(Disclaimer: RenRising embraces all individuals regardless of religious beliefs, sexual orientation, ethnic background. We do not discriminate, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any sort. RenRi receive others in a receptive, respectful, and open-minded sense. The following article is not intended for anything more than C.J.H.’s personal opinion piece.)
When you think of “the most wonderful time of the year,”
what’s the first thing you think of? Snowflakes? Presents? Twinklings lights wrapped around a Christmas tree? I’m here to propose the most wonderful time of the year is not actually in December, rather in April (or at least this year it is). Every spring we see several changes take place in our society. The earth awakens after a cold slumber. The grass turns green and grows, flowers bud and blossom, short dreary days turn to long warm evenings.
But then there’s commercialism.
The stores flood with candy and Easter eggs and baskets and bunnies and parents stressing about what to get their children for Easter this year. American society has thrown a sacred and holy holiday to the Easter bunny, and this is a document to bring back the focus of Easter to what true Christianity teaches and why it matters, to begin with.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? What is Palm Sunday? Why are his life and death so significant? Why would one of his own betray him? What’s the deal with the “last supper”? Did He really rise from the dead?
Keep scrolling and we will dive deeper into these significant questions.
Jesus of Nazareth was the son of Mary, and earthly father Joseph.
Born over 2000 years ago and he continues to make waves in modern society. Before we can dive into Easter, we do actually need to talk a little more about Christmas. Jesus’ birth was no ordinary birth. A young woman, a teenager, was called to do something extraordinary- give birth to God’s son.
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
Luke 1:26-38 (NKJV)
The significance of a virgin birth is essential to the deity of Jesus. Never in history and never since has a woman been able to reproduce a child entirely independent of a man or a man’s DNA.
It seems impossible to believe,
but the reason that Jesus’ DNA had to be from his HEAVENLY father and NOT his EARTHLY father takes us back to Genesis, and the Garden of Eden.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.
Genesis 1:1 (NKJV)
God created all life as we know it, both human and natural. He created nature and then man after his own image. He gave Adam and Eve (his first beings) rule over everything in his luxurious garden, called Eden. Except for one tree. They were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, because then they would know what evil is and sin by eating from it. They were content with these agreements until the serpent came along.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
Genesis 3:1-7 (NKJV)
The serpent was the form in which Satan took at first when he was thrust out of heaven for his pride.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.”
Isaiah 14:12-15 (NKJV)
This serpent, Lucifer, DECEIVED Eve
into believing that she simply misunderstood God, and was tricked into eating of the fruit. According to The MacArthur Study Bible, in Genesis 1:6- “and [Adam] ate”, this was a willful action, knowingly defying God’s order to not eat from the tree. Adam was not deceived by Satan, he sinned with his eyes wide open and then became accountable for the sin of mankind.
From that moment forward, sin became an inherited trait, written on our very DNA, passed on through our FATHER’S DNA (since God held Adam responsible for bringing sin into the world). Even from early childhood we can see sin nature at work. We don’t need to teach little children to be bad and insist on their own way, they are naturals at this. We need to TEACH them to be good, to share and be kind. And children that don’t learn these fundamentals turn into adults that need to be taught how to not be selfish, unkind, and sometimes blatantly evil.
If Jesus had been born by humanly means, using both the DNA of a man and a woman, he would have inherited sin nature and not been the son of God at all. So, it only makes sense for his mother to have been a virgin while she conceived through the Holy Spirit!
The MacArthur Study Bible describes this process as a “creative act of the Holy Spirit”, something so divine and powerful that it would only take place to prepare the way for the son of God to be born. And if the God of the Bible is who He says He is, the one who the wind and waves obey and mountains bow before, the one who created the first living breathing heart and knit us together in our mother’s wombs, He can certainly orchestrate the birth of His son through a virgin teenage girl with a willing heart to serve him in the most incredible way ever known to man.
Now, what does this all have to do with Easter?
EVERYTHING. If Jesus was not the son of God, then the whole Easter holiday is pointless. Easter celebrates the death of Jesus, which covered the sins of the world, his burial which showed that he was fully man, and His resurrection that proved he was also fully God.
The Easter celebration actually starts the Sunday before Easter, which is referred to as Palm Sunday. What took place that day?
The Easter celebration actually starts the Sunday before Easter,
which is referred to as Palm Sunday. What took place that day?
“When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, “Why are you loosing it?” thus you shall say to him, “Because the Lord has need of it” ‘”So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, ‘Why are you loosing the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of him.’ Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’ Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
There’s a lot going on in this passage.
First, what’s the deal with the colt? Second, why are there people throwing palm branches? Third, why are there people mad about the fact that other people are throwing palm branches? And lastly, in the end why is Jesus crying about all of this?
Let’s explore the location and time frame.
Jesus has just entered Jerusalem during the first week of Passover. Passover was (and still is) a significant Jewish holiday celebrated every year to celebrate God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt out of the hand of Pharaoh. When God was attempting to get Pharaoh’s attention, his tenth and most deadly plague was sending the angel of death to kill the firstborn of every household and livestock that did not have a pure and spotless lamb’s blood dripping over the doorway.
Exodus 12:12-13 says,
“‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.'”
Anyone who was physically able went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This sets the stage so all eyes would have been on Jesus. The reason he had to ride into Jerusalem on a colt was to fulfill Old-Testament prophecy describing the entrance that the Messiah was to take. The Old Testament gave very specific prophesies that painted the picture of the coming Messiah.
