St. Patrick’s Day
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s day is a holiday that is celebrated all over the world – in fact, it is probably the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world. It is a public holiday in Ireland, North Ireland, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Montserrat. And although it is not a national holiday in other countries, it is still widely celebrated throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, over 34 million Americans celebrating St. Patrick’s Day have Irish heritage, which is more than 6 times the population of the country itself. And on St. Patrick’s Day, consumption of Dublin’s own Guiness beer more than doubles – from 5.5 million pints per day, to over 13 million pints.
Truly, St. Patrick’s Day is a huge party day around the world – with at least a dozen countries participating.
Carnival in Rio is considered the world’s biggest festival with over 2 million people per day on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Rio’s Carnival in 2011 drew in 4.9 million people, with over 400,000 foreigners. The Carnival is a literal 6-day party filled with parades, extravagant costumes, samba, singing and dancing. It is held just before the traditional Catholic season of Lent, in which Catholics give up something as a form of penitence in preparation for Holy Week – Palm Sunday through Good Friday, and culminating in Resurrection Sunday (Easter). So, it makes a bit of human sense to indulge oneself in the carnal pleasures of life just before the penitent season of the year. In fact, the term “Carnival” make come from the late Latin expression “carne vale” which means “farewell to meat” and suggests that those were the final days to enjoy meat before the traditional fasting of Lent. So not surprisingly, beer consumption during Carnival accounts for 80% of Rio’s annual consumption. Additionally, Carnival draws in 70% of Rio’s annual tourism.
Carnival is also celebrated in slightly different ways in many other countries around the world (though Rio’s remains the largest and most famous):
- Africa (Angola, Cape Verde islands, Seychelles)
- Asia (Indonesia, India)
- Europe (Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey)
- North America (Aruba, Antigua, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Canada, United States (Louisiana – Mardi Gras))
- South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela)
The Greatest Celebration
And yet, none of these celebrations and parties even holds a candle to the extraordinary celebration around the world that is Easter. Around the world, approximately 2.1 billion people call themselves Christians. They make up nearly 33% of the entire world’s population, and it is the only major religion that is practiced in every country around the world.
Now, imagine if you added up the full populations of every country in the world that had a Carnival celebration in it. That number would be approximately 3 billion people, or just under 50% of the world’s population. So if every single person in every single Carnival country in the world actually celebrated Carnival, that would be something to brag about (a huge, huge party if 50% of the world joined in). But not every person does join in. And just to match Christianity’s numbers at 33% of the world’s population, at least 3/4 of all the people in all the Carnival countries would need to celebrate. But even that number is a far too generous. In actuality, just judging from Brazil’s Carnival numbers, only about 2.5% of the population actually participates in Carnival (Brazil’s population is 192,376,496 and they attracted 4,900,000 people to Carnival in 2011 – just 2.5% of their population). So, if only 2.5% of any Carnival country’s population joins in the party, that means that only about 75.5 million people celebrate any kind of Carnival any year. That number is much smaller – only about 1.14% of the world’s population, or just under the full population of Iran. Christianity’s numbers by comparison nearly equate to the full population of China and India combined (minus the population of the U.S.).
So when considering the size and magnitude of any other celebration on earth, nothing else even comes close to Easter (except maybe Christmas – but that always plays second fiddle to Easter).
So, why such a big deal about Easter?
You thought Christmas was the biggest celebration on Earth? Well, that’s second best to be sure. But the number one most important celebration in Christianity (and judging by numbers, the world as well) is undoubtedly Easter. Without that, there’d be absolutely no Christianity. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
Got that? Futile. Might as well give up being a Christian right now if there is no resurrection. Without that, all of Jesus’ claims about himself, his deity, his ability to forgive sins and connect people to the Father, are worthless. Without the resurrection, all the faith or good deeds in the world are meaningless; all your time spent in church is meaningless; all the times you write “Christian” on a survey card because you “used to go to church with Mom and Dad once” are meaningless; all the times you pray to get out of trouble (and forget to pray when things are alright) are meaningless; anytime you sing worship songs in church or play CCM in your car, are meaningless. In fact, without the resurrection, the entire tent of Christianity collapses. The resurrection is the pillar keeping this tent up.
The resurrection is the pillar keeping this tent up.
Why is that? Because if there is no resurrection, then the entire premise of Christianity is a sham. God came to Earth to die for the sins of humanity, to restore them to a right relationship with him, so that through his Son, they might inherit eternal life. If Jesus only died, then Christianity would be like every other religion on Earth – a bunch of people following the moral teachings of a great dead prophet. His claims of deity – as the Son of God – would be baseless, and he would be a liar. And we might as well throw out the whole book if the VIP within it is a liar.
Jesus’ death is significant, but it is only half of the story. It would be like watching Empire Strikes Back without seeing Return of the Jedi (yes, I’m a geek). The good guys are defeated at the end. But where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Answer: in Jesus’ resurrection. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” There’s the hope.
John 3:16 is much more about Jesus’ resurrection than his death.
You know that most famous verse: John 3:16? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Most people think that’s talking about Jesus’ death on the cross for the salvation of their sins. I don’t think so. This verse is much more about Jesus’ resurrection than his death. His death is summed up in the first half of the verse, “that he gave his only Son,” but, his resurrection is contained within the second half of the verse, “should not perish but have eternal life.” Just as Jesus himself did not perish, but was resurrected on the third day, as “the firstfruits of those who have [already died],” neither will we, if we put our faith in Jesus (“that whoever believes in him”) to forgive our sins. This is God’s great promise to us. Jesus is our example not only in his life and death, but also in his resurrection.
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-55). There is no longer any death, nor any fear of death for the Christian, for we know that like Jesus, we will be resurrected to join him in heaven at the end of days.
Hugh Hefner on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
But don’t just take my word for it. Let a secularist describe the situation for you as he sees it: “If one had any real evidence that, indeed, Jesus did return from the dead, then that is the beginning of a dropping of a series of dominoes that takes us to all kinds of wonderful things. It assures an afterlife and all kinds of things that we would all hope are true.” This quote is from Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (referenced in Lee Strobel’s The Case for the Real Jesus, page 105). He is not a Christian, true, but even he can recognize the significance and the power of the resurrection. How can we do any less?
So, I implore you – if you are a Christian; if you’ve ever considered yourself a Christian; if you’ve ever been to a Christian church (or Catholic); if you once considered yourself a Christian but have fallen away for a time; if you’re curious about Christianity; if you’re absolutely confused about Jesus and Christianity, but find his story intriguing – then find a church this Easter and go to it. Easter is the pivotal day for Christianity (and also the reason the early church started worshiping on Sunday, rather than Saturday the Sabbath day). Without Easter, without the resurrection, we might as well all just sleep in on every Sunday. It’s THAT important. So find a church on Easter Sunday, no matter where you are in the world, go, and celebrate. Celebrate Jesus – His life, His death, His life again, His life eternal, His life abundant.
And when you celebrate, remember the 2.1 billion other people around the world joining together in the most massive annual celebration in the world.
Jesus Paid It All
I will post one of my favorite Easter songs on each of these Easter posts at the end. Enjoy!