Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are several events associated with this time of the year for Christians.
Easter begins at the end of Lent. This is a 40 day period of praying, fasting, and repentance for Christians. The gospels state that Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days. Today people fast in various ways and there are many methods to choose from. Some totally abstain from meat during this period, and others give up all meat except for fish. Some people choose to only eat bread and drink water, or limit themselves to one meal a day.
Holy week begins at the end of Lent. It starts with Palm Sunday. In the Bible, Jesus entered the city on a donkey, which represented peace. People laid down small branches of palms to line his path. Today many churches celebrate Palm Sunday by handing out small palm branches for use during praise and worship.
Maundy Thursday marks the remembrance of the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus had with his twelve disciples. During this meal, Jesus used bread and wine to visually demonstrate to the disciples that his body was the bread of life, and his blood was represented by wine.
Jesus was later betrayed by a kiss by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had previously warned the disciples that one of them would betray him. In return Judas received 30 pieces of silver, and later hung himself.
Good Friday is the day of the crucifixion of Jesus. He was sent to Pilate for sentencing, who felt that he was innocent. Pilate washed his hands before the mob to represent that his hands were clean of Jesus' death. He then handed Jesus over to avoid a riot. Jesus was forced to carry his cross to Golgotha and was beaten and tormented along the way. He was nailed to the cross and hung for six hours, along with two criminals. During his last three hours, from around noon to 3 p.m., it became as dark as night. A soldier pierced his side with a sword, and blood and water flowed from his wound. When Jesus took his final breath, the earth shook, tombs broke open, and the Temple curtain ripped. It is believed that Jesus was crucified at the same time that the lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. He is also referred to as 'the Lamb', because he was the purest and ultimate sacrifice of all time.
Joseph of Arimatha was a secret follower of Jesus, and went to Pilate to ask for his body. Another follower, Nicodemus, helped wrap his body in a linen shroud. Joseph placed the body of Jesus in his own personal tomb, that was carved out of a rock near the site of the crucifixion. A large rock was rolled in front of the tomb.
On Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the grave. It is this resurrection that creates the foundation of Christianity. Mary Magdalene and a few other women followers were the first to discover the empty tomb. Upon finding the tomb empty, Mary ran to find Peter. Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus appeared to Mary and the disciples. Thomas, one of the disciples, doubted Jesus. He told Thomas to touch his wounds to see that he was real. This is where the saying "doubting Thomas" orginated from. Jesus instructed his disciples to go out and spread the gospel.
Eastertide is the 50 day period between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday. It is a time filled with feasts and a continual celebration of the resurrection.
The day of Pentecost happened on the Sunday following Easter when the disciples were in the upper room praying. The Holy Spirit descended upon them and they began to speak in tongues. Peter informed the crowd that this day was a fulfillment of prophecy. Those that received the word were baptized, and about 3,000 became believers on this day.
The Passion of the Christ is one of the best movies I have seen. It tells the story of the life of Jesus and what he endured in great detail. The movie was directed by Mel Gibson and was released in February of 2004. It is rated R due to some scenes may be too graphic for younger children. Amazon users give it a four star rating. Several churches show this film during Easter, or put on their own plays and re-enactments and hold special services to celebrate the life and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is also a very good film to watch.
The Holy Land Experience is located in Orlando, FL, and owned by Trinity Broadcasting Network. It is a living biblical museum and park that features recreations of bible stories and places. Attractions include the garden of Eden, shepherd's field, a Jerusalem street market, wilderness tabernacle, garden of Gethsemane, Bethlehem, the whipping post, the garden tomb, the temple plaza, and many more. In the scriptorium visitors will learn the history of where the Bible came from. Actors play out the life of Jesus and other bible characters, including the Easter story re-enactment. Visitors can also sample treats from Israel in the coffee shop, partake in the Last Supper, see live presentations in the Church of All Nations, witness the new dancing waters presentation, or purchase items in the gift shop. Kids will love the Smile of a Child Adventure Land, where they can rock climb, watch interactive presentations, and view Jonah in the belly of the whale. The park is closed most Sunday and Mondays. Current ticket prices are $35 for adults, $20 ages 6-12, $7 ages 3-5, and free for children under 3.
By dying for our sins and rising from the grave, Jesus bridged the gap that separated us from God. When we repent and invite Jesus into our heart, we are "born again", so that we may walk in a new light. Jesus intended for us all to go to Heaven, but we were given free will and a choice to believe in him.