1. What is Easter?
In the words of a dictionary, Easter is: "the chief Christian
feast, which celebrates the Resurrection of Christ, on the first Sunday
after the first full moon that coincides with, or comes after, the spring
equinox (taken as 21st March). "
Well that's how they fix the date, but the important thing is that it
is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So a person being raised from the dead is not important news, a person
who claimed to be the Son of God and who said his death and subsequent
resurrection within three days would prove who he was?
If that was true, then it needs seriously thinking about. If it might
be true, it still needs seriously thinking about - and that's what this
page is all about.
2. QUESTIONS ABOUT EASTER
Did it happen?
Did Jesus Christ ever live? Oh yes, there are clear historical records
both inside the New Testament documents, and by secular historians of
the time, that record that 2000 years ago he lived in the land we call
How did he die? He died by capital punishment, by being nailed to a
Cross until he died. That was the form of capital punishment in those
days in that land where the Romans ruled over the Jewish populace.
Why was he crucified? Because he was good! Yes, that's the truth. He
showed up the religious leaders and the secular leaders of the day so
they trumped up charges of blasphemy - which wasn't too difficult because
he had claimed to be God's Son - and had him crucified.
Was he resurrected? Well that's what this page is all about!
But did he really die?
People who claimed he didn't actually die forget a number of things:
His executioners were soldiers of one of the toughest armies in history.
They were putting people to death every day - they knew what they were
Failing to kill this man would mean their own lives were on the block.
All of the
leaders were against this man - letting him get away would be unforgivable.
The records show that he was
beaten thoroughly before hand, probably to within an inch of death,
nailed to the Cross and hung there for hours in a manner of execution
that was guaranteed to cause the most painful death possible,
pierced in the side by a soldier with a spear that would have pierced
To have been up and about and talking and walking within three days,
after all this, is unthinkable!
Oh no, this man was well and truly dead!
So perhaps he didn't rise from the dead?
Oh dear, perhaps you've never thought about this. What are the possibilities?
His body was gone from the tomb and he was seen by a large number of
people for weeks after his death - alive and well!
Possibility No. 1: His followers stole the body and
concocted a story about his resurrection.
Problem: Of the remaining eleven of the original twelve closest followers
(Judas having killed himself for betraying Jesus), ten of them died
a martyr's death because of their belief that he was the Son of God
who died and rose again. Could they have lived such lives for a lie?
Most, most unlikely!
Possibility No.2: The authorities stole the body to counter
any possibility of a resurrection fraud.
Problem: When large numbers of Jews were becoming believers and discarding
Judaism, why didn’t they produce the body to show he was dead
and that his claims had been false?
Possibility No.3: His followers completely believed but were
Problem: How could such a fraud be perpetrated? They had lived with
Jesus for three years, they knew him intimately. They saw him die. This
was no clever illusion, this was down to earth capital punishment by
the harshest regime on earth! Hallucinations? Can't be! Too many people
saw him in different locations and at different times. It was all very
down to earth and factual.
So perhaps the records are incorrect?
We are really scraping the bottom of the barrel now! There are four
different Gospel accounts but with large areas of overlap. They were
clearly put together by four different people.
The number of manuscript remains that we have existing today far, far
outweigh the volume of any other ancient historical records.
No, these men wrote what they were convinced happened.
(For more on this go to the Resource Pages, "Can I Believe the
3. THE EVENTS OF EASTER AND THEIR MEANING
The Order of Events leading up to Easter Sunday
The following is the probable order of the happenings that led up to
Previously Lazarus had been raised at Bethany. Many
Jews followed Jesus. Leaders plot to kill Jesus
Jesus arrives in Bethany to stay with Lazarus and family. Dinner held
at which Jesus is anointed. Many Jews flock to Jesus.
Sabbath – probably rest.
(PALM SUNDAY) Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, receives rapturous
welcome, goes to the temple and throws out the money changers. Heals
the sick. Returns to Bethany to stay overnight.
Returns to Jerusalem – curses the fig tree. Teaches in temple
precincts. Conflict with religious leaders.
Teaches in temple precincts. Conflict with religious leaders. Leaders
plot to kill Jesus.
