We Live And Die, Christ Died And Lived - This Is Easter!!!
Many of us have heard about Jesus Christ. He lived among us as both God and man and was born to human parents, Mary and Joseph, in a little village called Bethlehem. Jesus Christ is a Hebrew name. Jesus means the one who will save us from our sins and Christ means The Anointed One. What happened at Easter explains why we give him this title.
Looking at ourselves, we can see we are very prone to doing wrong (sin). God sent his Son to live as a human being and teach us how to live a good and honest life, how to follow Gods law of love and how to love one another. By living as a human Jesus went through and understood every human emotion and difficulty. He showed us how to manage these emotions and difficulties in a way that is pleasing to God, rather than giving into them and displeasing God.
For the first thirty years Jesus lived a traditional Jewish life in Israel under Roman dictatorship. Jesus began his public teaching and service in his thirties and even though he never travelled far from Bethlehem, his reputation spread throughout Israel. The Roman governors and the Jewish leaders took note of his growing popularity and were deeply troubled by his key messages, which they found so different to their own laws and teachings.
When asked how he was able to perform miracles Jesus told his followers his power came from God his Father, not from his own abilities. He told them that his teachings would always remain and should he be killed God will bring him back to life on the third day. This turned out to be his most controversial statement – his claim to be the Son of God. His followers didn’t understand it and his critics said this broke Jewish and Roman laws. And for this reason the religious leaders asked the Roman government to execute him. However, at each trial they put him through, the counsel found he was not guilty of breaking any Roman or Jewish law. The trials established that Jesus was an innocent man. But fearing his growing popularity they persuaded Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor, to authorize his execution. And this brings us to the weeklong Easter event. (John 17-20)
Easter Week begins on Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter Sunday, and ends on Easter Sunday. There are three important days during this week. Palm Sunday is the day people took Jesus through the streets like a king, spreading palm branches on the roads for him to walk on. Maundy Thursday is when Jesus, knowing he was about to be killed, had a special meal with his disciples (The Last Supper), and was arrested later that night. Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified (nailed by his hands and feet to an upright wooden cross, where he was left hanging till he died). On Sunday Jesus rose from the dead, this is Easter Sunday.
After the Last Supper, Jesus knew the time of his death was at hand. He was troubled and afraid and went to a nearby garden called Gethsemane to pray. If Jesus is God why was he afraid, you may rightly ask. Jesus lived his humanity to the full experiencing every human emotion, as we’ve said earlier. In this instance he showed us it is normal to fear suffering and pain. The difference between Jesus and us is the way he prayed when he faced this challenge. He didn’t ask God to stop it, as we do, he didn’t ask God to make it easier for him, as we do, he didn’t remind God he is a good person living a good life and so shouldn’t suffer. Instead he begged God for strength and ended his prayer with the words, “Not my will but yours be done”.
While he was praying, Judas who was one of his disciples came with a crowd, walked up to him and kissed him on the cheek. This was to identify that Jesus was the person they were looking for. Judas was paid thirty silver coins to do this. The crowd arrested Jesus. His followers ran away in fear. The crowd took Jesus to a trial held by the Jewish religious leaders who said he should die because he claimed to be the Son of God.
The next day, Good Friday, they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate and told him that Jesus should die. Pilate finally agreed and the soldiers led him away, gave him a heavy wooden cross to carry up a hill to the place where the worst criminals were crucified, called Golgotha. When Jesus was crucified, his body was pulled downwards by his nailed feet and airflow to his lungs was restricted, killing him in three hours. He was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb. Pilate ordered two Roman guards to guard the tomb and a huge stone to be rolled against its entrance, so that no one could steal Jesus’ body. Jesus’ friends left feeling very sad.
That was because they did not know what was going to happen next.
Early on Sunday morning (Easter Sunday) some of Jesus’ friends went to the tomb to finalise his burial rites according to Jewish custom. To their surprise, the stone was rolled aside, the guards had vanished and the tomb was empty!! They stared at the tomb in disbelief and at that moment an angel appeared to them and told them Jesus had risen from the dead. They recalled Jesus telling them that he would return to life after three days, if he was killed. This was a life changing moment, because for the first time they accepted that Jesus was who he claimed to be. He was the Son of God, and not just another Jewish Rabbi.
