Today in Turkey is known as Paskalya, that being the Turkish word for Easter. While some Turks have a pretty good idea about what Paskalya is, most know one thing and one thing only. We paint eggs.
And they’re not wrong. Many people paint eggs, do Easter egg hunts, get an Easter basket from the fictitious Easter bunny or have a contest to see who can kill the Easter bunny…oh wait, that’s just my family.
When all you know about a holiday is that people paint eggs, the obvious question that follows is “Why?”
As the secular and religious mingle inside of a holiday’s goings-on, it’s rather difficult to say why we paint eggs. Having some sort of contrived answer that relates to Jesus isn’t really helpful in my opinion. Let’s just say it’s festive and fun. Not that I’ve painted an egg in the last decade to celebrate, but I have certainly eaten my fair share of chocolate. It’s easy to explain the candy. In Lent, many people give up candy, so we celebrate by eating way too much of it. Turks understand that. They fast for Ramazan (or Ramadan) all month, then comes Sugar Bayram, where children knock on your door like it is Halloween, kiss your hand and demand candy or money, while adults go around visiting relatives for three or four days, eating sarma, dolma, mercimek kofte, baklava and whatever else is offered to them.
But what is Easter really about?
Inside the Turkish word Paskalya we can see the word paschal. Now what is that? What does paschal mean? According to the customs and traditions of Passover, there was a lamb that was slaughtered for the meal, a paschal lamb, a sacrificial lamb, a victim.
The Turkish word for sacrifice or victim is kurban. Indeed, Muslims celebrate Kurban Bayram (or Kurban Eid) every year by sacrificing a lamb, a paschal lamb.
Today I showed my students the connection between Easter -> Paskalya -> paschal -> kurban and they got it. They understood. But the question appropriately followed. Who or What is the victim?
The celebration of Easter is more than painting eggs, receiving chocolate from the fictitious Easter bunny or simply welcoming the warmer weather of Spring. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.
On the previous Friday, we remember His death. On Sunday we celebrate and remember Jesus’ victory over death. His being raised from death to life again. We celebrate His being made alive again through God’s infinite and unlimited power.
So why don’t we continue to sacrifice lambs in celebration of this remembrance? Because the old way is over. In the old way, people sacrificed animals as offerings in order to receive forgiveness for their wrong-doings, for their sins.
To paraphrase Hebrews: We have been made holy and right with God through the offering and sacrifice of Jesus’ own body. Once for all.
According to the old way, sacrifice occurred at least once a year if not more frequently. People kept sinning and had to keep sacrificing again and again to remove sin. Under the new way. Jesus was sacrificed once for all. His sacrifice is enough so that we don’t have to keep on sacrificing animals to remove sin. Jesus has removed all of our sin. We are forgiven. Jesus has taken our sin away, atoned for it all. Jesus has been sacrificed, been made the victim, been made the kurban for us.
Paskalya is very much our Kurban Bayram.