Teaches in temple precincts. Conflict with religious leaders.
(MAUNDY THURSDAY) 1st Day of Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover Supper,
Gethsemane, Arrest, Trial.
(GOOD FRIDAY) Trial, Crucifixion, death & burial (day 1)
Sabbath - silence (day 2)
(EASTER SUNDAY) Resurrection (“third day”)
If you read the Gospel accounts carefully, you cannot but be struck
by just how much Jesus "stage managed" the whole affair!
Oh yes, Jesus knew that his total goodness, and his popularity with
the crowds would provoke the religious leaders to rise against him and
bring about his death.
The Provoking Events
Why did Jesus die? Let's note the things that the Gospel accounts tell
a) Prior to Easter Week
For most of his three years of ministry he worked in Galilee in the
far north of the country. In this way he avoided the religious leaders
who were based in Jerusalem.
He purposefully starts for the south and for Jerusalem to attend the
Passover, teaching his followers that he is going to his death in Jerusalem,
but that on the third day he will be raised from the dead!
Along the way he raises Lazarus from the dead. This is only a couple
of miles away from Jerusalem. The news of this spreads like wildfire.
The Jews are being oppressed by the Romans and are looking for a deliverer,
a coming Messiah. Crowds flock to him. Is this the One?
Arrival at Jerusalem
Before his actual arrival at Jerusalem, he gets his followers to find
a donkey for him to ride in on. This is one of the things that the prophets
had said the Messiah would do.
The crowds recognise this and pull off palm branches and throw them
down in his path, as we might lay down a red carpet, and they welcome
their conquering king (as they see him).
The religious authorities are livid! They see Jesus as a threat to themselves
and the whole religious and social framework of Judaism. Is this man
going to stage a rebellion that will cause the might of Rome to crush
Israel and thus Judaism?
When he enters Jerusalem he doesn't turn towards the Roman fortress,
because he has no quarrel with the Romans, but turns instead towards
the Temple precincts.
When he arrives at the Temple he overthrows the tables of the money
changers and animal-sacrifice vendors, and denounces them for turning
God's house of prayer into a market.
He remains in the temple precincts and proceeds to heal many people,
which infuriates the powerless religious leaders. They know they cannot
do this and they see the crowd getting more and more excited by what
he is doing.
Throughout the week he keeps coming back to the temple area and continues
teaching. The religious leaders, and leaders of the various religious
parties, come to criticise him and there is frequent conflict with them.
There is constant plotting to destroy him.
Eventually they find an ally in Judas Iscariot who agrees to tell them
when there is an opportune moment to arrest Jesus, when crowds are not
around. Whether Judas did this out of pique or to provoke Jesus into
action, we're not sure.
The first day of the feast arrives and for the first time in the week
Jesus stays in Jerusalem for the evening (It is Thursday). They borrow
a room and he and his disciples hold the Passover Supper (that we sometimes
refer to as the Last Supper).
Afterwards they go out and find a public place in which to pray. Judas
has told the authorities of Jesus' presence there and they come, late
in the evening, and arrest him. It is almost as if he made himself vulnerable
He is taken before the religious leaders and before them confirms his
claim to be the Son of God. They declare he should be put to death for
blasphemy. He makes no defence.
The have no power to do this so early next morning (Friday) they take
him to the Roman governor and demand he be put to death.
The governor does all he can to release Jesus but eventually, perhaps
fearing an uprising, he gives way to their demands and orders Jesus
to be crucified.
There is no crime of blasphemy in Rome so he is being put to death for
no legal reason - just expediency! Before the governor, Jesus makes
no defence. Again, it seems like he just submits to it all.
Eventually Jesus was put to death. His death was at the hands of the
Jews and the Romans (Gentiles). They represented the whole world - you
To catch some of the significance of what happened we also have to know
something about the feast of Passover which the Jews celebrated every
year (and still do).
For this we have to go back in history, into the Old Testament to what
is referred to as "The Exodus". If you've seen the film Prince
of Egypt, you'll know that this was when God used Moses to deliver Israel
out of their slavery in Egypt.
To bring about this deliverance, God had to deal with the powerful ruler
of Egypt, known as a Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was very proud, as powerful
men often are. Not only that the land was given over to the worship
of many different "gods".
