Big Easter surprises

Image from: https://www.gospelimages.com/paintings/66/the-women-return-from-the-grave-after-jesus-resurrection

Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James (and possibly other women) had come to the tomb of their teacher and friend.

The earth shook and rumbled with an awesome force. Something great was about to happen.

A holy being suddenly appeared.

Surprise!

This strong and mighty angel was bursting with bright light and illuminated the atmosphere. Its robe radiated with pure white light. This was one of God’s holy angels sent to assist in God’s work.

The angel began to roll the stone away, uncovering the tomb.

The guards on duty that day, who were tasked to guard the tomb of the crucified Jesus, were now trembling in shock. Being completely overwhelmed, they sat in disbelief and amazement by what they had just witnessed. They had never seen such a powerful display of power from heaven.

Surprise!

God’s holy angel told the women there’s no reason to fear. It said, “Jesus is no longer here. He’s come back to life. Come inside the tomb. Check it out. Take a look for yourselves.”

Surprise!

The angel told them, “You’ve seen where his body had once laid. He’s alive. Now, go and tell Jesus’ disciples that he has resurrected from death. Jesus is no longer dead. He is now alive.”

Overwhelmed with joy and excitement, they made their way to Galilee.

As these two women approached Jesus,Jesus appeared and said to them:

“Hey it’s me! Surprise!

Good morning. What a great morning it is this day.

You must be in shock, I know, but there’s no need to fear.

Check me out. It’s really me, your’s truly, Jesus of Nazareth, your old friend. Touch me yourself. Feel that I am indeed real. I have skin and bones. I have nail marks on me. I’m not just a ghost or an apparition.

They looked at Jesus. Surprised and bewildered.

They touched his two ankles, his feet and felt that his body was real indeed.

He was not a ghost or apparition. He was real indeed.

Then they worshiped Jesus.

What a great surprise for these women this day. Almost too much of a surprise to take in. Almost too unbelievable if they hadn’t seen him for themselves.

Jesus then told the women, “Go now, and tell my brothers to start heading up to Galilee. I will meet up with them there.”

So off they went to inform the disciples of this great news.

Indeed, it was a great day, filled with big big surprises.

Happy Easter!

On Saturday when the world stopped

Between Friday and Sunday, the world stopped.

The earth shook. Thunder and lightening beamed and rumbled across the earth.

A people in bewilderment wondered what in the world has just happened?

Jesus was hung on the cross and was forced to accept his own death–to be killed.

He had once told the leaders of the people that “this temple” would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.

Now that Jesus has died, how can a dead man rebuild a temple? A man once alive is now dead.

Did God in heaven make an empty promise?

Did God truly love humankind?

Did God truly love his Son?

Did God make a mistake in sending His Son into the world?

Was God swindled out of His Son?

God gave His one and only Son to die for humankind. His Son is now dead. What now?

God gave his Son as a ransom and took upon himself the sins of humanity. For what?

Between Friday and Sunday, the world awaits… for something.

It does not know what is to come. Uncertainty hangs in the air with a hint of expectation. The third day is coming.

What’s good about Good Friday?

What’s good about Good Friday? It commemorates the day when Jesus was crucified on the cross. During the days of the Roman Empire, crucifixion was the method of death penalty. Criminals were flogged and then crucified on a cross. It was a very painful way to die. They would die slowly of asphyxiation. It was more painful than the electric chair, the gas chamber, or the guillotine.

Knowing this, the cross then actually represented a symbol of shame and guilt. Only criminals died by crucifixion. Jesus was not given a fair trial. He was sent to his death. It was unfair and unjustified. The cross is symbol of torture, shame and guilt. It is also now a religious symbol. We carry it with a sense of pride because there’s a very important message behind the cross.

All though we deserve death and the punishment of hell, we will receive something much better. By placing our faith in Jesus, our lives and our souls are destined belong to God for eternity. We have been made a part of God’s holy family. God has rescued us from hell, and invited us into his holy family. We now belong to God. Yes, we belong to the loving and compassionate heart of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That truly makes it a good Friday.

Our sins were left to die on that cross, never to be remembered again by our heavenly Father. God would prove to the world that He has the power to forgive sins and to resurrect Jesus and his followers from the dead. That special day would on the third day which we commemorate as Easter or Resurrection Sunday.

Why do we say, “He is Risen”?

Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

On Easter Sunday, we in Christ, will say together “He is risen!” Why do we do this each Easter morning?

The witnesses in scripture told the disciples that Jesus is risen from the dead.

Matthew 28:6-7 says, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Mark 16:6 says, “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

Luke 24:6 says, “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.”

In Scripture, Jesus predicted His own resurrection. His followers did not understand what He was saying to them, but after He returned, they understood.

Matthew 16:21 says, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Mark 8:13 says, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

Good Friday – when they crucified our Lord – INRI

If you ever watched a Jesus movie with his crucifixion and noticed a sign above his head says INRI (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum). This means Jesus Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Before his execution, Jesus was flogged, which was a customary practice intended to weaken a victim before crucifixion. Crucifixion was an especially painful method of execution and was perfected by the Romans as such. It was reserved for the worst criminals, and generally Roman citizens, women, and soldiers were exempt in most cases.

During his flogging, the soldiers tormented Jesus, crowning Him with thorns and ridicule. Jesus was forced to carry his own cross. Yes, his own cross! It was good that Cyrene help Jesus to carry it the rest of the way to Calvary. He was nailed between two thieves because his enemies felt he deserved a thief’s death.

