’s creation and God’s happiness—forever like unto Himself and eternally one with Him. At this stage Jesus embodied the authority of God, and God’s divine qualities manifested through Him for the benefit of all humanity. This stage correlates with the state in Hindu philosophy called qualified non-dualism.
Baba says that as Jesus’ spiritual growth continued, He came to a point where He could no longer distinguish between Himself and God and was finally able to declare, “I and My Father are One.” He had entered the state in Hindu philosophy called adwaitha, or full nondualism, where He could no longer see where His personal qualities ended and where God’s qualities began. The Bible describes this state as being “filled with the Holy Ghost.” During this time, Jesus lovingly went through the actions of outwardly serving God in all humanity, while inwardly existing in a perfect state of unity and oneness with God.
Jesus’ life was filled with many ideal examples of service to humankind. He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, restored sight to the blind, cured lepers, calmed the storm so others would not be frightened, and walked on water. On several occasions He fed thousands after blessing only a small handful of food, and He resurrected [at least] three people from death.
Jesus treated all alike—the young, old, sick, and poor. He regarded each as equal sons and daughters of God. He lived His life—in thought, word, and deed—as a perfect example of love in action. Jesus’ teachings empowered the lower classes and the working people by assuring them that they did not have to go through the temple priests to approach God. He taught them that God would be pleased by their pure and loving hearts, and by their treating each other with love, forgiveness, and tolerance.
Jesus also chastised the priests and criticized others who took advantage of people and abused their power. He told the common people that they did not have to pay bribes to the priests, or sacrifice animals, or follow elaborate, highly-structured rituals in order to gain God’s favor. In this way, by following and teaching the truth, those in positions of power came to fear Jesus. In reality, only a small handful of Jesus’ own faithful followers understood even a little of what He came to teach and demonstrate through His selfless life.
Most people of the time misunderstood who Jesus was and could not fully comprehend the gift He came to bring. The priests felt that Jesus threatened their authority. The Romans, who were in power at the time, feared that with Jesus’ growing popularity, He might someday become a political rival. A number of young Jewish men hoped that Jesus would become a powerful military leader to help them throw off Roman rule.
By bringing false witnesses against Him, the priests arranged to have the pious and loving Jesus arrested. By this time Jesus commanded great power but resisted them not. When He was given an opportunity to speak in His own defense, He remained silent. At the insistence of a corrupted priesthood, Jesus was sentenced to death. The obedient Roman soldiers carried out the orders for His crucifixion and nailed Him to a cross alongside two thieves who were being punished for crimes against the state. When one of the criminals recognized that Jesus was a righteous man, Jesus told him that because he had seen truly, he would live in heaven with Jesus.
Baba also has said that while Jesus’ body was dying on the cross, He heard God’s voice saying, “All of life is one, my dear son. Be alike to everyone.” Jesus gave up the body on the cross on the day that we celebrate as Good Friday. When dead, Jesus’ body was taken from the cross and laid in a tomb.
Jesus demonstrated that not only is it impossible to kill God’s Son, which we all collectively are, but that in truth, neither can God’s Son be changed in any way by sin, evil, malice, fear, or death. Jesus remains a savior today because He made a clear distinction of the truth that is still obscure to many. He saw the false without accepting it as true. In his life, Jesus recognized the road of love and truth before Him and followed it. In so doing, He cleared a path so that the rest of us could more easily walk the same road.
Easter is primarily what we call a “Christian” holiday. Baba, however, tells us that there is only one religion, the religion of love; there is only one race, the race of humanity; and there is only one language, the language of divine love in our hearts.
Jesus is the Christ, along with all the rest of us. The difference between most of us and Jesus is that Jesus realized the true nature of His being; the rest of us for the most part have not yet done so. Baba has said that Jesus lived for the divine glory of this sacred planet, that His actions were for those around Him, and that nothing was too precious for Him to give up for His brothers and sisters. Jesus sacrificed His own blood for the good of humanity.
Baba tells us that we too must strive to understand the greater truth, to learn to see all things as one, and to expand our outlook. We must also develop broad and loving hearts so that selfishness can disappear. We must put divine understanding into daily practice so that we bring our lives into the greater truth and realize godliness. Nothing we do or experience can change the basic nature of our being, which is eternal love. We must forget our dreams of sin and guilt and instead share in the resurrection of God’s Son.
Let each of us today ask God for His holy blessing that we may learn from this Master, this brother Jesus, that we too may walk in the way of God’s love, God’s light, God’s peace, and God’s truth; that we too may look beyond this dream of sin, fear, sickness, and death, and share in the resurrection and transformation of God’s Son, which we all are.
Reprinted with permission from Sathya Sai Newsletter, U.S.A., March/April 2005