Happy Easter

About 2,000 years ago in a lonely, dusty outpost of the Roman Empire, three men were put to death by crucifixion. Two of the men were criminals and earned their punishment. The third, named Jesus, was completely innocent of all charges against him. The Roman Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, wanted no part of the affair, telling the priests to judge him according to their laws. When they demanded that his crimes were worthy of the death penalty, Pilate confessed, “I find no fault in him.” (John 19:4) He further publicly washed his hands of the matter. Pilate was no saint. When the Jewish leaders suggested that he was no friend of Caesar if he released Jesus, the execution was allowed.

The Roman authorities, always concerned with the threat of insurrection, had given in to the religious authorities and had tortured this man by flogging, humiliation, and forced him to carry his cross until he could go no further. The flogging itself was so traumatic that it would sometimes lead to death.

About 9am, 5″ spikes were driven through his wrists, and another one through his feet, which were stacked on top of each other on the cross. Jesus was lifted up on the cross, and the charge of “King of the Jews” was placed above his head written in the three most common languages of the day. This was Pilate’s not so subtle slap against the Jewish leadership that had demanded the death of Jesus.

Crucifixion is one of the most painful ways to die. It was created specifically to allow for the maximum prolonged suffering, and as a visible warning to anyone willing to challenge the authority of the empire.

The normal cause of death was asphyxiation, brought on by the inability to breathe properly. If the Romans wanted to speed up the process, they would break the kneecaps of the victims preventing them from lifting their bodies and filling their lungs. Death would come quickly after this.

At noon, darkness covered Jerusalem for about 3 hours as Jesus uttered his last words and released his spirit. The religious authorities demanded that the legs be broken to speed the process along, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross for the coming Holy Day. The soldiers dispatched the two criminals. When they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they pierced his side with a spear.

As painful as the flogging and crucifixion were, the most horrible pain came later, a 3-day separation from God. Jesus lived in constant fellowship with his Father throughout his short life on Earth. When he willingly took on the entire curse of disobedience, his spirit endured the full punishment for all sin.

Jesus didn’t have to die if he didn’t want to because there was no disobedience (sin) in him. The devil had tried numerous times to take his life, but he would just go on about his way. Jesus willingly gave his life for you. As an analogy, imagine if you had a friend that had to serve time in jail, but instead you took their place and paid the price for them. That is what Jesus did for us all.

After his death, a wealthy man and secret follower of Jesus named Joseph of Arimethea demanded the body of Jesus from the Roman authorities, and with the help of another follower, wrapped the body and hurriedly placed it in Joseph’s tomb before sundown.

Jesus had told his followers several times that he would die, but on the third day return. The religious authorities were intent on preventing someone from stealing the body and then claiming that Jesus rose from the dead. Of course they still did not believe Jesus was who he said he was. To prevent this possibility, they placed armed guards at the tomb and sealed it shut.

Early on Sunday morning, an angel rolled away the stone. This was not done to release Jesus, instead it allowed people to see for themselves that Jesus had risen. The guards were frozen with fear at the sight of the angelic being sitting on the tomb. At this point, some of the female followers of Jesus approached the tomb. They had brought spices to properly prepare the body. They were the first to confirm that he was alive.

For several days, he appeared to numerous followers and explained the events and the meaning behind his death and resurrection before finally returning to his Father. From these events, Christianity was born and continues to grow.

For 4,000 years, there had been hundreds of prophecies about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that were perfectly fulfilled during his life. Throughout the Old Testament there are shadows and types of Jesus and his mission.

As an example, God made a covenant with Abraham, and as part of this agreement, requested that Abraham offer his son Isaac. This would prove that Abraham would fulfill his side of their covenant, so God could fulfill His side. In one of the most profound statements of faith, Abraham told his son, “God would provide a sacrifice.” Because of Abraham’s obedience, that is exactly what God did with Abraham, and later with Jesus. He provided a perfect and final sacrifice.

Other types can be seen in Moses putting the brass serpent on a pole, representing judgement of sin and death. Also, in the Temple sacrifices, two animals were brought and one was selected to die, and one became the “scapegoat” and was released into the wilderness after the sins of the people were confessed on it, foreshadowing the two deaths Jesus suffered – physical on the cross, and spiritual separation from his Father. Remember, spirits are eternal, they do not die. Instead they endure a separation from Life Himself, God.

Both Isaiah and David described in graphic detail the death of Jesus hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented! Prophets described his virgin birth, birthplace, his last words on the cross, and many other facets of his ministry. The probability that any of these would be fulfilled in the life of one man is doubtful. The fact that all were fulfilled in the life of Jesus offers much assurance that he was who he claimed to be.

Easter is what sets Christianity apart from every man-made religion. In all other religions, you are rewarded for what you do, and in some cases, your Salvation can never be a certainty. I define religion as all the ways man attempts to impress some deity, even if they think they are a god. If religion seeks life from any other spiritual source than the God of the Bible, THE Creator and giver of LIFE, they have the wrong spiritual father. You have a choice between LIFE and death, choose wisely. There are no unbelievers after death.

With Christ, he has done everything for you. All you have to do is receive the free gift of Salvation by faith. Or in even more simple terms, God has declared you forgiven, and desires a relationship with you. But He can’t fellowship with someone who is not righteous (made right or in right standing with God). All He asks is that you trust and believe in what He has done through Jesus and He then declares you righteous (perfect), and wipes away all memory of your past!

Now that is some Good News!

I like chocolate bunnies and I’ll even knock down a marshmallow peep from time to time. But Easter is so much more than hunting eggs and new clothes. As you celebrate this Easter, don’t forget the really wonderful reason behind the season!

If you would like to explore the subject further, visit the following:

Roxie’s Big News – A children’s story about a dove that announces the Resurrection of Jesus. Includes a companion lesson.
A Whispering Pines Easter – A cat named Boris and his friends celebrate Easter. This Easter Sunday story is part of the Boris Kitty series.
Heaven’s Art Gallery – A powerful short story about the transforming power of Jesus in your life.
Easter Sermons and Stories – Links to additional children’s stories, sermons and other resources.

For additional Easter Sunday resources