How is it that such an important day gets so easily entangled and lost in the chaos of ‘celebrating’? While it is wonderful to be with family and attend church together I still can’t help but feel that so much is missed and it is so important to take time to reflect on what the days leading up to Easter and after the Resurrection encompass.
In reading through a couple resources the following both captured it best for me. Enjoy walking Jesus’s path with Him and His disciples before, during and after Easter and we would love to hear your thoughts after reading it too:
Leading up to Easter, historyofeaster.info shares:
Many around the world are familiar with the celebration of Easter. Lent and the Holy Week are a journey of penance and fasting that leads up to the great celebration of Easter. The period of fasting begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a forty-day period of penance and fasting to share the grief borne by Jesus Christ by self-denial. Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and the first day of the Holy Week. This is the day when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem where he was welcomed with open arms. Holy Monday & Tuesday is the cleansing of the temple at Jerusalem and the day when Jesus reprimanded the moneychangers and when the incident between Jesus and Pharisees took place where an attempt was made to get Jesus to commit blasphemy. Spy Wednesday is when Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus who betrayed him told the chief priests where they could find Jesus. Maundy Thursday is the day of the last supper before crucifixion. Good Friday is the day when Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, at the top of Calvary hill. A day marked by solemn thoughts, fasting and abstinence to commemorate the pain and suffering of Jesus. Holy Saturday is Easter Eve. Easter Sunday is the day of resurrection when Jesus rose from the dead after crucifixion. He also joined his disciples for a meal and told them to carry on his works in his absence.
After Easter, Beliefnet.com shares:
Almost half of the New Testament occurs after Jesus has already been crucified and raised from the dead. The accounts of what the disciples did after Christ was risen.
Jesus Himself appears several times in the Bible after His Resurrection. He does not simply disappear straight to heaven. In Acts 1:3 after the Resurrection there was a period of 40 days in which the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples. If He was here, what did He do? For the 40 days that Christ continued to reappear on the Earth, what was He doing?
Why would the Son of God, who had just conquered death, bother to pause and leave His tomb tidy? The Gospel of John 20:7 tells us that the cloth which had been placed over Jesus’ face was not just thrown aside but was neatly folded. Why? According to the tradition of that day, after a servant set the dinner table, he would wait, just out of sight, until the family had finished eating. If one of them was done, they would rise, wad up the napkin and toss it onto the table -- the signal to clear their setting. However, if they got up from the table, folded their napkin and laid it beside their plate, the message was "I'm not finished yet." The folded cloth served to whisper to those who listened, "I'm coming back!"
A great earthquake had taken place. An angel in brilliant white rolled away the stone. In terror the Roman guards fell to the ground. Meanwhile, when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James came to the tomb, the angel told them,” Do not be fearful, for I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said He would. Come, see the place where He was.” Cautiously, Mary Magdalene obeyed. There, she viewed two angels in white, sitting where the body had been. The Bible tells us they said to her, “Why are you weeping?” Mary responded, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
Then, the Bible tells us, Mary Magdalene turned and saw Jesus standing behind her. But she didn’t recognize Him – apparently thinking He was the gardener. Gently, He asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who do you seek?" She answered, “Sir, if you have carried Him off, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Then Jesus simply spoke her name “Mary!” She exclaimed. “Teacher!” then reached out to touch Him. Gently, He said to her, “No, I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go tell the others.'” Astonished, she rushed to disciples, announcing, “We have seen the Lord!” That Jesus appeared first to a woman is not something to overlook. During that time period, women were among the lowest of the low. Even after He was raised from the dead, Christ still looked first to the downtrodden.
The Bible says two of Jesus' followers, Cleopas and a companion, were walking home from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus “and they were conversing with each other over all these things that had come about.” On the roadway, Jesus approached and began walking with them, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” He said to them, “What are you debating between yourselves as you walk along?” They paused sadly. Cleopas asked “Don’t you know all the things that have occurred?” Jesus answered, “What things?” They said to him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who became a prophet powerful in work and word before God and all the people; and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to the sentence of death and crucified him. We were hoping He was the one destined to deliver Israel."
And Jesus answered them, “O how can you be so slow in heart to believe on all the things the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then Jesus gave them a history lesson, starting with Moses and all the Prophets as “he interpreted to them things pertaining to Himself in all the Scriptures.” Finally, they got close to the village where they were journeying, and He made as if He was journeying on farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, because it is toward evening and the day has already passed.” And so, He went inside to stay with them. But as they sat down to eat, He took the loaf, blessed it, broke it and began to hand it to them. At that, the Bible says, “their eyes were fully opened, and they recognized him.” And He disappeared. Amazed, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning as He was speaking to us on the road?”
