Today is Easter Sunday. If it were two years ago, I would be hurrying to finish my makeup as my mother tried to rush me out the door so that we could get to church only 5 minutes late as opposed to our usual 15 (sorry mom). I would settle into my seat, somewhere towards the front because I am in fact the pastor’s daughter. And I’d be sitting amongst my friends as we watch a production called Hero, which is a musical drama my church created that followed Jesus’ last nights on Earth, his death, and his resurrection.
I used to love watching Hero, mostly because I’ve convinced myself I can sing and would spend a large part of the production trying to harmonize with the actual singers. But that’s neither here nor there.
Today is Easter Sunday. My mother is filled with joy because she celebrates the culmination of her faith; Jesus Christ, her savior has risen. My mother always says that Easter is her true Christmas. Because although it is important that Jesus was born, had he not died for her sins, she would be nothing. Many Christians hold this view.
So what’s the big deal about Easter? Well first of all, there is no Easter bunny. That’s something completely different having to do with an ancient celebration of fertility which coincides with the beginning of spring. Far too complicated for my understanding.
Easter is actually a lot longer than most people realize. For the Catholic community preparation is a month prior, at the start of Lent. Lent is like Ramadan only significantly easier. Catholics sacrifice one thing they truly love for 40 days. One year, as an experiment, I gave up Netflix. It was horrible.
For everyone else, Easter celebrations begin on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem where city dwellers laid palms along his trail. He would enter a king only to leave a criminal. Palm Sunday is followed by the Passion Week which marks Jesus’ time in Jerusalem leading to the betrayal by Judas, his arrest, and his crucifixion on Good Friday. Why is Friday “good?” Because the crucifixion of Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament and of John the Baptist.
Why is Judas important in this story? Judas was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples and for reasons that theologians still fail to grasp, Judas sold Jesus to Jewish religious leaders for 30 pieces of silver.
Why did the Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees in the Bible) want to arrest Jesus? Jesus was a rabble rouser. People were claiming that he was the messiah that the Jewish community had been awaiting since the time of Isaiah (Old Testament prophet). But the messiah the Pharisees wanted was supposed to arrive as a king with an army to overthrow the Romans and save the Jews from their oppressive rule. Jesus rolled up to Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus had also been performing miracles and his followers spread wide reports that he was the son of God. This was considered blasphemy. The Pharisees were starting to lose control over the Jewish community, Jesus needed to be taken out.
But crucifixion was a Roman practice, not a Jewish one. So how did we get there? At the time of Jesus’ arrest and trial (if that’s what we want to call it) the festival of Passover was approaching. The Jewish community could not have blood on their hands at this time nor could they actually do the work of carrying an actual trial and sentencing (Sabbath yo!). So the leadership went to Pontius Pilot who was basically like the De Blasio of Jerusalem at the time.
Pontius Pilot questioned Jesus on being king of the Jews and Jesus’ famous response is still preached in churches today. I am that you say I am. My kingdom is not of this world. Pilot found the whole thing non-threatening. After all, he was not a Jew and he was protected by the most powerful earthly kingdom at the time, the Roman Empire. Alas, there had been so much civil unrest between the Jews and the Romans in that region that Pilot had no choice but to succumb to the will of the crowd. Jesus was sentenced to be crucified.
But the Pharisees knew that there was another prophecy that Jesus would rise from the dead in three days, solidifying his claim to be the Messiah. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would have been for everyone to know that you crucified the Messiah? They weren’t about to have that. Jesus’ body was interned inside of a cave and a massive stone was rolled in front of it. Soldiers were placed at the tomb to ensure none of Jesus’ followers came and stole the body.
I am that you say I am. My kingdom is not of this world.
Alas, the powers of man are not stronger than the powers of God. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and rose on the third day, appearing first to a woman (CAUSE WE’RE AWESOME) and then to the remainder of his disciples.
The act of dying and resurrecting is the crux of the Christian religion and this day is incredibly holy to them. It’s also quite a point of disagreement between the 3 Abrahamic faiths. But today isn’t a day to disagree. It’s simply a day to be respectful and remember that while some may see this as a brunch Sunday and others a holy day the Quran tells us all the same thing. To you is your religion, to me is mine.
Happy Easter, mother.