They ran to tell others, and on the way, met Jesus himself but didn’t recognize him till he spoke. Jesus knew his disciples and followers would find it hard to grasp his resurrection because they ran away in fright when the Roman guards took him to be executed. He did things to reassure them that the person they were seeing was truly him – the same person that had died on the cross. He walked with them, ate with them, showed them the wounds on his hands and feet and when one of them (Thomas) was still struggling to believe, he allowed him to touch his wounds.
Their joy at seeing him return to life could not be contained and they quickly went around sharing the good news. This time they were not afraid of Roman persecution as they knew that this little boy who was born in a stable and had grown up among them was divine. They finally understood God’s complete control over life and death and they accepted that Jesus was the Son of God and he alone was worthy of their worship.
What is the significance of this extraordinary event? What does it mean for how we live, work and worship? Here are some of life’s lessons that Easter teaches:
- There will always be suffering in our lives. Things will go wrong, our plans won’t always be successful, we won’t always get what we want or pray for, our health will fail us. In these times, we remember God’s power over all things, we remember he loves us more than anyone else can and that he will help us through our difficulties, if we ask him to.
- Easter teaches us to forgive because in Jesus’ death God forgave us our sins. We seek Gods forgiveness daily, we in turn must forgive others and not seek revenge or hold grudges. Even when he was on the cross Jesus prayed for those who persecuted him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
- When your friends fail you, remember Jesus was betrayed for thirty silver coins.
- Never judge yourself as better than others. Jesus was far above his followers in every way but yet he served them. No problem was too small for him to notice, he walked miles to reach people in need. He helped them knowing they could never repay him.
- Live a simple life, be grateful for what you have. God has chosen your life for you, and everything that happens in it. Accept the path you have to travel as his will and you will feel happy and fulfilled. Somebody else’s life may seem better but your life is perfect for you.
- Pray at all times. Prayer is your inner strength because it keeps you close to God and when you are close to Him you have nothing to fear, no harm can come to you.
So where do Easter Eggs, Easter bunnies and chocolate fit in? They are just external signs of celebration, traditions that people have made popular because they enjoy following them.
Originally, church leaders did not allow people to eat eggs during Holy Week. Families saved the eggs their chickens laid that week, boiled and painted them and gave them to children on Easter morning. People then made egg shapes out of cardboard and later papier mache, filled them with treats and got children to paint these and hand out as presents. People also saw the egg as a symbol of new life and so used it as a symbol of the new life that’s celebrated at Easter. Soon other ideas started being used like making chocolate, marzipan or sugar icing eggs instead of boiling eggs. To add more fun people started the Easter Egg hunts and Easter Egg rolling, two popular traditions followed even today.
An egg hunt involves hiding eggs in the garden for children to find on Easter morning. Egg rolling is when hard boiled eggs are rolled as a symbolic re-enactment of the rolling away of the stone from Jesus’ tomb. In the United States, the Easter Egg Roll is an annual event held on the White House south lawn each Monday after Easter. This is a family day, entry is won by public lottery and the winners spend a day of family activity with the President and the First Lady.
The story of the Easter Bunny is thought to have originated in Germany. Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter of babies (called kittens), so they became a symbol of new life. Legend has it that the Easter Bunny decorates and hides eggs for children to find on Easter Sunday. Though the rabbit doesn’t do the work alone. In Switzerland Easter eggs are delivered by the Easter Cuckoo and in Australia by the Easter Bilby (small rat like animal).
THE GARDEN TOMB, Jerusalem
Looking at the meaning of Easter and the traditions associated with it we can see that traditions change to suit our convenience. We do the things we like and they become tradition. We avoid the things we don’t like and those traditions slowly disappear. In contrast, Jesus’ resurrection was and remains the most amazing divine event of all time. It is recorded in Jewish and Roman history, and the sites of his birth, death and resurrection and the places where he lived and worked are preserved in Jerusalem and available for the public to visit. Easter proves who Jesus is, it shows us that God accepted his sacrifice on our behalf, it shows us that God has created all things and has power over everything, even life and death. Unlike tradition, these facts have not changed for the last 2000 years, there are no updates or versions of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Easter helps us accept our present circumstances, gives us courage to meet our trials and hope for the future because our future belongs to God.
A Blessed Easter to each one.