The Easter Story
All the great religions have their stories, and usually a special day that celebrates that story. Today is Easter. Easter and Christmas are the most special days for Christians: on Christmas we tell the story of Jesus being born in the manager; on Easter we tell a story about the end of Jesus’ life.
As a boy, Jesus learned to be a carpenter. But after he grew up, he became a teacher and traveled all over Israel talking to people. Jesus talked about being a loving person, being kind and helping those who need our help. He said we could see God’s love in our loving relationships with other people. Jesus got very angry at people who put money first and people second.
Crowds of people came to hear Jesus speak. A small group of people traveled with Jesus. These were his disciples.
In the spring at this time of year, Jews celebrate Passover, which is a very important Jewish special day. Jesus and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. They came into the city on what we now call Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter. There were huge crowds and people spread palm branches on the road. Jesus rode on a little donkey over the palm branches.
Jesus knew that he was upsetting the people in power. He was telling people that putting money first was wrong, that God loved all of God's children, that it was more important to be a loving person than it was to be powerful. And Jesus knew he was going to get in big trouble with the authorities. It made the authorities very nervous that Jesus was so popular with the people.
Sure enough, the priests and bankers went to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and demanded that Jesus be arrested. And then, after Jesus was arrested, these powerful people insisted that Jesus be put to death. In those days, criminals were killed by being nailed up on a cross. That was called being crucified.
Jesus was put on a cross up on a hill between two robbers. After Jesus died, a good man named Joseph came to the authorities and asked to take away Jesus’ body and put him in a tomb carved into a rocky hillside that Joseph had been saving for himself. This was on Friday. Now the Jewish holy day begins Friday night, so Joseph and the women who were very close to Jesus had to hurry and wrap his body in linen and put it in the tomb because for Jews Saturday, their sabbath, is a holy day of rest and no work at all may be done.
The powerful people insisted that a stone be put in front of the tomb and that there be guards. On Saturday, the men and women who had been Jesus’ disciples and close friends observed their Sabbath, but first thing Sunday morning, the women who had been closest to Jesus went to his tomb with spices and perfumes to put on Jesus’ body.
This is how the story goes in the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men 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, while he was still with you in Galilee: "The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again."
Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Our sermon today is going to be about how we can think about what happened. But you should know that what Jesus said, and what he did, and the love he shared are still very much alive two thousand years later.