The Facts About Easter
By Marc Turnage, M.A. (ABD)
In the Old Testament, God commanded the children of Israel that all of the men had to appear before Him in Jerusalem at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Booths (Deut. 16:16). People in Jesus' day still obeyed this command. In fact, it was part of Jesus' family's yearly practice to go up to Jerusalem at the festival of Passover (Luke 2:41), which commemorates God's deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. When Jesus was an adult, He continued to journey to Jerusalem from His home in Galilee to celebrate the Passover. His last journey to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40) was to celebrate the Passover in obedience to God's command given in the Old Testament.
In the days leading up to the Passover meal, Jesus spent time in the Temple in Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem and those gathered from out-of-town to celebrate Passover listened to His teaching with great eagerness (Luke 19:48; 20:19; 22:2). Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was received with great jubilation as this prophet from Galilee came to Jerusalem (Luke 19:37-38). Jesus used His popularity with the people to openly criticize the chief priests in the Temple for their greed and abuse of power (Luke 19:45-48; 20:9-26). The chief priest and their scribes saw Jesus as a threat to their power and the luxurious life they lived in Jerusalem. Archaeologists in Jerusalem have uncovered homes belonging to these individuals; these homes are mansions and illustrate the wealth and greed Jesus criticized. Because of Jesus' popularity with the people, however, the chief priests could not do anything publically to Jesus, so they had to enlist the help of one of Jesus' disciples, Judas Iscariot, who led the chief priests' guards out to the Mount of Olives, under the cloak of darkness to take Jesus when the people of Jerusalem would not see them (Luke 22:47-53).
Jesus anticipated the actions of the chief priests, but trusted that God, His Father, would vindicate Him. He told a parable, a story, to let everyone know that He expected the chief priests to strike out against Him, but He expected the son of His story to triumph. He celebrated the Passover with His disciples in the city of Jerusalem, and then, He went out to the Mount of Olives to pray. The Mount of Olives sits on the border to the wilderness. When Jesus was there praying asking for God's will to be done, if He wanted to, He could have escaped into the wilderness in less than one hour where the chief priests could not have found Him, but He chose to obey God.
The chief priests took Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who was a brutal man that liked to antagonize the Jews in the land of Israel. Before Pilate, the chief priests accused Jesus of causing political problems and proclaiming himself as king instead of the Roman Caesar (Luke 23:1-5). Pilate did not see Jesus as completely innocent because he wanted to have Jesus beaten (Luke 23:16: those given a Roman beating often died as a result of the beating). Pilate wanted to free a Jewish rebel named Barabbas because he knew that Barabbas' friends would fight back and give Pilate an opportunity to kill more Jews. But, Pilate listened to the chief priests and had Jesus crucified.
Crucifixion was a brutal death. The condemned was tied by his arms, and possibly nailed through his hands. The legs of the victim were nailed to the cross through the ankle bones. The condemned was stripped naked and mocked. Pilate's sign he put on Jesus' cross was his mocking of Jewish hopes for God's redemption. Jesus died on the cross. His followers could not properly bury Him because it was Friday and the Jewish Sabbath was beginning, so they laid His body in a tomb and planned to come back on Sunday, after the Sabbath, to bury Him. The style of tomb Jesus was laid in is called a kokhim tomb. To best understand how the tomb works, look at your hand. The wrist is the entrance, the palm is the chamber where the body was prepared, around the edge of the palm was a bench where the body could be laid, and the fingers represent the niches where the body was buried after it had been prepared and the prayers said. Jesus never made it into the niche because His followers had not finished burying Him. Jesus did not stay dead; God raised Him from the dead, and early on the Sunday morning, He walked, alive out of the tomb. Jesus was right. God did vindicate Him by raising from the dead, and because God raised Him from the dead, we have God's promise that we too will be raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15) because God has defeated death!
Bio: Marc graduated from Evangel University with a degree in Biblical Studies. After graduating from Evangel, he moved to Jerusalem, Israel, where he studied Jewish History and New Testament Backgrounds in Jerusalem University College. Marc is the Director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, created to education Assemblies of God constituents in the physical, historical, and cultural settings of the Bible. Marc and his wife, Amy are proud parents of three children (Lucas, 13; Jordan, 11; and Elie, 5).