The 2021 Worldwide Good Friday Broadcast reached more than 200 million people. This two-hour event was broadcast in 186 countries, 24 territories, and translated into 39 languages. They heard from more than 1.3 million people who reached out since the Good Friday event, a sign Nick Hall said that we’re living through “the most exciting evangelistic opportunity of our lifetime.”
While many Americans are still living life in a not-so-normal way, evangelism efforts haven’t slowed down; they’re just happening in new ways. That is certainly the case with Pulse, which brands itself as a “millennial-led evangelism movement.” The ministry’s founder, evangelist Nick Hall, hosted Pulse’s second annual Worldwide Good Friday Broadcast, which reached more than 200 million people. This year’s two-hour event, live-streamed on CBN News’ YouTube channel, was broadcast from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., where Hall said the Pulse vision is for the Good Friday service to become “an annual rallying cry for people to learn and talk about Jesus.” In total, the service was broadcast in 186 countries, 24 territories, and translated into 39 languages.
Pulse has heard from more than 1.3 million people who have reached out since the Good Friday event, a sign Hall said that we’re living through “the most exciting evangelistic opportunity of our lifetime.” “Truly, this is an Ephesians 3:20, ‘exceedingly, abundantly more,’ moment as we believe God is bringing in an unprecedented harvest during these trying days,” Hall said. “Our team is already working to build and translate our Move Closer app platform and digital response systems to keep up with what God is doing.” “Far from this being about Pulse,” he added, “this is about Jesus being lifted high through the global body of Christ, the church.” Move Closer is “a free app designed to help the next generation make disciples” and serves as a connection point for individual users, small groups, and churches, according to the Good Friday service.
“For God loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Alternate Chronology of the Crucifixion of Jesus
Like Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth, we may celebrate these events of the crucifixion on symbolic days which remind us of the literal events, even though we may not be following their exact chronology or dates.
Some scholars argue for a crucifixion on the Thursday of Holy Week followed by two Sabbath days, the Passover Sabbath on Friday and the regular Sabbath on the Saturday of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover is one day while the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts for seven days.
Jesus led the Last Supper with his disciples on the same Jewish day, after sunset, that he died, the day the Passover lambs were killed, to be eaten that night on the special Passover Sabbath (the next Jewish day, as the day ended at sunset).
John also allows for this: Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath (John 19:31, see also John 13:1).
This chronology correlates with Jesus’ predictions:
For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again’ (Luke 18:31-33).
The confusion arose because all the gospels say that there was a rush to get his body off the cross and buried before sundown because the “Sabbath” was near. Everyone assumed the reference to “the Sabbath” had to be Saturday so the crucifixion must have been on a Friday. However, as Jews know, the day of Passover itself is also a “Sabbath” or rest day no matter what weekday it falls on. In the year 30 AD Friday, the 15th of the Jewish month Nisan was also a Sabbath so two Sabbaths occurred back to back Friday and Saturday. Matthew seems to know this as he says that the women who visited Jesus’ tomb came early Sunday morning “after the Sabbaths” (Matthew 28:1).
As is often the case, the gospel of John preserves a more accurate chronology of what went on. John specifies that the Wednesday night “last supper” was “before the festival of Passover.” He also notes that when Jesus’ accusers delivered him to be crucified on Thursday morning they would not enter Pilate’s courtyard because they would be defiled and would not be able to eat the Passover that evening (John 18:28). John knows that the Jews would be eating their traditional Seder meal Thursday evening.
Reading Mark, Matthew, and Luke one can get the impression that the “last supper” was the Passover meal. Some have even argued that Jesus might have eaten the Passover meal a day early—knowing ahead of time that he would be dead. But the fact is, Jesus ate no Passover meal in 30 CE. When the Passover meal began at sundown on Thursday, Jesus was dead. He had been hastily put in a tomb until after the festival when a proper funeral could be arranged.
That discussion sent me checking the plural Sabbaths in Matthew 28:1. It is plural and can be used for either Sabbaths or Sabbath, as also in Matthew 12:1. Most translators opt for singular, but a few retain the literal plural, such as these for Matthew 12:1 and 28:1.
