But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8
It was a beautiful Easter morning as Helen Grey welcomed a room full of kids to her Sunday school class. "Does anybody know why today is such a special day?" she asked.
"It's Easter today." Bernadette answered to which Stella added, "And the Easter Bunny hides a bunch of eggs for us to find when we get home from church." And Harold who's always hungry chirped in, "And he brings us baskets full of candy to eat." Not to be left out, Mindy and Cindy wanted to know if that meant they were going to look for Easter eggs for class.
"You are right, Bernadette." Helen told her, "Today is called Easter, and a lot of the things that you kids mentioned are done on Easter, but that's not what Easter is all about. Easter is also called Resurrection Sunday. It's not about a bunny hiding eggs and giving candy to kids but about Jesus dying on a cross, being buried in a tomb, and than rising from the dead. Our story this morning will start just a couple days before the Passover."
As Helen went on to explain that the Passover was a special holiday that the Jews celebrated every year, in remembrance of how God passed over the Israelites while they were in Egypt and killed all the first born of the Egyptians so they could be set free, Harold started making funny faces. "HAROLD!" Helen called out he sat up straight and stared forward with a blank expression on his face.
"Now the Passover was just a couple days away," Helen continued, "and the chief priests and the scribes got together to plan a way to get Jesus and kill him. At the same time Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of Jesus' disciples. Now Judas went and talked to the chief priests and scribes about how he could help them by betraying Jesus. Than Judas agreed to lead them to Jesus when he was alone, and they payed him thirty pieces of silver."
"Judas, you scoundrel!" Harold shouted as he jumped up out of his chair and soon everyone was looking at him. "Oops!" Harold said and sat back down and started staring at the ceiling.
"As we continue our story," Helen continued, "the day of the passover arrived, and Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare a place for them to eat the Passover meal. "Where do You want us to prepare it?" they asked Jesus, and Jesus told them, that when they had entered the city, a man would meet them who was carrying a pitcher of water; and they were to follow him into the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' "And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there." And that is exactly what happened."
"Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with His twelve disciples. As they were eating, He told them that one of them would betray Him. Being deeply grieved, each one of the disciples began ask Him if it was him. In response Jesus said that, "He who dips his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, 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." After Jesus said that Judas, who was betraying Him, said, "Surely it is not I?" As they continued to eat, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness 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."
As Helen continued to tell the story, Harold started snoring and soon he was snoring so loud that Helen had to stop. Suddenly Harold let out one loud snore and woke up but when he did everything had changed. "Where am I?" Harold said as he looked around, "This doesn't look like my Sunday School classroom. It looks more like a garden path." "Barney! Stella! Where are you? What kind of joke is this?" He called out but all he heard in response was some singing. "I hear you guys and I'm coming to get you," Harold yelled out as he started down the path, but before he got too far he was run into and knocked down.
"Barney, there you are." Harold said as he stood back up. "Barney who?" said the one who knocked him down. "I'm Judas. Now out of my way, I have a job to do," and he ran off. "Judas? Judas?" Harold started to puzzle but than he heard more voices coming down the path and thought he would try and sneak up on them to find out what was going on..
As He snuck up behind them Harold heard someone say, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I Will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.' "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee" "That's weird," Harold thought to himself, "that almost sounds like Jesus. I better follow them and see who it really is."
Soon the voice spoke again "Peter, Peter," it said, "truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." "Peter?" Harold whispered, "Simon Peter? Deny Jesus? I would never do such a thing. Hey, they're moving; I'd better follow," and with that he crept along behind them in the shadows.
As they neared a garden Harold heard that voice again, "Peter, James, John," it called out, "Will you please come with me into the garden to watch with me? My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death." After saying that Harold was sure that it was Jesus who was talking especially when he hear Him start to pray.
Feeling a little braver now that he was sure it was Jesus and the disciples, Harold went to ask Peter a question but when he got to them they were sleeping. "How can anybody fall asleep on Jesus?" Harold started to say but quit when he remembered that he was always falling asleep in church.