Zechariah 9:9 says,
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This image would have not escaped the eye of the Jewish people. They see this man, who had performed many miracles like healing the deaf, blind, and just four days earlier raising a very prominent man in society (Lazarus) from the dead, riding into the city during the most popular time of the year on a colt.
It’s no wonder
everyone burst into praise and brought out the palm branches! The king has arrived! The people started shouting Hosanna, meaning save us! The Pharisees, or religious leaders, of the day however were not only unhappy about the crowd’s behavior, they were entirely offended and told Jesus to make them stop. They were disgusted that any mortal man would receive such praise and adoration, not believing that this man was also the son of God. Their hearts were so blinded to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah whom they were waiting for.
Yes it could have been easy for anyone to look up prophecies about the Messiah and decide to go grab a colt and ride into town. However, no one could have planned their own birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of King David. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was a descendant of David, meaning Jesus was as well. The Messiah had to come from Bethlehem and had to be a descendant of David.
Micah 5:2 says,
“‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler of Israel.'”
Matthew, the writer of the book of Matthew specifically was writing to a Jewish audience to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Because of this, Matthew included Jesus’ legal father’s genealogy from Adam to Joseph, and then Jesus, which was typical to go in this order.
Joseph’s genealogy shows that he was a descendant of David. But we must ask, does Joseph’s genealogy matter if he is supposedly “not” biologically related to Jesus (since the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus through Mary with no human intercourse)? It does matter, but thankfully, in Luke 3 another, VERY different genealogy is recorded from Jesus first backwards then to Adam. According to the MacArthur Study Bible, it is believed that the purpose of going in this direction and the fact that the genealogy is very different that the one described in Matthew 1 is to show that Mary herself was also a descendant of David.
if we believe that only Mary’s DNA was used to create Jesus, that Jesus was truly by blood a descendant of David, which is required to fulfill the roll of Messiah. The last several verses of the passage in Luke discussing the triumphal entry record Jesus weeping over the city. Why would he do this?
John MacArthur says in his commentary,
“The timing of this lament may seem incongruous with the triumphal entry, but it reveals that Jesus knew the true superficiality of the people’s hearts, and his mood was anything but giddy as He rode into the city. The same crowd would soon cry for his death.”
Jesus, being fully God, knew that he was offering the Kingdom to the people, that if they truly believed in Him as Savior and Messiah, the Kingdom would have taken place. Instead, only five days later, many of the same people that cried “Hosanna!” would be crying “crucify him!” as they were falsely swayed by the Pharisees that this man could not possibly be the son of God (despite the many signs that had been given to the people by Jesus).
Later in the week,
Thursday evening specifically, what is known today as “the last supper” took place.
Matthew 26:17-29 says,
“Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”” So, the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’ And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, ‘Lord, is it I?’ He answered and said, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’ Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, ‘Rabbi, is it I?’ He said to him, ‘You have said it.’ And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.'”
and break down a couple points. Remember that this was one of the biggest holiday celebrations of the year for the Jewish people, as they were about to celebrate Passover. Jesus told His disciples the exact place that He wanted to celebrate with them. He knew these would be the final most intimate moments that He had with them before his crucifixion.
Jesus, being fully God,
knew the events that were about to take place, and He cued in his disciples that one of them would betray Him. How sad it is that each of them questioned themselves and asked if it was them that would betray him.
Each of them in their hearts knew that despite how much they loved Jesus (or professed to have loved Jesus, because we find out soon enough one of them is a traitor), they were capable of letting Him down. Jesus singles out Judas Iscariot (as there were two men by the name Judas) and dismisses him to carry on what he was about to do, which was to sell him over to the hand of the Pharisees. We will discuss this betrayal in more detail later.
During this meal,
a widely practiced sacred ritual was established, and that is the institution of communion. Jesus took bread and physically broke it, encouraging his disciples to eat of it and stated that this bread was His body, and the wine that flowed from His goblet was His blood.
There is debate as to whether this is a mere representation of His body and blood, (which is the stance I take) or that whenever a believer partakes in communion, the bread and wine supernaturally turn into his physical body and blood inside of a person and that is how we keep Jesus “inside” of us, as He dwells “inside” every believer. That belief is largely accepted among Catholics.
I personally believe
He was using the bread and wine as an illustration of his body soon to be broken and blood soon to be spilled on behalf of mankind instead of a physical change that takes place inside of a person who partakes because one, that’s promoting cannibalism which is nowhere supported in scripture and would be considered a pagan practice, two, eventually the physical body and blood of Jesus would have been “eaten up” by believers so that there could be no more to remember communion with, and three, according to MacArthur Study Bible, the phrase “this is my body” could not have been taken in a literal sense because of how these words in the original Greek were used in other context and “such metaphorical language was a typical Hebraism” and the disciples could not “have missed the symbolic intent of his statement, for His actual body- yet unbroken- was before their very eyes.”
The important part of this ritual is the remembering of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross when his body was broken violently into pieces as he was whipped, flogged, spat upon, and torn open, and his blood poured out to save the sins of mankind.
In my church,
we partake of communion every Sunday to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us as a holy observance of Jesus’ gift to mankind and to me personally. We read the above passage of scripture and then quietly reflect in our own hearts on the magnitude of Jesus’ gift to us and then partake by eating bread and wine (or grape juice, like it is at my church). Tomorrow, we will discuss the painful betrayal from a beloved disciple, the illegal trial of Jesus, the gruesome crucifixion, and the victorious resurrection that set Jesus apart from any other man in human history.