The Meaning ofEaster
The sun rises up over the vast cityscape of Jerusalem, lighting the white limestone walls of the old city and creeping over buildings. Just north of the walls, a garden sits undisturbed.
Shortly, a throng of tourists will arrive and take their spots on the benches overlooking the garden. Some will descend the steps to the lowest point in the garden, quietly duck through a door carved in stone, and stare reverently into a hollowed portion of the rock where a body was laid to rest over two thousand years ago. As they leave, they will notice a sign on the door: “He is not here, for He is risen.”
The tourists don’t come to the Garden Tomb because this is where they hope Jesus was buried; they come because they hope this is where Jesus did what had never been done before—He lived again.
God sent Jesus to earth to teach us a better way to live. Though His ministry lasted only three years, His teachings have influenced billions for nearly two millennia. But the greatest gift Jesus gave to us was His life. He paid the price for our sins, died on the cross, and rose from the dead—providing a way for each one of us to return and live with God someday.
And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
The night before His death, Jesus visited a garden called Gethsemane, just east of the walls of Jerusalem. Leaving His Apostles at the edge of the garden, He trod through the dewy grass and past gnarled olive trees, walking farther inward.
He had prepared His entire life for this moment, carefully following His Father’s commands in every step of His life, in every breath He took. Now the time had come. Even as He prayed, “Father, if it be thy will, remove this cup from me,” He accepted that this was His burden, and His alone, to bear. He was the only one who could free us from the awful consequences of our sins.
In the coolness of the night, He knelt and began to pray. Though we don’t fully understand how, He willingly took upon Himself our sins and sorrows, suffering in body and spirit for every sin, every sadness, every mistake and imperfection of every single one of us. The pain that came was crushing, exquisite and infinite. Blood oozed from His pores as this impossibly heavy weight caused Him to tremble with pain.
But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
Sometime in those seemingly endless hours, the pain ceased. If only that were the sole burden He had to bear. As Jesus rejoined His disciples at the edge of the garden, they watched the glow of distant torches steadily approaching.
The faces of people armed with swords and staffs flickered menacingly in the torchlight. From the middle of the crowd emerged Judas, Jesus’ own Apostle.
“Master,” Judas said, and kissed Jesus on the cheek.
“Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” Jesus asked Judas.
And they clothed him with purple, and plaited a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!
The cruelties of the next day have echoed throughout the ages: the cries of “Crucify Him!” as He stood before Pilate, wrists bound like a common criminal; each lash of the whip, laced with bone and metal, tearing the flesh from His back— once, twice, even thirty-nine times; the purple cloak sopping His blood as soldiers pressed a woven circlet of thorns into His scalp; the spitting, the cries of anguish, the blows of the hands, the insulting, derisive cries.
At the summit of Golgotha, soldiers stretched Jesus’ arms along a wooden cross. Their hammers clanged dully as they drove thick nails into His palms and wrists; sharp, hot pain shot through Jesus’ body. The wood grazed the bloodied grooves in His back. As his body rose, onlookers saw the truth that the Jews mocked written on a plaque above His head: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
Tired, sweaty, bloodied, Jesus did only what a Redeemer could do: He forgave His murderers, comforted the criminal suffering next to Him, and trusted in His Father. When His sacrifice was complete, Jesus willed Himself to die as only God’s Son could do. He gave up the ghost, but His death wasn’t an end. It was the beginning for all of us.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
The empty tomb in that Jerusalem garden is a reminder that when the women who so lovingly cleaned, anointed, and wrapped his body came to observe the tomb, His body was gone, and in His place were two angels.
“He is not here: for He is risen,” they said.
The door on the tomb repeats that phrase: “He is not here, for He is risen.” It reminds visitors that the Savior not only lived and died for us but that He also rose from the dead.
Because Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind it’s possible for each of us to live again with God.