Today we celebrate “Resurrection Sunday”. Since the term Easter Sunday is prevalent now, it’s ok if we celebrate Easter. Most of us here have no knowledge of pagan origins, we just see Easter as the time to celebrate Jesus Christ.
Easter is the most joyful of the Christian Festivals and is kept to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, or rising from the grave. The name Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the dawn, Eostre, whose spring festival was celebrated in April. As the Christian festival was held at the same time of the year it came to be known by the same name.
On the first Easter day (a Sunday) Jesus Christ rose from the dead. On Good Friday barely 48 hours before, He had been crucified. His friends deserted Him because they were afraid of sharing His fate. To them the crucifixion meant absolute defeat and they must have been broken men, with nothing left to live for.
On Good Friday night the dead body of Jesus Christ was laid in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It was a cave hewn out of solid rock, with a low ledge along the farther wall on which the body was laid. The body was hastily embalmed or preserved to prevent it from decaying, and wrapped round with grave clothes, there was no time to do it properly as the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday, when all work was forbidden, was just beginning. Then a large circular stone was rolled across the opening of the tomb. As the Jewish authorities feared that there might be some attempt to remove the body, they obtained the permission from the Roman governor of Judea, Pilate to seal the stone to the mouth of the tomb and set a guard.
Early on Sunday morning, before dawn, a small group of woman disciples visited the tomb to find the great stone rolled back and the body gone. A “young man” – according to the epistle of Matthew, an angel – who was sitting in the the tomb, told them that Jesus was risen. They ran off, unable to understand what the “young man” meant, and at first said nothing for fear of being laughed at. When they did pick up courage to tell their story no one believed it, but Peter and John ran to the tomb together and found it empty except for the grave clothes which laid together as if through the body had been spirited out of them, for the folds were undisturbed. Later, Mary Magdalene, weeping outside the tomb and wondering where the body could have been taken, now saw Jesus mistaking Him first for the gardener. She was the first one to whom Jesus showed Himself after His resurrection.
In the afternoon two disciples walking from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus were joined by Jesus on the road. Like Mary Magdalene, they did not first recognized Him, but over supper, He made Himself known to them by the characteristic way in which He broke bread. They ran back to Jerusalem to tell the news, only to find everyone knew it already and that Christ had appeared especially to Simon Peter. That night Jesus came and visited all the disciples (except Thomas, who was not there) in the upper room which had become their headquarters, and a week later He came again and convinced even Thomas, who had not believed in His resurrection, that He really had returned from the dead. Jesus continued to visit His friends at intervals of 40 days or so, until His ascension, or rising, into heaven.