God used what we refer to as a number of 'plagues' to break Pharaoh's
pride, especially as each of the plagues came against one of the 'gods'
As every plague came with a warning through Moses, Pharaoh would first
reject Moses and his warning, then submit in the face of the plague,
and then afterwards recant and refuse to let Israel go.
Every plague was worse than the one before it, as the warnings got stronger
and stronger. Eventually after the ninth plague, God warned that the
ultimate plague would be the destruction of the oldest son in every
home throughout the home. The option was made very clear - let Israel
go and it will not come. Refuse and every home will have a dead son
in it! (Wasn't God gracious in not destroying every person in Egypt
who rebelled against Him!)
Then God instructed Moses to tell all the Israelites that they were
to take a lamb and eat it for supper that night. Some of its blood they
were to put on the doorposts of the house. When the destroying angel
of God "passed-over" the land that night he would see the
blood as a sign of a dead lamb in the house and would not bring further
death to that home.
Therefore that night, there was in EVERY home in the land, a dead body
- either a son or a lamb.
Before he started his ministry, John the Baptist identified Jesus with
these words: "See, the Lamb of God!" Thus at Passover this
year about two thousand years ago, God's lamb (His Son) was given. Thus
in eternity, when our lives are assessed and judged, there will be a
death - ours or the Lamb of God's.
To understand all this and apply it to the context of Easter two thousand
years ago, we have to wait until a number of weeks later, on the Day
of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the believers,
and the apostle Peter preaches and finds himself declaring that this
had all been by "God's set purpose and foreknowledge" (look
up Acts 2:22-24).
Again, a little later they said that the authorities did what God's
power had decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:27,28)
What were they saying?
1. This was all part of God's divine plan - for Jesus to die at the
hands of unbelievers.
2. God knew that if He provoked sinful humanity by total goodness, they
would eventually rise up and kill the one who was bringing that total
goodness - thus He knew they would crucify His Son.
3. Only after a genuine death could resurrection come to confirm all
the claims that Jesus had made to being
Because we inherently know that wrong deserves punishment; that is justice.
That's how God has made us and it helps maintain law, order and stability
Inherently every one of us has a guilt problem. Deep inside we know
we are guilty, so Easter was God saying, My Son will step into your
place and take what you know you deserve. (The Lamb at Passover)
On the Cross on that "Good Friday" the eternal Son of God
took the punishment for each of us.
Today, all that is left is for you to believe it, receive it and live
A POTTED THEOLOGY OF EASTER
Jesus spoke about it beforehand
17:22,23 When they came together
in Galilee , he said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed
into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he
will be raised to life ."
It became the heart of the apostolic preaching
2:23,24 This man was handed over to you
by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked
men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised
him from the dead , freeing him from the agony of death, because
it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
10:39 -41 We are witnesses of everything
he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem . They killed him
by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on
the third day and caused him to be seen.
The People who saw Jesus
other women at the tomb
24:34 / 1 Cor 15:5
2 travellers on the road
16:12-13 / Lk 24:13-35
10 disciples behind closed doors
16:14 / Lk 24:36-43 / Jn 20:19-25
11 disciples incl. Thomas
20:26-31 / 1 Cor 15;5
disciples while fishing
disciples on a mountain in Galilee
28:16-20 / Mk 16:15-18
crowd of 500
who watched Jesus ascend
16:19,20 / Lk 24:44-49 / Acts 1:3-8
The Applied Teaching
Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we
too may live a new life
the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he
who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies
through his Spirit, who lives in you.
5. And So?
And so we've given you some grounds, some serious grounds, to start
thinking seriously about what Easter is all about. We've suggested that:
- you CAN believe that Jesus Christ is an historical figure,
- you CAN believe he died, and
- you CAN believe he rose from the dead, because
- you CAN trust the historical documents we call the New Testament.
If you've still got any doubts, why not read one or more of the four
Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the New Testament in a modern
translation of the Bible, especially the closing chapters that record
his trial, death and resurrection. What a good way to prepare for Easter!
Oh yes, again, why actually did Jesus die? For you! For me! Yes, for
you and me. We're all the same, we all need to come to God for His help.
