This is the Eastertide, the season when the church celebrates the presence of living Jesus among the people. Eastertide began on Easter Sunday and goes on until the Ascension of Jesus 40 days later. Ten days later is Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter.
We have to recognize that the Christian celebration of Easter and Pentecost has Jewish origin as the early church leaders adapted one of their high holy days as a foundation for the new religion.
The origin of Eastertide is the “Festival of Weeks,” the seven weeks of wheat harvest celebration starting with Passover. The first fruits of the harvest were brought to the temple, and two loaves of bread made from the new wheat were offered. It is also associated with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai from Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28.
Shavuot celebration, the conclusion of the Festival of Weeks, occurs on the 50th day, after the sheaf offering of the harvest celebrated during Passover. The Christian Church just used the Greek word for 50th, Pentecost. Stories of Jesus’ death were tied to Passover, and the freedom of Israelite children became the Christian salvation. The seven weeks of harvest, or visual reminder of God’s provisions, became the season of the presence of risen Jesus among the people. Shavuot, the celebration of the conclusion of harvest, became the coming of the Holy Spirit, the conclusion of the full expression of God. The similarity of high holy days also reveals the natural development process of religions.
However, it is interesting that the gospels have very little about Jesus after his resurrection. Mark’s gospel ends with the story of the empty tomb, Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels only have stories of Jesus’ appearances to disciples on the day of resurrection. It is only in John we find stories of Jesus’ appearances after the day of resurrection, but only two stories exist that talk about Jesus among people between the 40 days between resurrection and ascension.
It is only in one verse in Acts, written by Luke, we find mention of Jesus appearing to people after resurrection until his ascension (Acts 1:3). But even the verse says that Jesus only appeared to the apostles – the initial 12 disciples were called apostles “sent ones” by the early church – not the general public. The idea that Jesus was alive, but he only appeared to disciples, caused problems for the early church.
Eastertide is the season when the Church does not need the physical presence of Jesus. If the resurrection is true and Jesus rose from the dead, then we are to live our lives in such a way that visible Jesus is not needed; the image of Jesus is manifested by us, the believers. Eastertide is the season that we say the world does not need Jesus because they have the church. Eastertide is the season the world sees the church working for freedom for all people. Eastertide is the season the world sees the church live out the love of Jesus.
Eastertide is when the church needs to be visible, fighting for justice for the LGBTIQ+ community’s desire for freedom to live out their image of God. Eastertide is when the church needs to be visible, fighting for women to have freedom over their bodies and their reproductive rights. Eastertide is when the church needs to be visible, fighting for people to live without fear by fighting to eliminate guns and Second Amendment. Eastertide is when the church needs to be visible, fighting for the rights of the pilgrim people to live in freedom and peace in the Promised Land of their choice.
Let us be the witnesses of the living God in our midst this Eastertide.