WHAT IS EASTER?

 

To Christian believers Good Friday and Easter Sunday are days on which the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are celebrated.

On the first ‘Good Friday’ Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee in northern Israel , was executed by crucifixion by the Roman authorities.

It happened this way: The Sanhedrin, a council of Jewish leaders, had been wanting Jesus killed for quite some time: firstly, because they saw him as a threat to their religious traditions, secondly, because they saw him as a threat to the little power the Romans had left them, and, thirdly and importantly, because he was in their opinion guilty of terrible blasphemy by claiming equality with God. Having no right of execution themselves, they handed him over to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, on the trumped up charge that he was a threat to Caesar because he claimed to be king of the Jews. Pilate, concluding that Jesus was not guilty of any crime, wanted to release him, but was swayed by a huge crowd of Jews to order his crucifixion.

Jesus was crucified and buried. His tomb was closed off with a huge stone which was sealed with the Roman seal, and Roman soldiers were placed on guard, to prevent the removal of his body.

From a human perspective that should have been the end of him. It should also have put an end to all of his claims to be God. Death, after all, would surely prove that he was just an ordinary human being. Nothing more.

But it wasn’t the end. Just as Jesus had repeatedly predicted, he rose from death to life.

On the first ‘Easter Sunday’ women went to the tomb, hoping somehow to be able to embalm his body. They found the tomb open and empty and were told by an angel ‘He is not here, he is risen.’ At first Christ’s followers refused to believe what the women told them, until they saw for themselves the folded grave clothes in the empty tomb, and later the nail scars in the hands of the risen, living Jesus. They heard him speak, they listened to him explain from the Old Testament scriptures how this death and this resurrection had been foretold for generations. In total over 500 witnesses saw Jesus alive after his resurrection.

By this resurrection all of Jesus’ claims to be the eternal Son of God, equal to and one with God the Father are validated. By this resurrection all of his promises to give eternal, spiritual life to those who receive him are confirmed. By this resurrection God verifies that his just judgment on human sin has, for those who believe in him, been fully met in the death of this one perfect substitute and representative.

This then is Easter: that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary on the first Christmas, here in his death bore the full guilt and the full punishment for our sin so that we may live guilt-free in the presence of God from this day forth; and that in this resurrection all that Jesus Christ claimed about his identity and about the impact of his death is proved to be true.

In this good news Christians rejoice. Because of this good news Christians may not be silent.

Scriptures: John 5:16,18; 6:41-42; 7:1,25-32; 8:6,20,40,58-59; 10:17-18,30-33; 11:8,47-50,53,57; 13:1; Matthew 12:39-49; 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 27:32-65; 28:5-7; Luke 24:1-49; 1Corinthians 15:3-8; Romans 1:4.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009, 2016