Mar 31 2013

Easter’s Uniqueness

zebra 554Over the years many have noted the appropriateness of Easter coming during the season of spring.  Easter is very much about renewal on our part but when it comes to finding parallels to what Jesus experienced in nature it is a pretty difficult thing to do.  For many years people have used the butterfly as a symbol for Easter.  Some think the caterpillar that enters a cocoon and comes out a butterfly is a reminder of the resurrection.  That, to me, seems more like a symbol for change or metamorphosis than resurrection.   The caterpillar does not die and then come back to life.  It is simply transformed.

resurrection fern 703When Rob and I were in the Everglades late last year we took a naturalist-led tour through a swamp and were told about a plant known as the resurrection fern.  It grows on trees and during dry spells it basically withers.  Once it rains, however, the plant revives and becomes a vibrant and verdant fern once again.  Once more, this is a matter of rejuvenation, not resurrection.  The plant did not die and then come back to life again.  Perhaps the closest we come to a parallel in nature is the one Jesus himself gave.  He once said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)  Even here, however, it is not a literal death that occurs.

I stress the differences here because I feel that it is important to understand how unique and special the Easter event is.  There are no true natural parallels.  Plants and animals do not die and then come back to life again.  Neither do humans; not, at least, after two or three days, and when they are medically revived it is only to  die permanently later.  We cannot minimize what happened when Jesus rose from the dead.  It was not a natural phenomenon.  Instead it was the grandest miracle of all.

_CES2288It has been said that Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a new Creation.   After Easter everything changes; the old order of things passed away and the world began a brand new era.  I could not begin to explain it in words but I do believe that the resurrection of Christ has cosmic implications.  What happened on Good Friday and then Easter has changed the world forevermore.  It offers to humans and Creation alike hope.  On this day I celebrate that hope and encourage you to join with me in doing so.  Happy Easter!


(I took the Zebra butterly and caterpillar images at Cypress Garden in South Carolina and the resurrection fern image at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.)

Apr 4 2010

Easter Reflections

butterfly on milkweed

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”  Matthew 28:6

Today is Easter Sunday, undoubtedly the most important day in the Christian year.  On this day Christians worldwide celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  This past Friday was Good Friday.  On that day we paused to remember Jesus’ death on the cross.   The cross, of course, has pretty much become the universal symbol of Christianity.  It would seem to me that the empty tomb would be a better symbol but I guess it presents a bigger challenge graphically.

There is, however, a symbol of the resurrection taken from nature that is popular with some.  It is the butterfly.  For many years people have marveled at how the lowly caterpillar creates a cocoon and then emerges as a beautiful butterfly.  In this metamorphosis one can easily find parallels to Jesus’ Passion.  The cocoon appears to be a tomb for the caterpillar; it would seem that the caterpillar no longer exists.  But then the cocoon splits and out comes the butterfly full of life.

I realize that this is not a perfect parallel but I still like the symbolism.  Even if the caterpillar doesn’t really die there is nonetheless a wonderful transformation that takes place.  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection there is also a wonderful transformation available for those who place their faith in Christ.  That transformation is just as dramatic as the one where the caterpillar turns into a butterfly!

For me Easter is good news.  Because of Jesus’ resurrection we know that sin and death do not have the final word.  Because of the empty tomb we know that there is a power greater than these; that power is God’s love.  It is this love I think about whenever I see a beautiful butterfly.  It is this love I give thanks for today and every other day.  Happy Easter!


(The butterfly image above was taken at Shenandoah National Park.)