Why the convoluted date-cycle of Easter speaks to its miraculous timing.
Easter 2015 (Part 1)
Easter’s convoluted dating
Easter is linked with the Passover. So it occurs (mainly) on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (all things being equal with the ecclesiastical calendars). The vernal equinox was yesterday, March 21. Since the new moon (which is no moon) was March 20, we are mid-cycle, Easter-wise. But if March 20 were the full moon instead of the new moon, yesterday would have been the first day of a waxing gibbous moon… which is as far away from the next full moon as possible; then we’d need to wait four weeks for Easter instead of our two. (April 25th is the latest possible date for Easter.) Conversely, if yesterday were the full moon itself, today would be Easter… and today (March 22) is the earliest possible date for Easter in any given year.
So, while it is always cool to have church on March 22, it is very cool to have Easter on this date. You see, we will have church on this date again in 2020, only five years from now. But Easter will not occur on this date until 2285, 270 years from now! (Last time was 1818; this is a 467 year gap.)
Easter’s miraculous timing
Jesus, our Passover Lamb, died on the Passover… which sounds like a “duh!” … but it's actually an extraordinary (and I mean miraculous) occurrence. Why? Jesus did not kill himself. Other people killed him… but they killed him at the exact moment needed for him to fulfill the type of the sacrificial lamb. How did this happen?
The pagan Romans cared nothing for the Passover. Yet they nailed Jesus to the cross right on time. And it was the Jews, the religious establishment that hated him, who launched Jesus’ death. Do you think that they were trying to establish Jesus as the fulfillment of the Passover? Hardly! They were getting rid of a pest! How about his disciples? Were they complicit in setting-up the cross as the biggest Christian symbol of all time? No! The disciples thought that it was “game-over” at the crucifixion; they were scattered and confused. But God used the confluence of the Roman ambivalence, the Jewish hate, the Jewish calendar, the disciples’ misunderstanding—and yes, the moon—to have Jesus die at exactly the right moment.
Please understand that Christ’s death would have atoned for our sins no matter what the date. But this extraordinary timing absolutely nailed the Passover symbolism. (Pun intended). Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb, died on the Passover… but at the hands of those who either hated him or cared nothing about him… and in view of clueless followers who did not understand that Jesus’ death was necessary for that moment.
The fact of Jesus’ death on the cross is a miracle of love and grace, but the timing of his death was itself a miracle. Who else but God could work such a thing across three cultures and the moon?