At that time did Jesus go on the sabbaths through the corn, and his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck ears, and to eat, (Young’s Literal Translation, by Robert Young who compiled Young’s Analytical Concordance.)
The Bible passages allow for a crucifixion on the Thursday of Holy Week, and even where Sabbath is used in the singular it does indicate that they found the stone rolled away on the first day of the week after that Sabbath.
That Friday may have been a special Passover Sabbath, not just the Saturday. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down (John 19:31).
Irrespective of the day, the great significance is that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was crucified on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, the day on which the Passover lamb was killed so that after sunset the Passover could be celebrated on the next Jewish day beginning after sunset.
John suggests this: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:1-5)
The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) describe how the meal with Jesus was celebrated as a Passover meal and Jesus gave it new meaning, telling us to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
Like Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth, we may celebrate these events of the crucifixion on symbolic days which remind us of the literal events, even though we may not be following their exact chronology or dates.
I’m content to follow the traditional chronology and dates, as in our diaries, perhaps as symbolic and liturgical reminders of the greatest events in human history.
The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover.
A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566. Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, Luke and the other gospel writers offer no hint about the specific time of year he was born. Photo: Scala/Art Resource, NY.
The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.
In the East, January 6 [now Epiphany] was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.
So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?
There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4
The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated. …
Connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.
There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.
The baby Jesus flies down from heaven on the back of a cross, in this detail from Master Bertram’s 14th-century Annunciation scene. Jesus’ conception carried with it the promise of salvation through his death. It may be no coincidence, then, that the early church celebrated Jesus’ conception and death on the same calendar day: March 25, exactly nine months before December 25. Kunsthalle, Hamburg/Bridgeman Art Library, NY
Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d
This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.
Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”12
Learn about the magi in art and literature in “Witnessing the Divine” by Robin M. Jensen, originally published in Bible Review and now available for free in Bible History Daily.
In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”13 Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.e
Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).
Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo above of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.
The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born … and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.15
In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own, too.16
Queen Elizabeth II describes the significance of Christmas & Easter.
Each illustrated double-page in this book tells about the annual broadcast with an entry for every year of The Queen’s reign from 1952.
The Queen’s historic Easter message during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, when churches were closed, is her only Easter broadcast, cited here with her annual Christmas messages. They describe the significance of these Christian celebrations.
It is available in a basic edition in print, a gift edition in colour, Kindle in colour, and a free PDF in colour on this blog.
Reviews of the first edition of The Queen’s Christmas & Easter Messages, 2017:
1. ‘The Queen’s Christmas & Easter Messages’ is an appealing, highly unusual and very creative anthology. After an introduction about the Queen’s public expression of faith, Geoff Waugh provides a selection of noteworthy passages about Christmas from the Queen’s Christmas messages from 1952. He sets them into context by brief historical references, photos, and Christmas stamps. Finally there is an epilogue of famous Christmas hymns and carols including those used in the Christmas Broadcasts. This book would be the perfect Christmas present. – Alison Sherrington (Author) *
2. I haven’t seen anyone else draw the events of these years together in this way before. Using the Queen’s speeches not only ties in the unfolding events of our time but reveals a deep spiritual glue that provides a fascinating and intimate insight into the personal life of our Queen. A fascinating read. 5 Stars. – Rev Philip Waugh (Minister) *
3. The core of the book is the excerpts from The Queen’s messages. Geoff introduces each broadcast with a short commentary on the events of that year and highlights The Queen’s words in the context of each year, accompanied with appropriate photographs and commemorative stamps. The appendix is a fitting conclusion to this book – a new and innovative approach to the Christmas Story and its clear message of peace and goodwill to all. It is a rewarding experience to read it from cover to cover. – Don Hill (Consultant)
4. The Queen Would Be Proud – 5 stars
What an amazing collection! This has so many wonderful Christmas messages and is a great addition to any family during the holiday season. – Jenny & Benny (Amazon)
To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example. (2000)
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general … but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. … It is my prayer that … we all might find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord. (2011)
This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. (2012)
For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach. (2013)
For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none. (2014)
Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. (2015)
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe. (2016)
We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution. And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. (2017)
The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life. Instead, it’s about the birth of a child, and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever. (2018)
Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child, a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps, taken in faith and in hope, can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding. (2019)
The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this. We know that Coronavirus will not overcome us. As dark as death can be — particularly for those suffering with grief — light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future. (Easter 2020)
Every year, we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood. Light brings hope. For Christians, Jesus is “the light of the world” but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way. … The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship. (Christmas 2020)
The Queen, 2020
Printed books have a double page for each of the Broadcasts.
