07 April 2017
The Cadbury question: does Jesus care about an egg hunt?
Dan Tyler is student pastor at St George's, Leeds.
What would Jesus think about the word Easter being dropped from the Cadbury egg hunt?
It certainly seemed to wind up Theresa May while she was away in Saudi Arabia this week.
It also seems to have fuelled the fake news brigade. Most major supermarkets are being accused of dropping the word 'Easter' from marketing their chocolate eggs, which is simply not true – not even close. The word 'Easter' is being used as a marketing tool today as much as ever. Hallelujah?
The absurdity of this news story hasn't gone unnoticed. Satirists have been quick to point out that eggs and Jesus have a tenuous connection at best – probably linked by the rebirth of the phoenix. Astute commentators have noted the connection between the word 'Easter' and the story of Jesus is even more spurious.
Has Theresa May found a perfect distraction for some international politicking? Does it reflect a genuine outrage? Is the whole business a storm in a teacup? I don't know.
Because I'm a pastor I'm interested in my people's response to news like this and I've found two categories of response. They are both equally damaging and I'm deeply committed to correcting them.
The first goes something like this: Jesus was king. Jesus was killed by evil men. Jesus' followers tried to set up his kingdom, but they were killed by evil men. In fact, right down to 2017, the business of his followers is to defeat evil people to establish his empire. Hints of removing the word 'Easter' from the public square are signs that the enemy is battering on the walls of England's green and pleasant land – and turned into a call to arms (or memes).
The second response goes like this: Jesus was a liberator. Jesus was prevented from liberating people by the system. Jesus' true followers are liberators and are being foiled by the system. Any focus on the historicity of Jesus' passion or his ongoing fame must be put aside for the 'good of the people'. Somehow the business of worrying about the content of Easter belongs to 'the system'. Easter as we know it is therefore part of the problem itself.
With Palm Sunday just around the corner, the depiction of King Jesus riding to liberate Jerusalem on a donkey explodes both these responses. Jesus is king but "my kingdom is not of this world". Jesus is all about liberation, but he is always the hero of the story.
Jesus is the servant king who comes to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus is the priest king who comes to offer, once for all, the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the humble king who didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped. Ironically, in forcing the Christian message on the public, in demanding sacrifices from culture and in grasping at the vestiges of the Church's power, we are presenting a different Jesus, a different gospel and a different God than the Bible does.
Jesus is the liberator. In his life, death and resurrection, he has won a victory for us over sin, death and the devil. Jesus' victory at Easter is the greatest news the world has never heard. There is no freedom apart from Jesus. Apart from union with him there is no freedom from sin. There is no freedom from death. There is no freedom from the devil.
We need Jesus more than we need a change to the system. The Saudis need Jesus more than a trade deal with the UK. The poor need Jesus more than they need a different economics.
The presence or absence of 'Easter' as a marketing tool is a distraction, but it might reveal our hearts' desire for a liberating king. I challenge you this Easter to read Mark's gospel with someone who's got a different perspective than you, discover Jesus and to work out together what Jesus would think about 'Easter' being dropped from a poster.