Jesus’ body was hastily placed in a tomb on Friday afternoon. There was no time to properly prepare the body for burial with spices and ointments according to Jewish customs. No work could be done on the Sabbath, so that task had to wait until Sunday.
Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and several other women went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. When they arrived, they found the tomb had been opened already. When they went in, they did not find Jesus’ body, and they wondered what had happened.
Suddenly, two angels in dazzling white clothes were there. The women were terrified, but the angels said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you that He would be turned over to sinful men, be crucified, and rise again on the third day!”
The women ran back to tell Jesus’ apostles what they had seen. Peter and one other apostle went to the tomb to see for themselves. They looked in and saw the linen cloths that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in but nothing else. Then they went home, amazed and confused.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene.
When Peter and the other apostle went home, Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb crying. Suddenly she saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize Him at first. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Mary thought He must be the gardener and said, “Sir, if you have taken Him away, tell me where, and I will take Him!” Jesus said, “Mary!” Then she recognized Him and exclaimed, “Master!”
Jesus said, “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet returned to the Father. But go to my disciples and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Then Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”, and she told them everything that had happened.
Jesus Talks with Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus
Later that same Sunday, two of Jesus’ disciples, Cleopas [KLEE uh pas] and another man, were walking along the road to a village called Emmaus [em MAY us], which was about seven miles (11 km) from Jerusalem. All day they had been talking and wondering about all the things that had happened.
Jesus talks with two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Suddenly, Jesus was there with them, but they did not recognize Him. “What are you talking about as you walk along?” He asked. The two disciples looked sad. Cleopas asked, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in the last few days?” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a great prophet before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be crucified. We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides, it is now the third day since all of this happened. And now, some women of our group amazed us. They went to His tomb early this morning, but they did not find His body there. They came back and told us that they had seen angels there who said He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women said, but they did not see Jesus.” Then Jesus said to them, “Oh you are so foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for Christ to suffer those things and enter into His glory?”
As they came near the village of Emmaus, the two disciples said to Jesus, “Stay with us, because it is late and the day is now nearly over.” So Jesus went in to stay with them. As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. Suddenly they recognized Him as Jesus, and He vanished from their sight.
The two disciples quickly returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven apostles and some of Jesus’ other followers gathered together. The apostles told them, “It’s true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Peter.” Then the two disciples told everything that had happened on the road to Emmaus.
Jesus Appears to the Apostles
“Doubting Thomas” becomes a believer.
That same Sunday evening most of the apostles were together. They had locked themselves in a room in fear that the religious leaders would want them crucified next. Suddenly, Jesus was there among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Jesus showed them the wounds from crucifixion in his side and hands. The apostles were overjoyed to see Jesus alive again. Jesus said again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
The apostle Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared to them. So the others told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger in the nail holes and my hand in the wound in His side, I will not believe it.”
A week later the apostles were again locked in the same room, and Thomas was with them. Jesus again came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Put your hand in my side. Don’t doubt it any more. Believe!” All Thomas could say was, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen but have come to believe.”
Jesus Ascends to Heaven
Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after He was resurrected from the dead on that Sunday morning (Acts 1:3). He appeared again to the apostles at the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) and on a mountainside in Galilee. He also appeared to more than 500 others (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Jesus’ parting words to His disciples were,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (NRSV, Matthew 28:18-20)
When it was time for Jesus to return to heaven, He led His disciples out to a place near Bethany, a village on the slopes of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles (3 km) from Jerusalem. Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed them. Then He ascended to heaven, and the disciples lost sight of Him in a cloud.
Why We Celebrate Jesus’s Resurrection
While for many Easter is a day of chocolate for breakfast and egg hunts in the back garden, the meaning of Easter is founded in Christianity.
The Easter story explains the ascension of Jesus into heaven, when Jesus was reunited with his father and creator.
Without the resurrection of Christ, as outlined in the New Testament, many of the stories upheld by the apostles and written about in the bible could not have happened.
Easter Sunday succeeds Good Friday, the day when Jesus was crucified by roman cavalry under the orders of emperor Pontius Pilate.