Queen Elizabeth II has spoken about the significance of Christmas to more people than anyone else in history, including 28 million in the UK and many millions more worldwide in just one of her Christmas Broadcasts.
We have annual Christmas Broadcasts from Queen Elizabeth II, freely available on the internet. Her Majesty refers to the meaning and significance of Christmas in them all. I have included some of my favourite selections in this Blog.
Jon Kuhrt wrote a blog about The Queen’s Christmas messages. He was impressed by comments in the 2014 broadcast while working at the West London Mission with people affected by homelessness, offending, and addictions. Jon wrote: “I have not been a committed viewer (apart from when I am at my Mum’s when it is compulsory viewing). So I went back and read her previous Christmas messages over the last 5 years.”
Here, I have adapted Jon’s previous Resistance & Renewal blog in which he described how The Queen’s Christmas messages are a model of how to talk about faith in the public sphere.
1) The Queen speaks personally
“It is my prayer this Christmas Day that Jesus’ example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.” (2012)
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.” (2014)
Personal testimony is significant and convincing, causing respect in those listening. The Queen is personal in the way she speaks, using words like ‘for me’; ‘my life’ and ‘my prayer’.
2) The Queens speaks compassionately
“Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.” (2015)
“Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.” (2016)
Consistently, The Queen and the Royal Family show deep concern for the bereaved and suffering, both in personal contact and in correspondence. The heart of Christmas is about God’s love for everyone, especially the hurting and fallen.
3) The Queen speaks inclusively
“The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.” (2013)
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.” (2014)
God’s love is for all people and believing in this love leads us to respect and value everyone. Jon added, “It resonated with my own experience of meeting The Queen in 1997, when she came to open a new hostel for young homeless people that I was managing. I showed her round and introduced her to all the residents. I had expected it to be quite formal and awkward but I remember how adept she was at talking to such a diverse range of people.”
4) The Queen speaks about Jesus
“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general … but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” (2011)
“This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.” (2012)
The Queen talks directly about the person at the heart of Christmas, the reason for celebrating. That includes both the example and achievement of Jesus and makes orthodox theology accessible to the widest possible audience.
5) The Queen speaks about faith in action
“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” (2011)
“For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people.” (2013)
Reconciliation, service and love flow from Christian commitment. The Queen talks about what faith does. It makes a difference to how we live and helps us to be ‘better people’.
God really did love the world so much (all races and all religions or none) that he gave us his Son, our Saviour. We celebrate that gift at Christmas.
[Christmas] has, before all, its origin in the homage we pay to a very special Family, who lived long ago in a very ordinary home, in a very unimportant village in the uplands of a small Roman province.
Life in such a place might have been uneventful. But the Light, kindled in Bethlehem and then streaming from the cottage window in Nazareth, has illumined the world for two thousand years. It is in the glow of that bright beam that I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.
I would like to read you a few lines from ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, because I am sure we can say with Mr Valiant for Truth, these words:
“Though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.”
I hope that 1958 may bring you God’s blessing and all the things you long for. And so I wish you all, young and old, wherever you may be, all the fun and enjoyment, and the peace of a very happy Christmas.
Every year at this time the whole Christian world celebrates the birth of the founder of our faith. It is traditionally the time for family reunions, present-giving and children’s parties.
A welcome escape, in fact, from the harsh realities of this troubled world and it is just in times like these, times of tension and anxieties, that the simple story and message of Christmas is most relevant.
