What is Easter?
Easter is in two days on April 16 this year. What is Easter? Why do we celebrate Easter? Easter typically entails the Easter bunny, dying eggs, an Easter egg hunt, a new spring dress, church and family gatherings surrounded by food. I don’t know how a bunny and eggs got brought into the mix, but I do know that Easter is a time to celebrate the miracle of Jesus raising from the dead.
“Easter is really an entire season of the Christian church year, as opposed to a single-day observance. Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday, is a time of reflection and penance and represents the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before starting his ministry, a time in which Christians believe he survived various temptations by the devil. The day before Lent, known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, is a last hurrah of food and fun before the fasting begins. The week preceding Easter is called Holy Week and includes Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples; Good Friday, which honors the day of his crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, which focuses on the transition between the crucifixion and resurrection. The 50-day period following Easter Sunday is called Eastertide and includes a celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.”
Jesus’ murder started when he went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This day is remembered as Palm Sunday. Passover is a Jewish holiday “commemorating the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt.”
“According to the gospels, Jesus was betrayed by Judas on the night of the Last Supper, commemorated on Holy Thursday. The morning following Christ’s arrest, he was brought before Annas, a powerful Jewish cleric. Annas condemned Jesus for blasphemy for refusing to repudiate Annas’ words that He was the Son of God. From there, Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the province.
Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus but found no reason to condemn Him. Instead, he suggested Jewish leaders deal with Jesus according to their own law. But under Roman law, they could not execute Jesus, so they appealed to Pilate to issue the order to kill Jesus.
Pilate appealed to King Herod, who found no guilt in Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate once again. Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent, and washed his hands to show that he wanted nothing to do with Jesus, but the crowds were enraged. To prevent a riot and to protect his station, Pilate reluctantly agreed to execute Jesus and sentenced him to crucifixion. Jesus was convicted of proclaiming himself to be the King of the Jews.”
Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. “Before his execution, Jesus was flogged, which was a customary practice intended to weaken a victim before crucifixion. Crucifixion was an especially painful method of execution and was perfected by the Romans as such. It was reserved for the worst criminals, and generally Roman citizens, women, and soldiers were exempt in most cases. During his flogging, the soldiers tormented Jesus, crowning Him with thorns and ridicule.
Following his flogging, Jesus was compelled to carry his cross to the place of His execution, at Calvary. During his walk to the site of His execution, Jesus fell three times and the Roman guards randomly selected Simon, a Cyrene, to help Jesus.
After arrival at Calvary, Jesus was nailed to the cross and crucified between two thieves. One of the thieves repented of his sins and accepted Christ while on the cross beside Him. A titulus, or sign, was posted above Christ to indicate His supposed crime. The titulus read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” It is commonly abbreviated in Latin as “INRI” (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum).
Prior to death, Jesus spoke His last words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ This line is the opening of Psalm 22, and it may have been common practice to recite lines of songs to deliver a greater message. Properly understood, the last words of Christ were triumphant. Guards then lanced Jesus’ side to ensure He was dead.
At the moment of Christ’s death, an earthquake occurred, powerful enough to open tombs. The long, thick curtain at the Temple was said to have torn from top to bottom.”
“His body was kept in a tomb. During this time, many people were sad and grieved His death. Finally, after three days, it was time to remove His body from the tomb. When Jesus’ friends and family arrived, they found that His body was missing!”
“Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion, which would be Sunday. His resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil, sin and death. It is the singular event which proves that those who trust in God and accept Christ will be raised from the dead.”
“Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and several other women went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. When they arrived, they found the tomb had been opened already. When they went in, they did not find Jesus’ body, and they wondered what had happened.
Suddenly, two angels in dazzling white clothes were there. The women were terrified, but the angels said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you that He would be turned over to sinful men, be crucified, and rise again on the third day!’
The women ran back to tell Jesus’ apostles what they had seen. Peter and one other apostle went to the tomb to see for themselves. They looked in and saw the linen cloths that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in but nothing else. Then they went home, amazed and confused.
When Peter and the other apostle went home, Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb crying. Suddenly she saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize Him at first. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?’ Mary thought He must be the gardener and said, ‘Sir, if you have taken Him away, tell me where, and I will take Him!’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ Then she recognized Him and exclaimed, ‘Master!’
Jesus said, ‘Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet returned to the Father. But go to my disciples and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
Then Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!’, and she told them everything that had happened.”
Jesus eventually ascended to Heaven where He will be until the end of ages and helps mankind every day. If you ask Him, He will forgive you of your sins, stay with you in your heart and guide and protect you on Earth and eventually will greet you in Heaven.
He died for our sins so we could all go to Heaven when we die. This Easter, remember this story and the sacrifice Jesus made for us all. As Joel Osteen says, you can say this simple prayer to be born again and accept Jesus into your life, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart and I will make you my Lord and savior. Amen.”