Here is the Easter story, and how to explain it in simpler terms to children.
The Easter Story
Easter Sunday is also known in Christian churches as Resurrection Sunday, the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
This day is considered the most significant in the church’s calendar, as it is believed that Christ rose three days after his crucifiction in 30AD, and ascended into heaven to be with God.
This day therefore represents the belief that Jesus overcame death, that there is life after death and that Jesus, as God, is external to human life and of a higher power and all-loving.
This is outlined in the bible in two important books, Luke and Corinthians 1.
The story goes that Jesus’ spirit rose from the tomb where he had been buried, and the tomb was found empty by one of his followers, Mary Magdalene.
She rushed back to tell his apostles that he was missing, but was confronted by an angel who asked her: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’.” (Luke 24:5–7).
Mary then remained at the tomb, where Jesus appeared to her and told her he had risen and to tell his disciples that he would ascend to heaven.
The importance of the belief in Christ was then reiterated by Saint Peter in Corinthians 1, where he questions those who question Jesus’ resurrection.
Saint Peter, now considered the first pope, said: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:12–14
According to this theory, ifJesus had not ascended to heaven to be with God, then much of the beliefs of the Christian church would also be unfounded.
Therefore, Easter is the most important and celebrated holiday in the Christian faith and ithas been celebrated across the world by Christians for millennia.
How and why do we celebrate Easter?
Easter Sunday is the culmination of the Lent period in the Catholic church – 40 days of fasting, prayer and charity.
Followers of Christianity are welcomed to church services on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
At these services, the Easter story is told and Christians can choose to receive the holy eucharist, as well as rejoicing with hymns and the lighting of candles.
The UK is predominantly a Christian country, so even non-practising Christians and those who have no religious affiliation will celebrate by gathering with family, eating celebratory meals and gifting Easter eggs.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays in most of the UK, with public servants ordered by the government to take a day of rest, as well as many other businesses reducing or refraining from trading on these days.
Schoolchildren may also have an Easter bonnet parade, spring fayre or party around this time, before finishing up for the mid-term holidays
Why do we eat Easter eggs?
If you are not a Christian you may not be aware of the origins of Easter, but well versed in the eating of Easter chocolate.
While chocolate isn’t usually associated with religion, the egg shaped shells are related to the holy holiday.
As Jesus began his new life on Easter Sunday, so do eggs represent this new beginning.
Originally, eating eggs was forbidden in the week leading up to Easter and so they were collected and given to children as gifts on Resurrection Sunday.
While eggs are seen as a sign of fertility in old pagan symbolism, eggs are also supposed to represent the stone which covered Jesus’ tomb.
The rolling of eggs down hills, most famously celebrated at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, symbolises the stone being rolled away from the tomb to set Jesus free.
The Easter Story for children
Here is a simpler, more engaging version of the story, for primary aged children:
During his life, Jesus taught many people about God – who he claimed was his father and a higher power than any of mankind.
Jesus travelled, telling the stories of God and his power to grant miracles and create life on Earth – he attracted many followers and people began to believe what he said.
However, the rulers of the land where he preached were not happy about what he had to say and saw him as a threat to their leadership so wanted him to die.
Jesus existed in the time of Roman Empire, and the leader at the time was Pontius Pilate.
He ordered his followers to kill Jesus, and so they killed him on a cross in front of his followers to scare them into stopping their support for him.
While he was being crucified, Jesus paid for those who killed him and forgave them.
Once he had died, he was buried by his friends in a tomb – similar to a grave but not in the ground. A large stone was rolled over the tomb to keep his body safe.
On the third day, Mary Magdalene, one of his friends returned to the tomb but found it lying open and Jesus was not inside.
She began to cry when a glowing angel appeared to her and told her Jesus had been reborn as he said he would, and would return to his dad in heaven.
Mary remained at his tomb as she was confused, when Jesus appeared to her and told her of God’s forgiveness of sinners and everlasting love for his people, he then ascended into heaven.