No, this is not a post about Mick Jagger, but an attempt to answer the question, ‘Why do Christians eat chocolate Easter eggs?’ (Apart from just saying, ‘We like chocolate, so why not?’)
Easter eggs should be eaten on Easter Day and not before, so for the beginning of our answer we need to rewind a little to the Friday before Easter – the day Christians call Good Friday. Jesus has been popular with the common people for his teaching (that God loves them too) and his healing. But he has fallen foul of the religious and political authorities and they conspire to kill him by the horrifically painful method of execution called crucifixion.
Taking their lives in their hands, two of Jesus’ less well-known disciples, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, go to Pilate, the Roman Prefect, and ask for Jesus’ body so that they can bury it before the Sabbath, when no work can be done. But where to put it quickly and securely? Joseph is a man who thinks ahead and already has his own grave marked out – a cave with a large stone next to it, which will block the entrance and deter grave robbers. Since it’s near the place where Jesus was crucified they decide to put him there in the meantime and with some effort manage to roll the stone in front of the cave.
Along with the stone there is an official ‘seal’ (a kind of Roman police cordon – ‘do not break this seal on pain of death’) and a guard of soldiers preventing Jesus’ disciples stealing his body to fool people into thinking he’s still alive.
Time passes. Friday afternoon turns into Saturday, and as Sunday dawns, some of Jesus’ female disciples want to get on quickly with the burial rites before he starts to decompose. Before dawn, fumbling their way in through the darkness, they make their way to the cave. To their consternation, confusion and distress, they come to the grave where they think Jesus should be, but there are no soldiers, the stone has been rolled away from the entrance, there is no body and yet there are grave clothes lying folded inside. What the…? Have we come to the wrong place? No… this is the right place so what’s happening?
Christians believe that Jesus was raised to new life and promises a share in that new life to all who follow him. The empty cave is not a proof but a witness to the fact that Jesus is alive. And the stone was rolled away to let us hear the testimony of the empty cave.
That such a big stone was rolled way (in darkness) was said to be the work of angels. Today we make it easier for ourselves! Admittedly we need to use a bit of imagination for this, but each Easter Christians use hard-boiled eggs and chocolate eggs to symbolise the stone that was rolled away from the empty cave – not to let Jesus out but to show it was empty. Our rolling eggs trigger the memories of the story, or re-enact the story, and the fun we have doing it reflects our joy that Jesus is alive.
But why chocolate eggs? Well, we like chocolate, don’t we…and dairy produce is off the menu in Lent!