When he heard Jesus coming back he chickened out and went and hid in a bush where he stayed until he heard a familiar voice. "OH NO! It's Judas and a bunch of soldiers," he said. "What's that scoundrel doing here? And why is he kissing Jesus? And why are they taking Jesus away?" Harold's head began to spin and he became scared. "I think they see me, I've got to get out of here." He screamed and took off running only to trip over a root and fall flat on his face.
When Harold stood back up everything had again changed and instead of being in a garden he found himself in the middle of a busy street with his teacher directly in front of him. "Hey, boy, get out of the way," she yelled at him. "Teacher?" Harold asked. "Where am I?" " You're in Jerusalem and as for the teacher Jesus," she pointed, "He's on trial up there."
As Harold tried to comprehend what he had been told a girl that looked just lie his sister came up to him and asked him if he knew Jesus. "I don't think so." Harold told her and turned away to look for his teacher but there was another girl asking him if he was following Jesus. "NO!" Harold shouted and why do you look like Bernadette? "Who's Bernadette?" came a familiar voice, and when Harold turned to see who was talking he saw his best friend Barney or at least he thought it was Barney or was it Judas or, he was getting confused. "Hey," The boy said, "Do you believe Jesus is who He says He is?" "I don't think so,"Harold responded. "They took Him away so He couldn't be," and as Harold muttered those words he heard a rooster crow and started crying, "NO!! Jesus, why did I do it?"
After Harold had been crying for sometime, a man tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he was alright. "They took Jesus, and... and I denied Him just like he told Peter he would do" Harold responded with out looking up. "I wouldn't worry too much about that," that man told him, "they're probably just going to kill Him."
"Kill Him!?" Harold shouted as he looked up and found that he was talking to someone that looked just like his Grandpa. "Yeah," the man replied, "I've been following the trial really closely and I thought He might have been the Messiah, but..." "But what?" Harold wanted to know.
"Well," the man continued, "from what I've learned, after they arrested Jesus, they took him to Caiaphas, the high priest. There all the scribes and chief priests tries to find some legal reason to have Him killed. They even tried to use false witnesses against Him, but none of their stories agreed. Finally they asked Him if He was the Christ, The Son of God, and He told them He was. Poor man, why did He say He was the Christ. Anyways, after that they began mocking Him, hitting Him, why they even blindfolded Him to see if He could guess who was hitting him. After that, they sent him to Pilate. I guess Pilate couldn't get anywhere with Him so he sent Him to Herod. Than, just a little while ago Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate in a purple robe with a crown of thorns on His head. Funny person this Jesus, He seemed so peaceful and calm through it all."
As Harold listened all he could do is shake his head in disbelief. "Look, boy," the man interrupted himself, "Pilate is going to give a speech." Soon the crowd started yelling 'Barabbas' over and over again. "I can't hear him," Harold told the man. "What's he saying? And who's Barabbas?"
"I'll tell you." said the man, "Pilate said he wants to let Jesus go but the people want him to release the murderer Barabbas instead. I think he's going to do it." As he continued to tell Harold what was happening the crowd quit yelling for Barabbas and started chanting, "Crucify Him... Crucify Him...."
"No!" Harold cried out in response, "They can't crucify Him, He's Jesus," but his words fell on deaf ears. Soon he saw a beat up man trying to carry a cross down the street by him. As the man approached he could see it was Jesus, and he was falling down because he was so weak. Than somebody came up behind him and shoved him out into the street and told him to carry the cross for him. As Harold picked up the cross he turned to Jesus and said "You can stop them, I know you can." but Jesus never responded.
Soon they came to a hill and he was pushed away as some soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. "No! No!" Harold cried, " I can't watch." As he turned away another soldier asked him if he wanted to gamble with them for Jesus' robe, but Harold just turned away and cried.
Several hours later he noticed it was getting dark, very dark, and as time passed he heard Jesus cry out from the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." "Jesus? Is that you?" Harold called out. Than he heard Jesus cry out again, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me? AAAHHH!!" and with those words the ground began to shake. "Jesus," Harold called out, "Jesus don't die. No, Jesus, don't die. No, Jesus don't die, don't die," Harold started to back away in fear and tripped over a rock and fell out of his chair and onto the floor. "Harold! Harold!" Helen yelled at him, "You've been sleeping in class again." "But I wasn't sleeping," Harold protested, "I was there! I saw them crucify Jesus. "You were sleeping, Harold." His sister Stella told him, "There is no way you could have been there and saw Jesus die."
