What makes this festival so special?
What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘Easter’? Bunnies? Hot cross buns? Gooey creme eggs?
Easter is one of the most special times in the year for Christians – and very little of it has to do with chocolate! ‘Easter’ is a season in the church calendar which happens each spring. Although it technically ‘begins’ with Easter Sunday, most Christians use the term ‘Easter’ to refer to the festival remembering the events surrounding the end of Jesus’ life – and its new beginning. Christians believe that at a fairly young age, around 33, Jesus died on a cross outside Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. He was buried immediately, but then three days later his disciples discovered that his tomb was empty and claimed to have seen him, alive. Christians believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of a grand plan, engineered by God himself, to bring peace between God and the people of earth.
Holy Week is the name given to the final week of Jesus’ life. Read more about the events of this incredible week below, or watch our films here.
Holy Week begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem like a king – on a donkey, surrounded by people shouting his name excitedly and waving palm branches. At the time, it was a sign that the people of Israel were ready for a new leader who would overthrow the Roman Empire. Christians see Jesus as a king – not with a kingdom on earth based in a country, but who rules over people’s hearts all over the world.
It was the time of the Jewish Passover – the festival which remembers Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. After a week visiting friends around Jerusalem, Jesus wanted to share a special meal with his disciples. At the meal he broke the bread and called it his body. He said the wine they drank was his blood. Christians believe this was Jesus’ way of telling his friends about his death. They remember this ‘last supper’ at communion or mass in church.
Jesus’ arrest and trial
After the meal, Jesus went to pray in a quiet place – a garden called Gethsemane. He took a few of his closest disciples with him. While he was there, another of his disciples, Judas, brought Jesus’ enemies to him. During the night Jesus was tried by the religious leaders for blasphemy (claiming to be God) and the Roman authorities (for stirring up the people). By Friday morning, he had been sentenced to death.
Good Friday is the day when Jesus died on the cross. In Roman times the worst criminals were ‘crucified’ – nailed to a cross and left to die. The Bible says Jesus was innocent and that his death was a sacrifice for people’s sins. Throughout the gospels, Jesus says that he will have to die but that his death will save many. Christians believe that because Jesus died, all of us can be friends of God.
Good Friday is only half of the Easter story. The other is Jesus’ resurrection 3 days later. On Easter Sunday, the disciples visited Jesus’ tomb but found the stone covering the cave had been moved and Jesus’ body was gone. They reported seeing Jesus alive at the garden that morning, and then again at their house later that day. Christians believe that God raised Jesus to life again – a sign that Jesus was truly the Son of God and more powerful than death.Bookmark