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Easter 101: What the holiday is all about

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal A stained glass window in the chapel at St. Teresa's of Avila Catholic Community.
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As Christians worldwide prepare to commemorate Holy Week, the Rev. Bruce Kochsmeier of First Presbyterian Church helps explain important days and events leading up to Easter/Resurrection Sunday, and what the crucifixion of Christ means.

Each are accompanied by the related chapter of the Bible.

What was the significance of the Last Supper?

The Last Supper described in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 13, is Jesus’ clear statement that he has become the once and for all Passover lamb. Previously the blood of a lamb was shed to mark the passing over of death on the night of Israel’s exodus from bondage in Egypt. With the last supper, Jesus has become that once and for all sacrifice that sets believers free.

What is:

• Palm Sunday – (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12) marks Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he was crucified. The crowds hailed him. But by Friday they had turned against him because he had not become the political savior they expected. (This took place as a fulfillment of Isaiah 62:11 and 2 Kings 9:13.)

• Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays) when Christians are called to enter into a time of reflection, repentance and turning toward the grace of the cross. Traditionally a Roman Catholic day of worship, it has come in more recent years to be remembered by Protestants as well.

• Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. It is traditionally the night Christians remember that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as the fulfillment of the Passover. It is the night Jesus washed the disciple’s feet as a statement of servanthood that they were called to live as their pattern.

Maundy comes from the Latin, “maundatum” to mandate. Jesus’ words were that the disciples and all Christians are mandated to serve the world as he did.

• Good Friday is the day Christians remember that Jesus was crucified on a cross outside of Jerusalem after a trumped up trial. It is the day Christians remember that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world.

• Easter or Resurrection Sunday is the day Christians commemorate that God defeated death as Jesus rose from a sealed and guarded tomb and appeared to more than 500 people for the next 40 days before ascending to heaven.

why WAS Jesus betrayed and arrested?

•(John 18, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22) – As a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy Jesus is betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples and arrested by the Jewish supreme court. He is ultimately tried by the Roman authorities (Pilate) who find him innocent, but to keep peace, deliver him to the Roman guard to be crucified.

Jesus is sentenced to death and led to Calvary – (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19) Jesus is beaten and taken to a cross on a hill called “Golgotha” which we translate, Calvary. There he is crucified and dies on the cross over a period of six hours. His death fulfills many Old Testament prophecies.

What is the significance of the three crosses on Calvary?

There is no particular significance except it reflects that at our darkest hour we can choose to see Jesus as the Savior of the world as one of the two men crucified with him did.

• Jesus is crucified -Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19) – Such Old Testament prophecy regarding the suffering and death of Messiah (the Christ) is fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion as he speaks from the cross and as he is killed in this way.

Jesus is laid in the tomb and rises from the dead – Matthew 27-28, Mark 15, Luke 23-24, John 19-20 – Jesus was placed in a tomb that had never been used, which fulfills an Old Testament prophecy. The tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, a Jewish man who had become a follower of Jesus.

Early on Sunday morning, the third day after he had been placed in the tomb, women and men who had been his followers went to the tomb and found that the grave clothes were undisturbed, but Jesus was gone! To have let Jesus’ body be removed would have brought a death sentence upon the Roman guards who had been placed there.

Jesus appeared to his followers that day and to more than 500 people before ascending 40 days later.

Why did Jesus have to die?

There are many answers, but the most essential is that God made the ultimate statement, that God conquered our greatest fear – death itself – and through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, (who was fully God with us) offers eternal life and restored relationship with God.

Nothing less than Jesus’ death and resurrection would accomplish or communicate this. Jesus died so that we would not have to die forever. Jesus died so that we can have restored relationship with the source of our being. Jesus died so that God could say with “no strings attached,” this is how much I love you. Jesus died as God’s statement of completion.

The last thing God in Jesus said on the cross was, “It is accomplished.”

His death and resurrection accomplished what we never could. As God gave himself up for us He said, “Here is the gift of life. Here is what fills every empty and broken place in every person forever.”

This is why Jesus had to die and why the resurrection is the greatest event in the history of the world. It is why we mark time in BC and AD – because after Jesus nothing is the same. There are more than 365 prophecies in the Old Testament about who the Savior will be.

If we covered the state of Texas with silver dollars, marked an “X” on one and picked it up on the first try it would be the same statistical probability as if Jesus had fulfilled only eight of the prophecies. In reality, he fulfilled them all.

To me, this adds so much power to the resurrection.