THE EASTER OF 2015.
We are in the middle of Easter now. Some is calling it the quiet week. In my homeland, Norway, many people take a long vacation and they go to the mountains or far away to a warmer country. If you come to Norway as a tourist during this time, you might experience Norway as boring and many things are closed due to the holidays. Many are happy to get free from work, but most people forget the reason for celebrating Easter. Why do we celebrate Easter?
Before I write about the Christian Easter, I would like to mention that the Jews celebrated Easter long before the Christians did. They do that even today. They call Easter for pesach and the main reason is the freedom from Egypt. They had been slaves there and God wanted to lead them out into freedom. Pharaoh denied them to leave a number of times and God punished both him and Egypt and Moses was finally leading his people out of Egypt. The Jews are also making this feast to a family gathering and a way to celebrate spring. They are eating unleavened bread. Yeast is symbolizing sin and they want to get rid of the sin. You can read 1.Cor.5:8. It seemed that the Jews had a tradition of releasing one prisoner during this celebration. We see that happening when the crowd cried out: Barabbas, Barabbas as the one to be released instead of Jesus.
We Christians remember what happened before, during and after the crucifixion of Jesus. What happened then are the most important things we can remember Him for. That was when the way to the Father was reopened and the sins were paid for once and for all.
Everything that was destroyed through the fall of man was restored through Jesus.
What are we celebrating the different days and what do we remember? We can start with Palm Sunday. Jesus and His disciples were on the way to Jerusalem. When they came close to the Mountain of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples to release a donkey and a colt. If they were asked why they did this, they should answer: “The Lord has need of them.” They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. Many people had come to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread and when they heard that Jesus was there, they came to meet Him. They threw clothes on the road and had branches of palm trees and they were crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” This was already predicted in Zechariah 9:9. There we read: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Those who loved Jesus, praised Him for all His good deeds, but the Pharisees asked Him to rebuke His disciples. Jesus answered them: “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”(Luke19:40) We might say the same today. If we stop praising Him, the stones will cry out. The Jews had been waiting for a king coming with dignity and not riding on a donkey. This shows a meek and humble Jesus and He has no need of grandeur. He wants to meet people with the same attitude today. He washed the feet of His disciples then and wants to wash ours today.
Let us praise Him and follow His humble example.
The next day we will look at is: Maundy Thursday. Jesus had looked forward to have Passover together with His disciples. He knew that this would be the last meal He would have with them before He would be taken prisoner and crucified as a thief and a robber. Peter and John should prepare the lamb. When they met a man carrying a pitcher of water, they should ask him if he had a guest room they could use. They should say that it was the Teacher asking. They got the room and they gathered for Passover. Jesus then instituted what we Christians call communion. Jesus took the cup, the cup of vine and gave thanks and said: “Take this and divide among yourselves.” He also took the bread, gave thanks and broke it. He gave it to them saying: This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” He also said that the cup is the new covenant in His blood that was shed for them. (Luke 22) In 1.Cor.11 we read that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Christians might interpret the value of communion differently, but we can agree that it was instituted by Jesus and He said we should do it often. It doesn’t say that an ordained pastor has to be present. That’s religion.
The following events are quite dramatic. While they were still gathered He predicted that Peter would deny Him three times during the night and He said that He would be betrayed by one of them. Jesus then went to the Mountain of Olives as He usually did. He stopped in a place called Gethsemane. Jesus took Peter, James and John and asked them to stay awake and pray with Him, but they went to sleep. Jesus asked to be released from the things that were going to happen, but only if it was possible. Thy will be done, He prayed. He was in such an agony that He was perspiring drops of blood. An angel came to strengthen Him. They hadn’t left the place when they were confronted with a crowd carrying swords and clubs. They came from the high priest, the scribes and the eldest. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and they arrested Jesus. He was taken to the high priest and they tried to get people to testify against Him. When Jesus said that He was the Son of the Most Blessed One, He was taken for blasphemy. He was beaten and mocked and finally taken to the governor Pontius Pilate. He couldn’t find any fault in Him, but when the crowd cried out to release the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus, he didn’t dare to do anything else. Jesus was whipped and crucified. This is why we celebrate Good Friday. Jesus was followed by a big crowd and some women close to Him cried. Jesus was hung up on a cross with two robbers on both sides. One of them mocked Him. The other one said that they got what they deserved and asked Jesus to remember him when He came to His kingdom. Jesus answered that he should come with Him to Paradise.
Jesus was whipped, mocked and crucified as an innocent man. He suffered enormously, not only the physical pain, but He carried the sins of the whole world and in His wounds we are healed. No one has done that before Him and it will never be done again.
I will mention three of the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross. He was mocked and in great agony and in spite of that, He says: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This has been a personal help when I have a difficult time to forgive. The second one is: “It is finished!” The last one is: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Jesus then died and was wrapped in linen and was laid in a tomb with a huge stone covering the entrance of the grave. The grave was guarded.
We have a psalm going like this: Easter-morning quenches all sorrow, all sorrow for all eternity. On the third day some women came to the grave and they were shocked when they saw the stone rolled away and an empty grave. Two angels came and told them that everything that Jesus had told them in advance had happened. The women went to the apostles, but they couldn’t believe them before Jesus Himself appeared to them and they saw His scars from the nails. Jesus has won a victory over death and over the devil.
HE HAS INDEED RISEN FROM THE DEAD!