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Easter and Jesus
Easter is a Christian festival that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important holy day of the Christian religion. On that day nearly 2000 years ago, God showed His love to man in a unique and very important way. Jesus was born in the ancient Roman province of Judea, a land now known as Palestine and Israel, to Jewish parents. He taught people about God, healed the sick, and helped people who were lonely, sad, and downtrodden. In His life He fulfilled prophecies about the Messiah (meaning “Savior”) that had been spoken of by Jewish prophets, and which were recorded in what is now The Old Testament of The Bible. Many people recognized Jesus as the Savior who could forgive their sins, and they followed Him. But others were jealous of Him. The Jewish teachers of the law and a group of priests called Pharisees complained to the chief priests of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. “What will we do?” they asked. “Look at all the miracles this Man is performing. If we let Him go on this way, everyone will believe in Him and we will lose our power over the people.”

So these enemies of Jesus made plans to kill Him. Jesus knew of these plans, and one day He told His twelve closest followers, who are known as His disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much. I will be put to death, but three days later, I will be raised to life.” At the appointed time, a day before the Jewish festival of Passover, Jesus set out for Jerusalem with His disciples. He sent two of them on ahead and asked them to find a donkey for Him to ride as He entered Jerusalem. When the people saw Him coming, they threw cloaks and palm branches on the ground and shouted, “Praise God! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
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On the main day of the festival, as Jesus sat with His disciples at supper, He reminded His friends that He would soon leave them. He asked them to drink wine and eat bread together in remembrance of Him, until the day that He would eat and drink together with them again in Heaven. When Christians gather together, they often perform this ceremony, called communion. Then Jesus went with His disciples to a garden outside the city to pray before the ordeal He knew was coming. Knowing that mankind was separated from God because of their sin, He willingly went through the pain of death and separation from God in order to take our punishment for us. It was hard for Him, but He did it so that we could all know God and be close to Him, without our wrongdoing getting in the way. A simple analogy is that we are like children who have been bad and deserve punishment rather than the privilege of going to Heaven. But Jesus is like our older brother who, through His death, took our punishment for us. By accepting His pardon, we can be forgiven, have the loving and happy lives He wants us to have, and be with Him in Heaven in the afterlife. So before dawn the next morning, the chief priests, who by this time had finished their plans to kill Jesus, sent their guards to the garden where Jesus was praying and took Him captive. They brought Him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and there demanded that Jesus be executed. However, Pilate was reluctant. At the Passover festival each year, Pilate freed one prisoner. Pilate wanted to free Jesus, but under pressure from the religious rulers, he gave the people who were gathered in the courtyard next to his palace a choice between Jesus and a murderer named Barabbas. Jesus’ accusers persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and have Jesus crucified. “What shall I do with Jesus?” Pilate asked.
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“Crucify Him!” the crowd shouted back. “But what crime has He committed?” asked Pilate. They shouted even louder, “Crucify Him!” So Pilate did as they asked, but symbolically washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” After a group of Roman soldiers had beaten Jesus, they dressed Him in a purple robe and put a crown of thorns on His head. Then the soldiers led Jesus out to crucify Him, which meant nailing Him to a wooden cross to hang there until He died. They made Jesus carry His huge cross until He fell under the weight of it. A man named Simon the Cyrenian helped Jesus carry His cross. They led Him to the top of a small hill called Golgotha, and crucified Him there. The soldiers then threw dice to decide who would get His clothes. Pilate had a notice fixed to the cross saying, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Two robbers were also crucified at the same time, one on either side of Him. Jesus prayed for the Romans who had crucified Him. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Some of the people watching jeered at Jesus, saying, “If you truly are the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself.” Some of His followers were also there, watching and weeping. Among them was Mary, Jesus’ mother. At noon, the country was covered in a strange darkness that lasted for three hours. About three o’clock, Jesus cried out, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” God was having Jesus experience the lonely death of sinners who feel they don’t have God’s help. Jesus said He was thirsty, and someone put a sponge soaked in vinegar to His lips. Then He said, “It is finished.” Jesus was dying to take the punishment for all the sins of mankind. He cried to God, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then He died. To make sure He was dead, the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water ran out. Right then the thick curtain in the Jewish temple was ripped from top to bottom, the earth shook, and rocks split apart. The soldiers at Jesus’ crucifixion were terrified and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
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In the evening, a man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Joseph and others took His body down from the cross, wrapped it in a linen shroud, and put it in a new tomb, carved out of solid rock, which Joseph had bought for himself. A huge stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb, and Joseph and the others went away. Early Sunday morning, several women who were followers of Jesus went to the tomb. When they arrived, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, so they went in. There they saw a young man whose face shone and whose clothes were white as snow. The soldiers who had been there to guard the tomb had been afraid and had run away. The man with the shining face said, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus is not here, but He has risen as He said. He has gone to Galilee. You will see Him there.” For the next forty days, Jesus was seen by His disciples and hundreds of other people. From this story comes the tradition of Easter. It begins with Good Friday, which represents the day Jesus died on the cross, and ends on Easter Sunday, which is a day to rejoice because Jesus rose from the dead. In His death He took away the barrier of wrongdoing that separates us from God, and in His resurrection He showed His power to transform us and give us His new life of the Spirit inside. We just have to ask, and He will do all this for us, because He suffered, died, and rose again—just for us. Yes, Jesus lives! And that’s not all. He will live in the heart of anyone who invites Him in. He will forgive sins and give a new start in life—a life of love and happiness that gets better and better the more one learns about Jesus and His ways through prayer and reading the Bible, and from other Christians. He said, “I am come that you might have life,” and “Whom the Son has set free is free indeed” (John 10:10, 8:36). For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that all who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
R120 GP Easter, Jesus, salvation.

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