The story is of a poor man and his wife who took refuge at night in a stable, where a child was born and laid in the manger. Nothing very spectacular, and yet the event was greeted with that triumphant song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”
For that child was to show that there is nothing in heaven and earth that cannot be achieved by faith and by love and service to one’s neighbour. Christmas may be a Christian festival, but its message goes out to all men and it is echoed by all men of understanding and goodwill everywhere. …
“Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.” The words of this old carol mean even more today than when they were first written.
The first Royal Christmas Message televised in colour, 1967
Modern communications make it possible for me to talk to you in your homes and to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. These techniques of radio and television are modern, but the Christmas message is timeless.
You may have heard it very often but in the end, no matter what scientific progress we make, the message will count for nothing unless we can achieve real peace and encourage genuine goodwill between individual people and the nations of the world.
Every Christmas I am sustained and encouraged by the happiness and sense of unity which comes from seeing all the members of my family together.
I hope and pray that, with God’s help, this Christmas spirit of family unity will spread and grow among our Commonwealth family of nations.
We are celebrating a birthday – the birthday of a child born nearly 2,000 years ago, who grew up and lived for only about 30 years.
That one person, by his example and by his revelation of the good which is in us all, has made an enormous difference to the lives of people who have come to understand his teaching. His simple message of love has been turning the world upside down ever since. He showed that what people are and what they do, does matter and does make all the difference.
He commanded us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, but what exactly is meant by ‘loving ourselves’? I believe it means trying to make the most of the abilities we have been given, it means caring for our talents.
It is a matter of making the best of ourselves, not just doing the best for ourselves.
I was glad that the celebrations of my mother’s 80th birthday last summer gave so much pleasure. I wonder whether you remember, during the Thanksgiving Service in St. Paul’s, the congregation singing that wonderful hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise”.
“Now give us we pray thee the Spirit of love,
The gift of true wisdom that comes from above,
The spirit of service that has naught of pride,
The gift of true courage, and thee as our guide.” …
In difficult times we may be tempted to find excuses for self-indulgence and to wash our hands of responsibility. Christmas stands for the opposite. The Wise Men and the Shepherds remind us that it is not enough simply to do our jobs; we need to go out and look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves, even if that service demands sacrifice.
It was their belief and confidence in God which inspired them to visit the stable and it is this unselfish will to serve that will see us through the difficulties we face.
Christ not only revealed to us the truth in his teachings. He lived by what he believed and gave us the strength to try to do the same – and, finally, on the cross, he showed the supreme example of physical and moral courage.
That sacrifice was the dawn of Christianity and this is why at Christmas time we are inspired by the example of Christ as we celebrate his birth.
It is no easy task to care for and bring up children, whatever your circumstances – whether you are famous or quite unknown. But we could all help by letting the spirit of Christmas fill our homes with love and care and by heeding Our Lord’s injunction to treat others as you would like them to treat you.
When, as the Bible says, Christ grew in wisdom and understanding, he began his task of explaining and teaching just what it is that God wants from us.
The two lessons that he had for us, which he underlined in everything he said and did, are the messages of God’s love and how essential it is that we, too, should love other people. …
The message which God sent us by Christ’s life and example is a very simple one, even though it seems so difficult to put into practice.
I am always moved by those words in St. John’s Gospel which we hear on Christmas Day – “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not”.
We have only to listen to the news to know the truth of that. But the Gospel goes on – “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God”.
For all the inhumanity around us, let us be grateful for those who have received him and who go about quietly doing their work and His will without thought of reward or recognition.
They know that there is an eternal truth of much greater significance than our own triumphs and tragedies, and it is embodied by the Child in the Manger. That is their message of hope.
We can all try to reflect that message of hope in our own lives, in our actions and in our prayers. If we do, the reflection may light the way for others and help them to read the message too. We live in the global village, but villages are made up of families. …
I hope you all enjoy your Christmas. I pray, with you, for a happy and peaceful New Year.
“Blessed be the peacemakers,” Christ said, “for they shall be called the children of God.” It is especially to those of you, often peacemakers without knowing it, who are fearful of a troubled and uncertain future, that I bid a Happy Christmas.
