Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What's With the Bunnies?

With the Easter season just passed, we have a good question from a young person. He asks, “What do rabbits have to do with Easter?”

Rabbits and the Resurrection

Of course, the short answer is “nothing.” Hares (which are basically rabbits) are actually mentioned in the Bible a few times, but only because they were animals that God told the Old Testament Israelites they were not allowed to eat (Lev. 11:6; Deut. 14:7). In other words, they are not kosher. That’s interesting, but it tells us nothing about Easter.

So if the Bible says nothing about the Easter Bunny, where did it come from? Well, it is actually a holdover from another religion. Before Christianity spread to ancient Germany, they used to worship a number of gods. One of them was a fertility goddess named Eostre (which is where we get the name Easter from), and one of her symbols was the hare. Rabbits were and still are famous for having a lot of babies, which is what connected them to Eostre.

In the same way, eggs also became connected with her. After all, that is how chickens have their babies. They, too, are therefore a symbol of fertility. And lastly, Eostre became associated with the spring because that is when life “returns” to the world after winter. Animals come out of hibernation, rivers unfreeze, and plants grow. So the ancient Germans celebrated a holiday in her honor at that time each year.

Christians obviously do not believe in Eostre. Why worship a goddess of fertility when you can worship the God of everything? And why worship a fake when the real Lord proved His greatness by dying and coming back to life? But that does kind of help make a connection. If spring is about life returning after the death of winter, and if Jesus died and came back to life in spring, then it makes sense for us to celebrate the season with the resurrection. So that is what the early German Christians did. They kept the symbols of the rabbit and the egg, but just attached them to what Jesus did rather than sticking with Eostre.

Celebrating What Matters Most

So far, so good. I don’t see a problem with borrowing symbols when we know the truth about Jesus. It just means we are putting them to better use than earlier people did. But then something bad started to happen. In the last 50 years or so, people have begun to forget what Easter is really about. Fewer and fewer stores and houses are decorated with the cross on which Jesus died for our sins or the empty tomb from which He rose to bring us eternal life. Instead, people are using the symbols as though they are the point of the celebration.

This can be seen just about anywhere. Commercials and displays are all about bunnies, eggs, and flowers. Easter is becoming nothing more than a celebration of spring, rather than being about Jesus. Not that it is about Eostre, either. It is just about color and candy, which actually makes it pretty bland.

One of the reasons this is happening is because of money. It is called “appealing to the lowest common denominator.” Not everyone is a Christian, but everyone can recognize when spring has arrived. If you can make Easter just a spring festival, then you can sell Easter decorations and candy to everyone rather than just to Christians.

The other reason this is happening is even worse, though. It is because people do not care about Jesus the way they used to. A lot of times, that even happens with people who say they are Christians. People do not want to think about Easter very seriously because it would mean their lives should change. That is hard, and they do not want to bother, so they ignore it for bunnies and eggs.

We cannot make them change their minds, but we can try to tell them what they are missing out on. Jesus wants us to be good, but even more than that, He loves us and wants to save us. That is what Easter is really all about, and it actually matters all year long. People need to know that, and it is our job to tell them. And when it comes to Easter, we need to keep our priorities straight. The bunnies are fun, and there is no harm in them as long as we make sure Jesus comes first. Nothing else matters like that does.

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