Then He appeared to 10 of the Apostles - The two men from the road to Emmaus found the disciples and were told that He had appeared to the women and now to Simon Peter. The two related how He walked with them, then vanished before their eyes. Meanwhile the doors were locked since the disciples were afraid that they might be crucified next. But suddenly, Jesus stood in their midst and said, “May you have peace.”
And they were terrified, thinking He was a ghost. So, He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why is it that doubts come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.”
And as He said that to them, He showed them His hands and His feet. Consumed with sheer joy, they were rejoicing, and He said to them, “Do you have something here to eat?” And they handed Him a piece of broiled fish – which He ate while they watched. Then, He told them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all the things written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms about me must be fulfilled.”
The Bible says that He opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures, and He said to them, “In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day, and on the basis of His name repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations -- starting out from Jerusalem, you are to be witnesses of these things. And, look! I am sending forth upon you that which is promised by my Father. Wait here until you receive power from on high. You will be guided by Holy Spirit, make sure you listen and receive it. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they stand forgiven.”
But Thomas was not with them when Jesus came. When he returned, the other disciples exclaimed, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and stick my hand into His side, I will certainly not believe.”
Eight days later, Jesus appeared again, this time to the entire group. He stood in their midst and said, “May you have peace.” Then, He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands, and take your hand and stick it into My side.” In answer Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to Him, “Because you have seen Me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe." Then He said, "All authority has been given Me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you always until the end of the world. He that believes and is baptized will be saved, but he that does not believe will be condemned.”
Not long afterward, Peter announced, “I am going fishing.” Thomas, Nathanael, James and John and two other disciples went with him, but all night long, they caught nothing. However, just as it was getting to be morning, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not, discern that it was Him. He said to them, “My children, you do not have anything to eat, do you?” They answered “No!” He said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat.” They did and were unable to pull the net in because it was weighed down with so many fish. Peter exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” and pulled on his shirt and jumped into the sea, hurrying to the shore. The other disciples brought the boat in, dragging the net full of fish. However, when they disembarked, they beheld lying there a charcoal fire and fish lying upon it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just now caught.” Peter drew the net to the land and Jesus said to them, “Come, take your breakfast.” Not one of them had the courage to inquire of Him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was Jesus. He broke the bread and gave it to them, and then the fish.
In the Book of Acts, the apostle Luke writes, “In the first account, I composed about all the things Jesus started both to do and to teach, until the day that He was taken up, after He had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles. To these also by many positive proofs, He showed Himself alive after He had suffered, being seen by them through 40 days and telling the things about the kingdom of God. And while He was meeting with them, He gave them the orders, do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me, because John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days after this. “Lord,” they asked, “are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He answered, “It is not yours to know the time or season which the Father has placed in His own judgment, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant parts of the earth.” And after He had said these things, while they watched, He was lifted up and a cloud caught Him up from their vision. And as they were gazing into the sky, two men in white garments stood alongside them, and they said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld Him going into the sky.”
Jesus’ crucifixion had devastated His followers. In Matthew 19:27 Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you.” And in John 6:68 Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In John 20:9 we also learn that they “did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” As they watched Him being crucified, everything they had hoped in and believed in was destroyed before their eyes. They thought that once again, Rome had managed to steal the future of Israel right out from under them. They did not understand that Jesus would rise from the dead. They did not understand that it was not over yet. So, when He appeared to them after His resurrection, Jesus restored their hope.
Christ's role as a teacher did not end when He was crucified and rose again from the dead. When He returned to the Apostles after the Resurrection, He continued to teach and instruct them. In Acts 1:2-3, we find Him giving the apostles final instructions. In Luke 24:27 we see Him giving them a history lesson, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, explaining what the Scriptures said concerning Him. Luke 24:32 tells us the disciples’ “hearts burned” as Jesus “opened the Scripture” to them. Blind to the truth, now they had spiritual sight. Just as Christ had turned their worlds upside down with His teachings before His death, He continued to instruct them and teach them after His death and resurrection.
With their faith restored and strengthened, Jesus’ final instructions to all who follow Him in Matthew 28:19 is to “go and make disciples of all nations” by sharing with the world the great things that He has done – and the message of hope that He brought for all mankind. The Apostles lived out this command even though it cost them their lives. Despite facing down the worst Rome could do and having witnessed Jesus Himself suffer Rome's fury on the cross, they did not hesitate. They continued to spread the Good News throughout the world. Today's missionaries continue to serve in that same role, especially those who work in nations such as China and throughout the Middle East where Christianity can be a death sentence. They face the worst of the world, but with Jesus at their side, like the Apostles, they are not afraid.