Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christians believe that Jesus is both God and human. When we celebrate Easter, we give thanks that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, taking the punishment that we deserve and also defeating sin, Satan and death.
Christians believe that after he died and the body of the Lord Jesus was buried in a tomb, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead and is still alive. The true meaning of Easter is found in Scriptures like John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV).
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the most important story in the Christian faith. It tells us the price God paid for the forgiveness of our sins and how God makes a way for us to have eternal life.
Where is the Easter Story Found in the Bible?
What chapter? What book?
You can find the story of Easter in the New Testament section of the Bible. Each Gospel tells the full story: Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24 and John 12-20. These Bible verses focus on different details, but they agree about the important major events that happened:
- Jesus and his disciples went to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
- Jesus was very popular with the Jewish people because of his signs, miracles and teaching about the kingdom of God. Many people were gathered in Jerusalem because of the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the Passover feast, and Jesus received a lot of attention.
“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:10-11
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
- Smaller groups of Jews, especially the leaders called the Pharisees, were jealous of Jesus and also angry that he was claiming to be God in human form.
- The Roman authorities did not like Jesus because they were afraid he would lead the Jewish people to rebel against them.
- One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, betrayed him to the Jewish leaders and the Roman government officials.
- After Jesus and his disciples ate the Passover meal together, Jesus was arrested and taken to see the chief priests. The priests were furious that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which meant he was claiming to be one with God. They decided to give Jesus to the Romans to be killed by them.
- The Romans beat Jesus and made fun of him while he was in custody. The Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, held a trial for Jesus and found him innocent, but in order to please the Jews who were angry at Jesus he sentenced Jesus to die by crucifixion. (Crucifixion is one of the cruelest forms of historical capital punishment. Victims of crucifixion were nailed in their hands and feet to a wooden cross. It was a way for the Romans to torture and humiliate rebels who challenged their authority in Israel and other colonies).
- Jesus carried the cross to a place called Golgotha (“the Place of the Skull”) outside the city and was nailed to the cross. This happened in the morning hours on the Friday after Passover.
- During the time of crucifixion, many miraculous signs took place. Eventually, Jesus cried out in a loud voice to God and died.
- Jesus’ body was buried in a tomb on that same day before the Sabbath began.
- On the third day after the death of Christ, and the first day of the week, some of his followers, including Mary Magdalene and Peter, came to the tomb and found the stone rolled away because the resurrection of Jesus Christ had taken place, just as he had foretold before his death.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the story is summed up this way:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”The date of Easter Sunday changes every year. It is related to the timing of the Jewish holiday Passover, the spring equinox and the cycles of the moon. Also, different Christian denominations and cultures calculate the timing differently. This type of holiday is known as a “moveable feast” because it is not celebrated the same day each year, unlike Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
Many countries also celebrate the days surrounding Easter as holidays, such as Good Friday and Easter Monday. Traditionally, the week leading up to Easter is known as Holy Week, with special church traditions to mark the events of the Easter story. Some traditions observe the period of Lent, a time of repentance and special fasting for the 47 days before Easter. Other Christian traditions just gather to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. In 2022, many Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 17.
What Does the Word “Easter” Mean?
The word “Easter” is related to the season of spring and the change in weather that happens in the northern half of the world. In March and April, the plants that are resting for winter begin to come back to life.
Before Christianity came to Europe, pagan Anglo-Saxons in England celebrated spring with a feast for a false goddess named Eostre. When the English people converted to Christianity, they changed the celebration to a celebration of Christ and his resurrection but kept the old name. Some people prefer to call Easter “Resurrection Sunday” instead.