There were messiahs other than Jesus in first and second century Palestine whose lives ended violently.
But when they were killed, their movements died with them and their followers dispersed.
But not the Jesus movement.
It not only survived his crucifixion, it came back stronger than before by virtue of his resurrection, and his followers boldly proclaimed a faith that transformed lives and the world we live in.
His life gave new life to the movement.
Without his resurrection, which followers recently celebrated, there would have been no Christian faith, no Christian Church.
And without the church as a whole and the impact it has had, the world would be a very different place.
If you believe child abandonment is immoral, it is largely because you have internalized the Christian ethic that human life is sacred.
In contrast to the paganism of ancient Rome, Christianity elevated the value of human life and led to the abolition of abortion, infanticide, child abandonment, gladiatorial shows and suicide.
The early Christians also valued infant girls as well as infant boys.
Before Christianity, a married man was not guilty of adultery if he had sex with an unmarried woman, whereas a married woman was guilty if she had sex with anyone other than her husband.
The church recognized that the sin of adultery applied to the man as well, allowing the woman to file for divorce if she chose, something unheard of in the ancient world.
Christianity elevated the status of women to new heights.
Unlike other rabbis, Christ taught women, and he considered them co-equal heirs with men in the salvation he gives.
Paganism granted husbands life and death power over their wives, a custom outlawed by Emperor Valentinian I (a Christian) in 374 A.D.
The Apostle Paul taught that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies and as Christ loved the church.
In many pre-Christian cultures, when the husband died and was cremated, his widow was expected to climb onto the funeral pyre and be cremated with him.
This had been true in Scandinavia, as well as in China, New Zealand and India, and among some American Indians before Columbus arrived. By contrast, the New Testament taught the honor and care of widows, and the Apostle James wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
The abolition of slavery was a Christian achievement, as was the establishment of hospitals, universities and public education, as well as education for both sexes.
Religious liberty and freedom of conscience arose from the Christian influence of the Reformation of the 16th century.
Regrettably, there have been many sad examples in the past of Christians violating the freedom of others, but it is undeniable that religious freedom today is greatest in those countries with a long Christian history.
All this because of Easter.
More could be said, but the greatest blessing of Easter is the assurance that you are forgiven all your sins.
Christ died for sinners, paying your debt through his death in your place.
God raised Jesus to prove that your debt is paid in full, because if the debt is paid, death could no longer keep Jesus in its grip.
It had to release him, and someday death must release you as well.
Christ is risen and, as a result, the world is a very different place.
The leader of a small group of men and women, in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire, died on a cross, transforming that symbol of death into a symbol of life by his resurrection from the dead, and transforming the world for the better.