Easter is the time of year where Christians from around the world celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. Many people feast on chocolate eggs. But it’s not all about the chocolate, as some people might think. In order to find out why Easter is celebrated, we must go back 2000 years to when Jesus was alive.
The story behind Easter
The Passover meal
The story starts with Jesus and his friends getting ready for Passover. (Jesus was Jewish.) While this was happening, Jewish priests and officials were at the House of Caiaphas, discussing how to capture and kill Jesus without causing a fuss. They didn’t like how popular Jesus was and worried about loosing some of their power. As well as this, they didn’t believe he was the Son of God.
One of Jesus’ 12 disciples, Judas, asked a chief priest how much money he would get if he betrayed Jesus. He said they would pay him 30 silver coins.
On the first day of Passover, the disciples asked Jesus when they would eat their Passover meal. He told them to “go into the city and find a man carrying a water jar and tell him, ‘Our Master says, my time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house’.”
Later that day, whilst Jesus was eating the Passover meal, he broke up some bread and said:
This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.Corinthians 11:24
He also said something similar about wine, which represented his blood.
Mount of Olives
Once they had finished the meal and sung a hymn, Jesus and his disciples went to the nearby Mount of Olives. He told his disciples that on that night they would run away and leave Jesus. Peter replied by saying that even if everyone else left him, he never would. Jesus said, “Tonight, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you don’t know me.”
He then took his disciples to a place called Gethsemane and told them to sit down whilst he prayed. An hour later, when he finished praying, he went back over to his disciples, who were sleeping. Jesus asked them, “Why are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation, for your spirit is willing, but your body is weak.”
Once again, he went back to his disciples and found that they were asleep. Annoyed, Jesus went back to pray for the third time. When he came back, they were still asleep. He told them:
Are you still going to sleep and take your ease? In a moment you will see the Son of Man betrayed into the hands of evil men. Wake up, let us be going! Look, here comes my betrayer!Matthew 26:45
Meanwhile, Judas had gone to the high priests and soldiers, who asked how they would know who is Jesus. He told them that whichever one he kissed was Jesus, and should be arrested. When they arrived where Jesus was, Judas went to Jesus, kissed him and said “Greetings, teacher!”
They arrested Jesus.
He was taken to the Court of the High Priest (Caiaphas), the law teachers and the Jewish elders. Peter followed on from a distance.
The priests and the Jewish Parliament brought in witnesses who told lies about Jesus. Nothing could be proved, yet Jesus didn’t try to defend himself. The high priest then said: “Are you the Son of God?” Jesus replied: “You say that I am.” There was outrage. The other priests were calling for Jesus to be killed because of what he said.
Do you know Jesus?
In the courtyard, a servant girl came up to Peter and said that he was with Jesus. Afraid of being arrested, Peter said that he wasn’t. Another girl told the people around her that Peter was with Jesus.
The people standing around the gate said that his Galilean accent gave him away. Peter then cried: “I don’t know Jesus!” A rooster then crowed. Peter then remembered what Jesus had told him, before going outside and crying.
They took Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pilate, to ask him to sentence Jesus to death. He asked Jesus if he thought he was the king of the Jews. Jesus replied: “Those are your words.” The priests and the elders continued to accuse Jesus. Pilate was stunned at Jesus not defending himself: “Don’t you hear how they’re accusing you?” Jesus didn’t reply.
Not sure of what he should do with Jesus, since he hadn’t actually done anything wrong, he sent him to King Herod. He was pleased that Jesus had been arrested and started to ask him questions. Herod started to make fun of him by getting soldiers to beat him up. Afterwards, he then sent him back to Pilates, also not knowing what to do with him.
Release the prisoner!
Around Passover time, the governor usually released one Jewish prisoner, who was chosen by ordinary people. There was a widely known prisoner called Barabbas. Pilate asked the crowd of ordinary people who they wanted to see released. Led by the priests, they cried “Barabbas!”
He then asked the crowd what they want to be done with Jesus, who claimed to be the King of the Jews. Also led by the priests, they cried: “Crucify him!” When he asked them why, he got the same response. Pilates then gave up and washed his hands with some nearby water. Pilates released Barabbas, Jesus was flogged and sentence to death by hanging on the cross (crucifixion.)
The soldiers took him to the palace where they put a red robe on him and rammed on a crown made of thorns. They mocked him, spat on him before beating him up and sending him away to be crucified.