It is your good sense and good will which have achieved so much. It must not and will not go to waste. May there be still happier Christmases to come, for you and your children. You deserve the best of them.
At Christmas I enjoy looking back on some of the events of the year. Many have their roots in history but still have a real point for us today. I recall, especially, a dazzling spring day in Norwich when I attended the Maundy Service, the Cathedral providing a spectacular setting.
The lovely service is always a reminder of Christ’s words to his disciples: “Love one another; as I have loved you”. It sounds so simple yet it proves so hard to obey. …
If only we can live up to the example of the child who was born at Christmas with a love that came to embrace the whole world. If only we can let him recapture for us that time when we faced the future with childhood’s unbounded faith.
Armed with that faith, the New Year, with all its challenges and chances, should hold no terrors for us, and we should be able to embark upon it undaunted.
St Paul spoke of the first Christmas as the kindness of God dawning upon the world. The world needs that kindness now more than ever – the kindness and consideration for others that disarms malice and allows us to get on with one another with respect and affection.
Christmas reassures us that God is with us today. But, as I have discovered afresh for myself this year, he is always present in the kindness shown by our neighbours and the love of our friends and family.
Christmas is the traditional, if not the actual, birthday of a man who was destined to change the course of our history. And today we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ was born two thousand years ago; this is the true Millennium anniversary.
The simple facts of Jesus’ life give us little clue as to the influence he was to have on the world. As a boy he learnt his father’s trade as a carpenter. He then became a preacher, recruiting twelve supporters to help him.
But his ministry only lasted a few years and he himself never wrote anything down. In his early thirties he was arrested, tortured and crucified with two criminals. His death might have been the end of the story, but then came the resurrection and with it the foundation of the Christian faith.
Even in our very material age the impact of Christ’s life is all around us. If you want to see an expression of Christian faith you have only to look at our awe-inspiring cathedrals and abbeys, listen to their music, or look at their stained glass windows, their books and their pictures.
But the true measure of Christ’s influence is not only in the lives of the saints but also in the good works quietly done by millions of men and women day in and day out throughout the centuries.
Many will have been inspired by Jesus’ simple but powerful teaching: love God and love thy neighbour as thyself – in other words, treat others as you would like them to treat you. His great emphasis was to give spirituality a practical purpose. …
To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
I believe that the Christian message, in the words of a familiar blessing, remains profoundly important to us all:
“Go forth into the world in peace,
be of good courage,
hold fast that which is good,
render to no man evil for evil,
strengthen the faint-hearted,
support the weak,
help the afflicted,
honour all men.”
It is a simple message of compassion… and yet as powerful as ever today, two thousand years after Christ’s birth.
Anniversaries are important events in all our lives. Christmas is the anniversary of the birth of Christ over two thousand years ago, but it is much more than that. It is the celebration of the birth of an idea and an ideal. …
I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.
Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.
The Founder of the Christian Faith himself chose twelve disciples to help him in his ministry.
In this country and throughout the Commonwealth there are groups of people who are giving their time generously to make a difference to the lives of others.
As we think of them, and of our Servicemen and women far from home at this Christmas time, I hope we all, whatever our faith, can draw inspiration from the words of the familiar prayer:
“Teach us good Lord
To serve thee as thou deservest;
To give, and not to count the cost;
To fight, and not to heed the wounds;
To toil, and not to seek for rest;
To labour, and not to ask for any reward;
Save that of knowing that we do thy will.”
It is this knowledge which will help us all to enjoy the Festival of Christmas.
Religion and culture are much in the news these days, usually as sources of difference and conflict, rather than for bringing people together. But the irony is that every religion has something to say about tolerance and respecting others.
For me as a Christian one of the most important of these teachings is contained in the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus answers the question “who is my neighbour?”
It is a timeless story of a victim of a mugging who was ignored by his own countrymen but helped by a foreigner – and a despised foreigner at that.
The implication drawn by Jesus is clear. Everyone is our neighbour, no matter what race, creed or colour. The need to look after a fellow human being is far more important than any cultural or religious differences.