Easter is all about God making it possible for you to have a relationship
Easter is all about God proving His love for you and me by sending His
Son to take all our wrongs, and deal with anything that might keep us
Have you received His love? Why not stop and pray and ask Him to forgive
you. Declare you believe what you have been reading. Put your life in
Easter is a time for new beginnings!
An Easter Story = "Why?"
followed the crowd. Why are they shouting like this? He hasn't done
anything! Well, no, that's not true. He's done so much. I wouldn't be
here if it wasn't for him.
doctors had been no help; they hadn't known what was wrong. I knew behind
their whispers that people said I must have done something wrong, but
it wasn't like that. I didn't know if I had done anything. All I knew
was that I was ill and that they said I was dying. Then he came to my
mother had helped me out to see what all the noise was about. We'd heard
rumours. Then there he was with a big crowd around him, walking down
the street. The crowd was noisy. We held back in the doorway and watched,
but as they came level with our home, he stopped and turned towards
us. He obviously said something to those with him, for they stood aside
as he came across to us.
was nothing special in what he did, and yet everything. He just smiled
at us and said, “Hullo.” I found myself just gaping at him with tears
running down my face; I don't know why. Somehow… somehow, it was as
if he knew, knew all about me, and still loved me…. He reached out and
gently placed his hand on my head and almost whispered, “Be healed.”
And then he was gone and we both stood there weeping and I was well.
Yes, I know it sounds too simple, but I was. I was completely well.
I can't explain it, but I'm alive and well – because of him. So why
are they treating him like this?
soldiers are so brutal. They're making him carry a large wooden cross.
Why? Surely they can't be……. They push at him and snarl at him. He falls.
Oh why? They drag a man unwillingly from the crowd to carry the cross.
They pick Jesus up and I see his face. There is blood all over it. There's
a crown made with long thorns that's been pushed on his head, now askew,
but the wounds from the thorns mean the blood runs down over his face.
He can hardly stand, and then I see his back, or rather what is left
of it. I am sick in the street. The crowd moves on and I stand there
in shock. Why are they doing this to him? What has he done to deserve
this? I remember the look as he stood before me. Here was utter goodness;
it was that which broke my heart then – and now.
crowd has gone. I am alone in the street. I must go. I must follow him.
I must see where they are taking him. I follow the sounds down the street.
Where is this all going, on this Friday?
took a wrong turning. I found myself alone in the back streets of Jerusalem.
Here there was silence. But then across the city came two stretched-out
screams, just two. I eventually found my way to one of the gates of
the city and there across the valley I saw three crosses being erected,
three horrible symbols of man's inhumanity to man. Even from this distance
I could see he was one of the men being crucified. Why? What had he
done except be good! I slumped down against the city wall and watched.
The hours passed and eventually I saw them take the bodies away. It
is over. I am past weeping. I am angry, no I am furious! Why? Why did
they have to do this to him?
days later, when I woke on Sunday morning, something was different.
No one else in the place where I was staying was awake yet, and so I
quietly made my way outside. Something had happened! What was it? I
still had that awful ache inside, but something was different.
wandered down the street. There was hardly anyone else around. A woman
scuttled by laughing and crying, but I hardly noticed. I came to one
of the city gates and looked out over the graveyard area. I heard a
sound of panting and two men dashed past me. Now it was my turn to be
hardly noticed. I watched as they ran down through the olive groves
to the grave areas. What a terrible place this is. Death hangs over
it condemning all of us.
not there,” a gentle voice came from behind me. I started and turned
and gasped. Again I found myself just gaping at him with tears running
down my face. It was him. No, it can't be. “It is,” he said reading
my thoughts. “But why,” I sobbed, “why did it happen… and how are you
alive?” Words were meaningless. I just sobbed.
all right,” he gently replied, “it will all become clear. The most important
thing is that I'm here, so you can go home now and live and tell your
family and friends what you have seen.”
they won't believe me,” I sobbed.
at first, but many will eventually. You'll never be the same again now
you know I'm alive. Go now.”
when will I see you again?” I managed. He smiled, “When you come home.”
And then he was gone, but I was never alone again.