Hanging him on the cross
When he arrived at “Golgotha, or The Place of the Skull, where executions took place, they offered Jesus cheap wine to ease the pain. After he tasted it, he refused to drink it. Once they had nailed him to the cross, the Jewish rulers asked him why he wouldn’t save himself. He could, after all – he was the King of the Jews, right?
They then carved out on his cross, in Greek, Latin and Hebrew: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Whilst this was happening, Jesus prayed to God:
Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.Luke 23:34
Next to Jesus, two thieves were being crucified. One of them insults Jesus by saying: “If you’re the Christ, why don’t you save yourselves, and us too?” The other thief said: “Aren’t you afraid of God? We’re being hung because we did something wrong but this man hasn’t.” He then asked Jesus to remember him when he came into “his kingdom.”
Jesus replied by telling him that he would be in heaven with him today. At 12pm that day, the thief who had told Jesus that he had done wrong died. From then until 3pm, the sun didn’t shine. At 3pm, Jesus cried out: “It is finished!” and he died. A Roman centurion who was watching Jesus said: “Surely this man must be the son of God!”
Burial of Jesus’s body
The next day was the Jewish Holy Day, Sabbath, so the Jews didn’t want the bodies to be left on the crosses. Joseph of Arimathea, an important council member, asked for Jesus’s body. Joseph and another council member wrapped the body in cloth, and put it within a tomb inside Joseph’s garden. The Romans put their best guards outside this tomb. In order to stop followers taking the body and claiming he had come back to life, they rolled a large stone outside the entrance of the tomb.
Early the next morning, Mary and a few other of Jesus’ followers went to the tomb to sprinkle some spices in order to stop the body from smelling bad when it rotted away.
But his body wasn’t there.
And the stone guarding the outside of the tomb had been rolled aside.
The women were scared. But the men said that he had risen from the dead, like he said he would. They ran off to tell the disciples what had happened. But when they told them, most of the disciples simply laughed and didn’t believe them.
The empty tomb
Peter and John did, and ran off to the tomb. Back at the tomb, Mary was crying. She turned her back from the tomb and saw Jesus. He asked her why she was crying. Thinking it was the gardener, she replied, “If you took his body away, then could you tell me where it is so I can see him?”
She turned around and saw it actually was Jesus. “Rabboni! [Teacher!]” she cried. Mary tried to hug him, but Jesus stopped her and said:
Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father [God]. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’John 20:17
Mary then went back and told the disciples that Jesus was alive!
Later that day, two of his followers were walking to Emmaus, a town 7 miles (11km) away from Jerusalem. They were chatting about what had happened with Jesus over the past few days.
A stranger, who was actually Jesus, came up to them and asked them what they were talking about. Not recognising it was actually Jesus, they told him about how Jesus was alive and how his tomb was empty. The two men, still not recognising Jesus, asked if he wanted to stay for the night, as it was getting late.
The Last Supper
When they sat down at dinner, they realised that the man was Jesus. The two men then went back to Jerusalem to find the disciples.
The disciples were in a locked room because they were afraid of being found by Jewish leaders. When Jesus entered the room, they were scared, thinking he was a ghost. “A ghost doesn’t have a body,” he said. “Touch my hands where the nails went in [on the crucifix.]”
They believed it was him. He ate some fish with them and explained why he died, and he would be going back to Heaven. But he would send someone, the Holy Spirit, to live within and help all Jesus’ followers.
One disciple, Thomas, didn’t believe Jesus was alive. Until he saw the holes in his hands, he wouldn’t think he was raised from the dead.
When all the disciples were in a room again, Thomas was there. Jesus entered the room, despite the locked door.
40 days after Jesus resurrected, he and his followers went to Bethany. He prayed for his followers whilst going back to Heaven.
The disciples then went back to Jerusalem, and went into a house waiting to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival, Pentecost. Suddenly, there was a strong wind blowing inside the house. Spirits looking like a fire rested on each of the disciples. It was the Holy Spirit.
A few minutes later, they went outside to tell everyone about Jesus and what he did. People from across the world could understand them. The Holy Spirit allowed them to speak different languages.
People still tell the story of what he did to this day.
Many people in Christian countries, such as the UK and USA, eat chocolate Easter eggs. The egg is a popular symbol of Easter, as it symbolises Jesus’ empty tomb (see The Story behind Easter.)