The Death & Resurrection of Jesus - Easter

The enemies of Jesus were determined to get rid of him in some way: they spied on him all the time, trying to get information to use against him, but all they really did was show themselves to be very poor leaders and worshippers of God. At last they offered a reward to any person who could help them to arrest Jesus.

Jesus knew that He would be arrested in the end and he made his arrangements so that he would not be arrested before he was ready and the time was right. The plans he had for the week were kept secret. However, on of his own disciples made up his mind to give information to the Jews to help them arrest Jesus. This disciple was Judas Iscariot. We are told that he looked after the money which was given to the disciples to buy food, but he was a thief. Jesus knew this but had still chosen Judas as a disciple. In exchange for giving the Jewish leaders information on where to find Jesus, Judas received thirty pieces of silver.

At the end of the week it was time for the Passover Feast & the twelve disciples gathered together with Jesus for the last time - for the Last Supper ( Mark 14 v 12-17 ). Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray him - they were very upset ( Mark 14 v 18-21 ). Soon afterwards, Judas went out - straight to the rulers. Later that night, when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane with the rest of the disciples, Judas led a group of Temple Guards to Jesus. He had given them a sign that he would kiss Jesus to show that he was the person to arrest (being night time they would not be able to see who was who). Jesus was arrested and taken to the High Priest's house ( Mark 14 v 32-53 ).

The Supreme Court of the Jews - the Council or Sanhedrin - was made up of chief priests, elders and doctors of the law, and it was presided over by the High Priest. Even under Roman rule, the Council had full power over religious matters. They decided that Jesus was worthy of death on a false charge of blasphemy and they bound him and took him to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to carry out the sentence. Pilate soon saw that there was no wrong in Jesus and that the Jews had brought Him to trial because they were jealous, and so he tried to find some way of releasing Jesus. Each year at the Passover Festival Pilate freed one prisoner, chosen by the Jews. When the people arrived to ask for this annual favour Pilate tried to persuade them to ask for Jesus: the chief priests, however, went among the crowd and persuaded them to ask for Barabbas (a murderer) to be freed instead of Jesus ( Mark 15 v 1-15 ).

After he had been beaten and laughed at by the Roman soldiers, Jesus was taken out to be crucified (9am). At mid-day the sky became dark and for three hours the whole land was covered in darkness. At the end of that time Jesus died: immediately there was a great earthquake and the large curtain in the Temple, separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, was torn in two from top to bottom. Many of those standing round, including the Roman centurion, were convinced that Jesus was truly the Son of God when they saw these things and how Jesus died.

When the soldiers were sure that Jesus was dead, Joseph of Arimathaea (a Jewish Councillor AND a disciple of Jesus) brought a linen sheet, took Jesus' body down from the cross, and wrapped him in it. He put the body in a rock tomb and rolled the stone across the entrance. Some of the women, including Mary Magdalene, watched and saw where Jesus' body was placed ( Mark 15 v 42-47 ). The Jews arranged for a guard of soldiers to remain at the tomb.

As soon as the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women brought spices to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the Sunday morning they went to the tomb and saw that the stone had already been rolled back ... and the tomb was empty! The linen cloth was still there, but the body had gone.

While they gazed into the tomb, they saw an angel who spoke to them and said, "Don't be afraid, I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified, but he is not here, he is risen. Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going to Galilee to meet you."

The women hurried off, and in their bewilderment and fear simply told the disciples that the tomb was empty. Peter and John immediately set off and raced to the tomb and Mary followed also, puzzled and sad. Peter & John went into the open tomb and found it just as the women had said.

Mary remained behind, weeping as she stood outside the tomb. Turning round, she saw someone whom she thought must be the gardener. "Woman, why are you weeping?", he asked. "Oh sir," she replied, "if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him so that I can look after him." But without knowing, Mary was speaking to Jesus himself, who then spoke gently to her, calling her by name. "Master!", she cried with joy.

For forty days, which is nearly six weeks, Jesus appeared to individuals and to groups of his disciples and sometimes to all he eleven disciples together. He gave them many proofs that he was alive: showing them his hands, his feet and the spear wound in his side; and he ate with them on several occasions too. So their bewilderment and disbelief at first, soon vanished and they were convinced of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus: they knew that he was alive, risen from the dead and that all he had taught about the coming Kingdom of God would soon come to pass.

Jesus was then taken up into the clouds and hidden from their sight - he had ascended to heaven ( Acts 1 v 1-11 ).


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