In many ways these rather innocent traditions that have grown up around Easter reflect the deeper promise of Easter . . . even when we are unaware of that promise. Those family traditions celebrate a state of joy, blessedness and (perhaps) renewed innocence. Or to put it another way those traditions reflect the embrace of God's Shalom. The promise of Easter is that God's is making everything "right" and "renewing" that which is fallen. That is the joy factor in Easter. Things will be, once again, just as God intended them to be.
The apostle Paul asserts that the resurrection of the dead is an essential component of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15). It is important for us to remember one of the cardinal rules of biblical interpretation when reading what Paul says in 1 Corinthians about the resurrection: historical context. Just because the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection does not mean they did not believe in life after the grave! Most folks in the first century A.D. believed in life after the grave. The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul. These are not 20th century secular humanists Paul is addressing. What they are denying, and what was common for many in the first century, was the resurrection of the body.
Yet for Paul the physical, material, resurrection of Jesus from the grave was of critical importance . . . not the immortality of the soul, not some disembodied eternal life. Paul argues that Jesus' resurrection reverses something that was started by Adam. He likewise links our hope to Jesus' through the image of "firstfruits" (1 Cor 15.20-23). Adam's sin had a cosmic impact and polluted not just the "spiritual" side of humanity but brought a curse to God's established Shalom in this world (cf. Roman 5.12ff; 8.20f). The Promise of Easter is that in the resurrection of Jesus God has dealt a mortal blow to the vandalism that invaded not just people but his entire created order.
Picking up on that image of "firstfruits" once again Paul says that the Spirit has been given, as a result of Jesus cross and resurrection, as a sign that God is redeeming our entire person and the entire world.
"The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved." (Romans 8.18-24a)
The Promise of Easter is that God loves and values all of who we are, not just our "souls." The Promise of Easter is that God loves and values all of his creation and not merely one part of it. Jesus could have got into "immortal" life as a disembodied spirit. The Greeks would have been quite happy with that. But Paul says God raised the BODY of Jesus because is not just about saving the spirit of humanity but the entire creation. The Promise of Easter is that you and I, as God's creatures matter to him and that God longs for us to live as he fully intended humans to live from the beginning.
In reality Easter points to God's ultimate goal. The old Stoned-Campbell writer, David Lipscomb captured that goal quite nicely. And though Lipscomb did not use the language "the Promise of Easter" he does point to that reality. He wrote,
"The object of God's dealing with man, and especially the mission of Christ to earth, was to rescue the world from the rule and dominion of the evil one, from the ruin into which it had fallen through sin, and to rehabilitate it with the dignity and the glory it had when it came from the hand of God" (Salvation from Sin, p. 114).
The Promise of Easter is that God is restoring shalom to his world. The Promise of Easter is that God is "rehabilitating" creation to the "dignity and the glory" it had when the Lord of Creation brought it into existence.
No wonder we find Easter a time of such joy. Celebrate it. Relish it as the firstfruit of God's shalom.