Welcome to day 5 of the A-Z Challenge. We are up to letter E, and here is the entry from the sterlingsop jury:
E is for Easter
Today is Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, which is the day Christians traditionally mark as the day that Jesus Christ was crucified and therefore the beginning of the end of the Easter story.
Just in case you are not a Christian, or if you are but don’t know what Easter is all about, let me give you my potted version.
Jesus was born to the virgin Mary (an event celebrated at Christmas) and until he became an adult, very little is actually known about his movements and actions. His life is recorded in the Bible by a series of Gospels and each of them focuses on different parts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus spent the final three years of his life spreading the word of God with a group of friends, who we know as his disciples. He told moral stories in the form of parables, he performed miracles to demonstrate God’s power and started a following that became known as the Church.
One week before his death he arrived in Jerusalem. His entrance was kind of fitting for a King – there were shouts of praise from the crowds who had come to see him and they waved palm leaves in the air for him – but unlike a royal king, he was mounted not on a war horse or charger but on a humble donkey. Christians call this event “Palm Sunday“. The people were under the cruel regime of the Roman Empire and were hoping that Jesus would come to save them from that tyranny. They thought he would set them free from the evil empire that ruled them – how little did they know!
Later in the week was the feast day celebrating Passover. Jesus and his disciples ate a meal together but beforehand, Jesus washed his friend’s feet. It was an unusual gesture, especially at that time. It was not uncommon for a servant or a slave to wash the feet of honoured guests at a meal such as Passover, but instead of the household servant performing the ritual, Jesus himself did it. He demonstrated the need for his friends to look after each other and to show themselves and others humility and servitude.
Jesus knew that end of his life was near, and knew that one of his friends would betray him to the Romans that night. That Passover meal became known as the Last Supper, for obvious reasons.
During the meal, Jesus made a promise to his friends. He took some break, broke it up and said they were to think of it as his body, which was to be broken on the cross. He said they should remember him each time they got together and shared a meal.
After the meal, Jesus went out into the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He knew that the soldiers were on their way and asked his friends to watch out for him whilst he prayed. They all fell asleep and he had to wake them up to watch out for him.
This was all on the evening of Thursday and we now call that day Maundy Thursday. In England, our Queen traditionally hands out “Maundy Money” to specially selected people and it is traditional in the Catholic church that priests wash the feet of their parishioners.
The next part of the Easter story is Good Friday, when Jesus was executed by the Roman Emperor Pontius Pilate. He was tried and sentenced on Friday morning and was crucified in the afternoon.
All of the above bits to the story are historically accurate and take no faith at all. However, the special part about Easter, and what makes Christianity different, is that we believe that on the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the dead. That is the bit that DOES take faith and millions of Christians worldwide do believe that Jesus rose and later ascended into heaven.
The Easter morning part of the story is that after his death, Jesus was taken down from the cross and was laid, unprepared, in a tomb. As it was the sabbath day, nobody could deal with his body until the Sunday. When Mary went to ritually clean and anoint his body on the Sunday morning, she found the tomb had been opened and there was no sign of Jesus. There were grave clothes, but no body. She was torn apart with anguish, but then Jesus himself appeared to her to show her he was alive and she should go and spread the word.
Easter is where Christianity was born.