God Cancelled Easter. So Should We.
By a Concerned NAPARC Minister
April 6th, 2020
The threat of the Coronavirus has closed countless churches. The Lord has done this, and we ought to respond with humility and godly fear (Amos 3:6-8). As we reflect on God’s judgments we also ought not miss his timing: the public health crisis in the United States began in the middle of the season known as Lent, and the orders to shut down public worship came just before the Sunday they call Easter.
What ought we to think of this? Consider these four thoughts from Scripture, moving from general principles to specific application.
1. God judges his church by removing public worship.
God through the prophet Hosea pleaded with Israel to put away her spiritual whoredom, under a solemn threat of removing her public worship: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts” (Hosea 2:10). She did not hear this plea, nor did her sister Judah, so God made good on his threat. Jeremiah laments under the Babylonian captivity, “He hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest” (Lamentations 2:6).
Though our church buildings have not yet been destroyed, we should not proudly claim that the temporary removal of our public worship is not a judgment from God. At the least it is clear, God did promise for his people’s sins to close their churches, he surely has done so in the past, and he will surely do so in the future (Rev. 2:5, 9).
2. God judges his church for superstitious worship.
God gives in Scripture many reasons for his judgments upon the church. A common one is superstition, that is, worship that man has invented, and that God himself has not required. God forbids all such superstitious worship in the second commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4–5). He repeats this rejection of invented worship in the words of Christ against the Pharisees: “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Then again in the teaching of Paul against “ordinances…after the commandments and doctrines of men” (Colossians 2:21–22): Paul admits these “have indeed a shew of wisdom,” and yet they are “will worship” (2:23), which is to say, they originate from the will of man, and not the will of God.
Note also how the second commandment concludes with a serious threat: “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…” (Exodus 20:5). History proves this threat is not idle. Israel by the hand of Aaron made the molten calf and proclaimed a feast to the LORD, celebrated with acts of worship and of revelry (Exodus 32:3–6). God for this unauthorized holy day threatened to destroy them all (v. 10), then ordered the execution of about three thousand (v. 28), and a plague upon the rest (v. 35). Not long after, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, were consumed for offering “strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1–2). King Uzziah for his presumption to burn incense, though he was not priest, was struck with lifelong leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16–21). And most dreadfully, when God’s people burned their sons and daughters in the fire, his word of condemnation was not they had committed murder, but rather, superstition: “which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart” (Jeremiah 7:31). For this superstition the place of their invented sacrifice would become the valley of their own slaughter (v. 32).
Make no mistake, God hates superstition. He is angry with worship he has not commanded in his word, and he promises to judge his church for offering it.
We cannot speak infallibly concerning our present circumstances. God alone knows all the reasons for his providence. But we can see from these commands and examples that false, superstitious worship deserves a judgment such as we are under; indeed, one far worse. Therefore, insofar as the church today cherishes similar superstitions as the church of old, we must remember Christ’s warning, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).
3. Easter is not taught in Scripture, and is therefore superstitious.
Now we must be more specific, lest we miss God’s timing of the Coronavirus. We should not merely lament the judgment of church closings, or the sin of superstition, in general. God has closed our own specific churches, for the specific day called Easter. Why is this significant? Because Easter is itself a prime example of the superstitious worship that God has promised to judge.
The simple proof that Easter is superstitious, is that God has nowhere taught it in the Bible. This is not difficult to demonstrate, if the question is understood precisely: Has God anywhere in Scripture commanded the yearly observance, under the New Testament, of a special holy day devoted to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection? All honest readers of the Bible should say, no.
That God commanded the Passover is beyond doubt (Exodus 12), but after the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God to which the yearly feast pointed, Passover is no longer to be practiced (Galatians 4:10–11). That Passover happens to be called “Easter” in Acts 12:4 (KJV) is no more a proof for the celebration of our Easter than for the continued yearly application of a lamb’s blood upon our doorposts.
Moreover, that God raised Christ from the dead on a Sunday after Passover is beyond doubt (Luke 24:46), as is the fact that the weekly Sabbath is now changed to that day of resurrection (John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). And what Christian could deny that he ought to celebrate Christ’s resurrection as a central fact of history, and of the faith (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)? Yet none of these obvious biblical teachings begin to approach what Easter worshipers would need: a word from God that Christ’s resurrection ought to be religiously remembered by the specific celebration of its anniversary.
It is clear then that no such thing as Easter is found in the Bible. And if that is so, practicing it is superstitious, and sinful, and in itself a sufficient cause for God’s severe judgment.
Add to this the manifold superstitions that through the ages have attached themselves to Easter: other “holy days,” Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. Then the high-church trappings, the vestments, colors, flowers, processions, choirs. Then the scrupulous avoidance in the pulpit of all other profitable topics, except for the resurrection. Then all the unspiritual additions which have, for fun and profit’s sake, borrowed the halo of the day: Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, Easter candy. As if it displeased God for children simply to have fun, and we must somehow turn their recreation into religion—yet that again, with no command from God.
Make no mistake, Easter is wrong without these extra inventions. Yet the natural relationship of Easter with them all should be a clear reminder, that the day itself, like all that comes with it, is superstitious worship, and therefore hateful to the God who alone reserves the right to institute religion.
4. Because God cancelled Easter, we ought to do the same.
So we return to the fact that God has cancelled Easter. Do you see that this is not only a judgment, but also a mercy? He is keeping us, despite ourselves, from displeasing him more than we would without these new restraints. And he is gracious also to warn us, by bringing one faint breeze of the hurricane of judgment we deserve, to flee that judgment, by fleeing in all its forms its ultimate cause, which is our sin.
In humbly repenting of all sin, we ought not to forget the sin of superstitious worship. God does not forget it. However, he does graciously forgive it, and has done so throughout history (Exodus 32:14; 2 Kings 18:4, 7; 2 Chronicles 34:3–7, 27–28). But it is mere presumption to think that such forgiveness will come without repentance. Until our graven images are destroyed, and true religion restored in purity, it will not be long before God removes our public worship altogether.
I beg the church therefore, in fear of God, to cancel Easter. Cancel it this Sunday, and forever. Cancel the robes, the choirs, the colors. Cancel the sermon on the resurrection—make it serve another Sunday, safe from superstition, and preach this Sunday something else, perhaps the second commandment.  Cancel everything to do with Easter, everything that bears its name. Cancel the Easter bunnies, Easter candy, Easter egg hunts. I know well that most will scoff at this counsel. But it remains the duty of us all, as best each of us can, to blot out the very memory of this superstitious day from under heaven. Just as Moses put a sudden stop to Aaron’s superstitious feast, then took the molten calf and “burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder” (Exodus 32:19–20), so in us may the promise of the prophet be fulfilled,
Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, And the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence. Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures. (Isaiah 30:22–23)
The call for Easter’s total cancellation may seem extreme, but it is nothing short of simple obedience to the second commandment. The Westminster Larger Catechism, in Q. 108, rightly tells us that our duty under that commandment includes “the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”
May God give us grace to see, that he himself has cancelled Easter for our good, and we ought to go, and do likewise.
 “Whence ariseth another distinction of offences, viz. from the matter of a practice, or from the manner of the performing of it, or the circumstances in the doing of it. For, as it is not an act materially good that will edify, except it be done in the right manner, so will not an act materially good keep off offence, if it be not done tenderly, wisely, etc. And often we find circumstances have much influence on offence, as times, persons, places, manner, etc. For it is not offensive for one to pray or preach, but at some times, as before an idol, or on an Holy-day it may be offensive.” James Durham (1622-1658), A Treatise Concerning Scandal (Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1990), 4-5.