"Ahem!" Helen injected, "Shall we continue?" Quietly Harold and Stella shook their heads yes and sat quietly back in their seats. "Now when the evening had come," Helen went on to tell the class, "There was a disciple of Jesus named Joseph. He was a rich man from Arimatheae and he went to Pilate and asked him for Jesus' body. After Pilate made sure the Jesus was dead, he gave it to him and Joseph took the body and wrapped it in cloth, and laid it in his tomb which he had made out of rock. Than a large stone was rolled in front of the door and the priests had guards put at the tomb."
As Helen moved the story forward to the first day of the week Harold blew some pepper at his sister and Stella started sneezing uncontrollably. When she finally sneezed her last sneeze, she looked around her and found that everyone had disappeared, in fact, her classroom had even disappeared. "This can't be happening to me." she thought. "Things like this only happen to Harold. He must be behind this."
As Stella started wondering about trying to figure out where she was and what had happened she heard two familiar voices. "Hup two, Hup two" they kept saying, "Hup two, Hup two." As she headed towards the voices she heard the one which sounded like Barney say "This is kind of silly watching a grave. What do they think this man is going to do, walk away?" "Yeah," replied the other voice, "I've never seen a dead man walk yet."
As Stella got ready to yell at her brother, or at least the one she thought was her brother a bright light started to shine all around her. Than the ground began to shake and as she came into a clearing she saw a huge stone start rolling away from the entrance to a tomb, and, and, a body came out and , and "It's Jesus!" she exclaimed, "He's Alice!". Upon hearing that the soldiers hightailed it out of there knocking Stella down in the process.
As Stella rolled over onto her back she found herself looking up at her Grandma. "Are you okay little girl?" the woman asked as she reached out to Stella up." "Huh?" Stella mumbled as she brushed herself off, "What happened Grandma Grey? where am I? And why are you dressed funny?"
"Grandma Grey?" the woman said with a puzzled look, "No, I Mary Magdalene. I've come to anoint Jesus' body with these spices. I just hope the guards can roll the stone away. Why don't you come with me, little girl, and help me and... " She stops abruptly and looks up. "The stone, it's moved! we can go, Let's go! The next thing she knew, Stella was being drug along into the tomb but when they entered it, the body was gone and an angel was sitting in there and told them that Jesus was risen and that they should go tell the disciples.
Not sure what she should believe, the woman started crying "Where oh where did they take the body?" she sobbed. "Why don't you ask that man over there?" Stella said trying not to cry herself. "Why are you crying?" the man said as he walked over to them. "The body is gone." the woman said "Can you tell me where it is?" but instead of telling her where the body was he simply said "Mary."
"M M Master" came the woman's reply and she fell down before Him. Than Stella realized who the man was, it was Jesus. "Don't touch me yet, He said, "For I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My disciples and tell them I ascend unto My Father and your Father and to My God and your God."
Excited now, the woman tugged at Stella's shirt "Let's go," she said, "Let's go tell the disciples." As they took off to find them Stella tripped over a rock and fell out of her chair. "Mary, Mary, wait for me." Stella called out as she stood herself back up but now she was back in her classroom and everyone was staring at her. With her face turning bright red, she quietly sat back in her chair as Helen finished her story.
"Afterward," Helen went on, "He appeared to the elven as they sat to eat and chewed them out for their unbelief and harness of heart because they didn't believe those that had seen Him after he had risen. And He told them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved but he that doesn't believe will be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name they will be able to cast out devils and they shall speak in tongues, they'll be bit by snakes or drink poison and it will not hurt them, they will lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed. So after the Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up to heaven in a cloud and sat down on the right hand of God."
As the class ended Bernadette came over to Stella and asked her what happened when she sneezed and why she was calling for Mary. "I was there!" Stella replied, "I was at the tomb, I saw Jesus rise from the grave, I saw Mary Magdalene!! Bernadette, Jesus really is ALIVE!"
Here's Something to Ponder
- How would you have responded had you been at the crucifixion
- What would it have been like to see Jesus rise from the grave