In churches that observe Good Friday, the altar is stripped bare. Holy Communion is not taken. A fast may be done. It is a somber day.

With Catholics, there may also be a veneration of the cross to recognize the death of our Lord.

May the cross help all of us remember what Christ went through in his death. It was for us, for the atonement of our sins. May we be grateful for his death, but we will also arise with joy in his future resurrection.

Wishing those a blessed Holy Thursday

The central observance of Holy Thursday is the ritual reenactment of the Last Supper. The holy day falls on the Thursday before Easter and is part of Holy Week.  Jesus celebrated the dinner as a Passover feast. The Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with his Disciples in Jerusalem. During the meal, Jesus predicted his betrayal.

Some liturgical churches will do the washing of the feet because Jesus washed his disciples feet. There would also be the stripping and washing of the altar. 

Maundy Thursday’s emphasis on ritual washing also gave rise to the ancient tradition of spring cleaning. It’s interesting that this is related to the Jewish custom of ritually cleaning the home in preparation for the Feast of Passover. Everything was to be cleaned and polished in preparation for the Easter celebration.

Wishing those who observe Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday a blessed readying for Easter.

Easter Sunday: Jesus rose victorious

The Resurrection of Christ, 1700 (oil on canvas) by Noel Coypel (1628-1707)

We have good news today. Jesus came out of the empty tomb.  He was resurrected in bodily form on the Third Day, and rose to live again in the flesh.  He is victorious over death. This is huge. 

Coronavirus or no coronavirus. If death could not hold Jesus in the tomb, then death will not be able to hold us down in the grave either. 

Death is one of the biggest fears of humankind, especially now when COVID-19 is happening before us.  If God in Christ Jesus defeated death on Easter, we also have hope of eternal life with God forever. We have something to celebrate on Easter this Sunday.

I’m super stoked to recite the Apostles Creed out loud (even if I’m in isolation):

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Prayer of Easter, Resurrection Day

Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen! Hallelujah!

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us this day.
May this meal be blessed as we gather to celebrate together.
May your love be shared amongst us as we enjoy the gift of fellowship.
May we remember to offer grace and forgiveness that you have freely given us,
And may we always give thanks for your sacrificial love.
Amen.

The Resurrection of Christ, by Anthony van Dyck, 1631. Flemish. Movement: Baroque.

Comment on art: Wonderful…simply wonderful! This would be one of my favorite resurrection art pieces. It is filled with action and passion. The emotions of shock and glory of Jesus resurrecting is depicted in this extremely moving piece.

What is Easter?

Resurrection by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), tempera on wood, 70×92 cm, detail depicting Christ, 1457-1459

Easter comes two days after Good Friday. It is the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah who was to come. We know the Messiah or Savior as Jesus who resurrected from the dead.

Christians commemorate Easter as the most holy day in Christianity. It is the reason believers in Christ Jesus believe in new and eternal life. Jesus rose again from the dead and defeated death; thereby, giving us the promise of eternal life that we will also rise again.

Holy week (Passion week) begins after Palm or Passion Sunday. Known as Pashchal (Holy/Easter) Triduum to Catholics, this includes the evening of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (last three days of Lent). Devoted Catholics have traditionally observed these days with prayer, fasting and abstinence.

Everything builds up to the grand finale. Easter Sunday morning is like the grand finale when Jesus is resurrected from the dead. As Christians, Jesus resurrection is the reason we sing “Hallelujah” and give the Lord praise and glory.

Comment on art: This piece by Montegna is full of life. The Roman gaurds are in shock. Their expressions are priceless. Jesus stands one foot on the tomb pointing to the sky as if to say, “I have conquered death… and up is where I’m going.”

What is the origin of Easter

The Resurrection of Christ, 1700 (oil on canvas) by Noel Coypel (1628-1707)

Jesus’ resurrection happened over 2,000 years ago. Over 500 Christians saw Jesus personally after he resurrected in bodily form. He walked and talked with people right up to the time he ascended into heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). We as Christians have a very unique and wonderful story of resurrection. We also have a very unique God-man who lived in our human history. Jesus actually walked this earth. He healed the sick, lame, blind, and taught about good news that set people free from religious bondage. Best thing of all was that Jesus rose from the dead.

You might have heard that the origins of Easter were pagan. The word “Easter” comes from the word Ashtur or Ishtar. Ishtar who gave birth to Tammuz. The mythical Tammuz had died and was resurrected. Despite the pagan origins of Tammuz’ resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection is still unique and true.

Christianity assimilated old ideas into new ones. Jesus’ resurrection was huge. It liberated the old culture from its past. The glorious resurrection of Jesus has captured the hearts and minds of billions of people because of the truth of Jesus. People are being given a new and fresh life and faith in the One who saves–Jesus Christ.

There are books written about this pagan god and cult of Tammuz and Ishtar also referred to in the bible (here). There is only a distant connection and similarities. On the whole, Jesus resurrection is unique. Jesus was the most unique person to ever walk this earth. This is why we celebrate Easter.

Comment on art: The bewilderment of the guards and the delightful surprise of the two women at the resurrection stands in stark contrast. This pieces is filled with emotion, passion, and action. The color pops. The attention to detail is there. I just love this piece.