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The History of Easter

Why do we celebrate Easter? Every spring, Christians celebrate Easter to commemorate the greatest miracle of all: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. On that day, He rose from the dead and promised new life to all humankind.

The events of Easter week began when Christ entered Jerusalem on the day now called Palm Sunday. During that week, resentful Jewish leaders wrongfully accused Jesus and an unjust trial led to His Crucifixion on Good Friday. Holy Week culminates on Easter Sunday with a celebration of Jesus’s Resurrection.

Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem

Although Easter centers on the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Holy Week was marked by various important events. Jesus knew his mortal life would soon end, so in the days preceding His death He fulfilled prophecy by sharing essential teachings, and reaffirming His holy calling as Savior of the world. 

Palm Sunday

Arriving to celebrate the Passover with His disciples, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, which fulfilled ancient prophecy (see Zechariah 9:9) that foretold the coming of a king riding on the back of an ass. As Jesus came into the city, the people spread their clothing and palm leaves in His path, exclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). This triumphal entry let everyone know that Christ was truly a king—though not an earthly ruler but rather a heavenly one. 

Teachings

During Jesus’s last days of mortality, He taught about the power of faith and prayer, knowing His followers would need both in the coming days. “If ye have faith, and doubt not, . . . if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:21–22).

He also taught another timeless principle. When one of Jesus’s enemies intentionally tried to trap Him in His words by asking Jesus to name the most important law, His answer summarized all He had been teaching: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30–31).

These and other teachings during His final days helped Christians follow Jesus then, and they guide us still today.

The Lord’s Supper

In an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus gathered His Apostles (the twelve men chosen as His closest followers) together one last time. At that time Jesus introduced the sacrament, also called the Lord’s Supper or the communion, a sacred practice intended to help Christ’s followers remember Him and help them renew their promises to Him after He was gone (see Matthew 26:20–29). He also washed their feet at that time, which was a sign of His humility and willingness to serve them to the end (see John 13:3–5).

Jesus Christ’s Suffering, Betrayal, and Death

As the time for His death drew nearer, Jesus prepared to finish His mission and fulfill the most important element of God’s plan.

Suffering for the sins of all humankind

Accompanied by a few of His Apostles, Christ went to a garden near Jerusalem called Gethsemane. While his disciples slept, Jesus began to pray: “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus accepted the role He alone could play, and He felt the grief, torment, and misery that comes with sin—felt the anguish caused by every sin that humankind would commit. Even though an angel appeared to strengthen Him (see Luke 22:43), the weight and agony were so great that He shed great drops of blood. 

Betrayal by His friend

After Christ returned to His disciples, a large group of men approached the garden, led by one of His own Apostles. In exchange for 30 pieces of silver, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus by turning Him over to the Jewish leaders, who were offended by Jesus’s claims and felt He was a threat to their power (see Matthew 27:22-25). Judas signaled the soldiers by giving Jesus a kiss, and He was led away as a captive while His disciples fled (see Matthew 26:47–56).  

Trials and scourging

Hoping for Jesus’s execution (which they could not command in their roles), Jewish leaders brought Jesus before the Roman governor on trumped-up charges of treason. No official could find fault with Jesus, but His enemies still clamored for His execution. Trying to assuage the angry mob, yet knowing he was sentencing an innocent man, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. Roman soldiers gathered around Jesus and mocked him as “King of the Jews,” placing a crown of thorns on His head and wrapping him in a purple robe. After being humiliated and brutally whipped, Jesus was taken to the hill Golgotha to be crucified (see Mark 15:15–22). 

Crucifixion and burial

Roman soldiers drove nails through his hands and feet, then raised him on a cross between two thieves, fulfilling another ancient prophecy that He would be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). After suffering for hours on the cross, Jesus willingly gave His life, crying out, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” With that, he “gave up the ghost” and died (see Luke 23:46). Jesus Christ was then placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, one of His wealthier followers (see Matthew 27:57–60). Christ’s Crucifixion and burial are often remembered on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter.  

The Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus’s physical body lay undisturbed in the borrowed tomb Friday night and Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. What happened next would change the lives of every person who has ever lived.

“He is risen”

On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene—a friend and follower of Jesus—came to the tomb with other women. They found the entrance open and Jesus’s body gone. The women were horrified, thinking His body had been stolen, but they were soon comforted by an angel who announced to them—and to all humankind: “He is not here: for he is risen” (Matthew 28:6).

Personal appearances

Christ appeared to many people after His Resurrection, including these women, two of His disciples traveling to Emmaus, and His remaining eleven Apostles. Some of Jesus’s followers recognized Him quickly, while others did not. The Apostle Thomas wasn’t present the first time Jesus appeared to other Apostles, and he expressed his doubt of such a miraculous event: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, Jesus appeared to His friends—including Thomas—once more. Jesus invited Thomas to feel His wounds, and Thomas then humbly declared, “My Lord and my God.” (See John 20:24–28.)

The significance of Easter

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a simple historical event, like a great battle or the crowning of an earthly king. Christ’s triumph over death is central to God’s plan, to your purpose on earth, and to the existence of every one of God’s children.

Your resurrection

Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day, all of us—you, your loved ones and all who have ever lived—will someday be resurrected and live again. The Apostle Paul taught, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Reunion with your loved ones

You will see the people you love again after death. The resurrection of all men and women means that someday you can be reunited with family and friends. This is part of God’s merciful plan for His children, and it is another evidence of His great love for us. 

We celebrate Easter to remember Jesus Christ’s sacrifices for us and to honor His Resurrection, which allows all of us to also overcome death.

Easter and the message of Christ’s Resurrection have endured for millennia and are celebrated by people around the world. Talk to someone about what Easter means to him or her. Chat now.

The Resurrection is only part of the mission of Jesus Christ. Learn more about what the Savior did for you. Request a Bible or Book of Mormon.

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