Easter, also called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday, marks the end of the 40 days of Lent. It is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar and has been regularly observed from the earliest days of the Church. Easter is at the heart of Christianity and celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, three days after he was executed. The resurrection represents the triumph of good over evil, sin, death, and the physical body.
In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox. Easter is a “movable feast” and does not have a fixed date; however, it is always on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
THE EASTER STORY
The Last Supper
In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples. As they were sitting around the table eating, Jesus said,
“The truth is, one of you will betray Me, one of you who is here eating with Me.”
Greatly distressed, one by one they began to ask Him, “I’m not the one, am I?”
As they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread and asked God’s blessing on it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying,
“Take it, for this is My body.”
And He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them,
“This is My blood, poured out for many, sealing the covenant between God and His people. I solemnly declare that I will not drink wine again until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”
Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
“Sit here while I go and pray.”
He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be filled with horror and deep distress. He told them,
“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting Him might pass him by.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not Mine.”
Then He returned and found the disciples asleep.
“Simon!” He said to Peter. “Are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with Me even one hour? Keep alert and pray. Otherwise, temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”
Then Jesus left them again and prayed, repeating His pleadings.
Again He returned to them and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say. When He returned to them the third time, He said,
“Still sleeping? Still resting? Enough! The time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. See, My betrayer is here!”
As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Teacher!” he exclaimed and gave Him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. But someone pulled out a sword and slashed off an ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus asked them,
“Am I some dangerous criminal, that you come armed with swords and clubs to arrest Me? Why didn’t you arrest Me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about Me.”
Meanwhile, all His disciples deserted Him and ran away. There was a young man following along behind, clothed only in a linen nightshirt. When the mob tried to grab him, they tore off his clothes, but he escaped and ran away naked.
A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Hill). They offered Him wine drugged with myrrh, but He refused it. Then they nailed Him to the cross. They gambled for His clothes, throwing dice to decide who would get them.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when the crucifixion took place. A signboard was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against Him. It read: “The King of the Jews.” Two criminals were crucified with Him, their crosses on either side of His. And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at Him. “You can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, can you? Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but He can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe Him!” Even the two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus ridiculed Him.
The Death of Jesus
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought He was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to Him on a stick so he could drink. “Leave Him alone. Let’s see whether Elijah will come and take Him down!” he said.
Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing Him saw how He had died, he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph) and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for Him while He was in Galilee. Then they and many other women had come with Him to Jerusalem.
The Resurrection – Jesus Is Risen!
It was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw Him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping. But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen Him, they didn’t believe her.
Afterward, he appeared to two who were walking from Jerusalem into the country, but they didn’t recognize Him at first because He had changed His appearance. When they realized who He was, they rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still, later He appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their unbelief – their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
And then He told them,
From all us here at Sweet Southern Savings, we wish you a Happy Easter and a joyous spring season!