rebelling against low expectations

The Risk We Face at Easter


Last year Kevin DeYoung wrote this:

“We must be careful: with Holy Week there is the risk of sentimentalism swallowing up substance.”

We’re nearing the end of what has traditionally been called Holy Week. It’s the week leading up to the formal recognition and celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and Easter.

But there is a danger in this week, one that too many of us face. DeYoung knows this.

It is the risk of sentimentalism.

Easter makes us feel really nice, doesn’t it?

We’re wrapped in warm and fuzzies, singing all the happiest hymns, hearing that uplifting message, usually seeing a full sanctuary, and meeting toddlers in Easter bonnets.

And we can’t forget the joy of family breakfasts, brunches, ham or lamb dinners, the Easter greeting cards, and all those trending pictures of bunnies and kittens in spring fields.

Who wouldn’t be happy at Easter?

It’s true; we love Easter. It’s a nice holiday, but, sadly, many of our perceptions and beliefs about it have been shaped by our traditions. And traditions breed sentimentality.

“We must be careful,” warns DeYoung.

He’s right. This is not the week of good feelings and Kinder Surprises; it is a week for a celebration of the solemn and the life-changing.

Sometimes I can get so focused on the routine of it that I forget this is a week to remind me of great wrath and terrible beauty and God the Son killed and then made alive.

That’s marvelous! It’s miraculous!

Yet in a sense, this week should be just like every other week, seven days of worshiping Jesus and celebrating the gospel. This occurrence shouldn’t be unusual. Still, we can make Easter special, as long as it’s about the gospel, not feelings (no matter how fun and familiar those feelings are).

Easter is about truth: the incarnation (God the Son becoming man), the crucifixion (God the Son suffering the wrath of the Father), and the resurrection (God the Son raising from the dead by the power of the Father).

Easter is also about joy, but it is an informed, biblical, Christcentric, soul-satisfying joy in the sacrifice of Jesus. Not joy in tradition.

So celebrate Easter! I will.

Rejoice in the sacrifice and the glory of Christ on the cross and through the absent tomb. Gather with family and friends and enjoy those traditions as you magnify the gospel together.

But remember the risk of sentimentalism. Combat it with the substance of truth.

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Photo courtesy of Amanda Tipton and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Jaquelle Crowe Ferris

is the former editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway). She's the co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop and hosts a podcast for youth called Age of Minority. She's married to Joe and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.


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  • Thank you for the great reminder, Jaquelle!

    Something that has been puzzling me recently, is that most people talk about how “Jesus died for us”, but don’t focus on the greater picture: his substitutionary atonement by taking upon himself the wrath of God. It wasn’t enough for him to simply die. Anybody can die, but only Christ could take the punishment for our sins. I guess people just like to sum it up by saying, “He died”, because it’s more complicated to go into detail.

    • Olivia, you have no idea how much I’ve been thinking about that. Without substitutionary atonement, we would be hopeless. We’d be lost. It is a complex doctrine but it’s also marvelous and so intrinsic to our faith. Thank you for your comment.

  • Yes, thank you Jaquelle! Sometimes, we all forget the truth of Easter, and start to follow the world’s version. My dad recently has taken to calling Easter, our Christian Independence Day, and that’s the ultimate reality. When Jesus died on the cross, He freed us from the bondage of sin. He tore the veil, so that He could have relationship with His children. So let us celebrate our Independence Day, and not hold on to the warm fuzzy feeling so tight.

    • I love that, Zee! “Our Christian Independence Day” – what a unique and compelling phrase. Your dad sounds like a smart guy. 🙂 When we think of it like that, it totally focuses our mind on the right thing.

  • Awesome reminder, thanks Jaquelle! I think that we all can get so wrapped up in the worlds version of Easter, that we forget the truth. So, like you, I am going to celebrate Easter, but while magnifying the Gospel.

    • Yes, Anne, you’re so right. It’s the same danger we face at Christmas – we get so influenced by the world that we miss the true meaning. Scary thought. How wonderful that we can celebrate the truth of Easter, though!

  • This is great, Jaquelle! Thank you for bringing our attention back to what really matters this Easter 🙂

  • “all those trending pictures of bunnies and kittens in spring fields.” LOL. Yeah, since when has Easter been about bunnies. . .Um, we’re not celebrating spring. We’re celebrating Jesus, in case you forgot!

    And I totally agree that every week should be like Easter. We should be super passionate for the Lord and excited to celebrate him ALL the time.

    One thing my sister said the other day really rings true. I think sometimes we make such a huge deal of Christmas and then we Easter comes around we’re like “Oh, it’s Easter” but it’s not like that important. But really Easter should be just as big of a deal as Christmas. These seasons aren’t about us. They’re about him!

    Thx Jaquelle! You’re the best and may the Creator of the Koalas be with you!

    • You’re welcome, John. That is so true about how we celebrate – your sister is wise. All of life, every season, every holiday, should be about glorifying Christ. Thank you for sharing that perspective. And the koalas thank you too.

    • “Yeah, since when has Easter been about bunnies. . .Um, we’re not celebrating spring. We’re celebrating Jesus, in case you forgot!”
      We live in a sadly secular culture. That`s how they celebrate a holiday without celebrating Jesus. It happens to a lot og holidays, and it`s sad to see how these people will not celebrate the Truth.

      • Deep. True. Sad! I think the church also needs to realize where there buying into this secularization of holidays.

  • Jaquelle, I saw that you graduated from Thomas Edison. Does that mean you did College Plus? I’m currently doing it, and I know that they work pretty closely with Thomas Edison. Just thought I’d ask.
    I loved this article!

  • Your articles always inspire me Jaquelle and I loved your comments at the bottom, we go on with are lives and never realize the power of that day! That the Son of God who satan thought, he killed forever, rose again and conquered death!
    A day that should inspire us to pick up the call that Christ has given Romans 1:4, with his authority and his call to reach the hurting world with the hope, that was given to us!

  • I came across this ‘blog’ while doing a search for “is sentimentalism hurting the gospel”, and would be interested in hearing what you might have to say, directly to that question. I do like this article, as it was while reflecting on the harshness and reality of the crucifixion of Jesus, that my thoughts were drawn to the danger of sentimentalizing the “Cross” and how we have romanticize so much of the harshness of life, such as war.
    Is this a action that we use to help us live with the horrors and dark parts of life?

rebelling against low expectations

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