Now today, of course, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Among other things, it is a reminder that it is the story of a family; but of a family in very distressed circumstances. Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn; they had to make do in a stable, and the new-born Jesus had to be laid in a manger. This was a family which had been shut out.
Perhaps it was because of this early experience that, throughout his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth reached out and made friends with people whom others ignored or despised. It was in this way that he proclaimed his belief that, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in one human family. …
It is all too easy to ‘turn a blind eye’, ‘to pass by on the other side’, and leave it to experts and professionals. All the great religious teachings of the world press home the message that everyone has a responsibility to care for the vulnerable.
Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer: O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin And enter in. Be born in us today.
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
At Christmas I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child. From that day on he has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others.
This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.
The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part’. The carol gives the answer ‘Yet what I can I give him – give my heart’.
For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.
On the first Christmas, in the fields above Bethlehem, as they sat in the cold of night watching their resting sheep, the local shepherds must have had no shortage of time for reflection. Suddenly all this was to change. These humble shepherds were the first to hear and ponder the wondrous news of the birth of Christ – the first noel – the joy of which we celebrate today.
[Centenary of the start of World War I, 1914-1918]
‘Reconciliation’ by Josefina de Vasconcellos at Coventry Cathedral
In the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral is a sculpture of a man and a woman reaching out to embrace each other … inspired by the story of a woman who crossed Europe on foot after the war to find her husband.
In 1914, many people thought the war would be over by Christmas, but sadly by then the trenches were dug and the future shape of the war in Europe was set.
But, as we know, something remarkable did happen that Christmas, exactly a hundred years ago today.
Without any instruction or command, the shooting stopped and German and British soldiers met in No Man’s Land. Photographs were taken and gifts exchanged. It was a Christmas truce. …
For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.
A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.
Sometimes it seems that reconciliation stands little chance in the face of war and discord. But, as the Christmas truce a century ago reminds us, peace and goodwill have lasting power in the hearts of men and women.
On that chilly Christmas Eve in 1914 many of the German forces sang Silent Night, its haunting melody inching across the line.
That carol is still much-loved today, a legacy of the Christmas truce, and a reminder to us all that even in the unlikeliest of places hope can still be found.
Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September, 2015
It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.
One cause for thankfulness this summer was marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War. …
At the end of that war, the people of Oslo began sending an annual gift of a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square.
It has 500 light bulbs and is enjoyed not just by Christians but by people of all faiths, and of none. At the very top sits a bright star, to represent the Star of Bethlehem.
The custom of topping a tree also goes back to Prince Albert’s time. For his family’s tree, he chose an angel, helping to remind us that the focus of the Christmas story is on one particular family.
For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal, but worse was to come as the family was forced to flee the country.
It’s no surprise that such a human story still captures our imagination and continues to inspire all of us who are Christians, the world over.
Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.
Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.
At Christmas our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important.
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.
The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows.
Today, we celebrate Christmas, which, itself, is sometimes described as a festival of the home. Families travel long distances to be together.
Volunteers and charities, as well as many churches, arrange meals for the homeless and those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution.
And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. Whatever your own experience is this year, wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.
The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoreticalexplanations for the puzzles of life. Instead, it’s about the birth of a child, and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world.
Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.
Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child, a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps, taken in faith and in hope, can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.
2020 saw the coronavirus COVID-19 spread worldwide. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II historically addressed the nation and the Commonwealth on Palm Sunday, April 5. Her Majesty’s message included these significant observations during the coronavirus pandemic:
Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heartwarming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort. And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.
This book includes an excerpt from Her Majesty’s Easter message:
As darkness falls on the Saturday before Easter Day, many Christians would normally light candles together. In church, one light would pass to another, spreading slowly and then more rapidly as more candles are lit. It’s a way of showing how the good news of Christ’s resurrection has been passed on from the first Easter by every generation until now.
This year, Easter will be different for many of us, but by keeping apart we keep others safe. But Easter isn’t cancelled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.
The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this. We know that Coronavirus will not overcome us. As dark as death can be — particularly for those suffering with grief — light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.
Every year, we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood. Light brings hope. For Christians, Jesus is “the light of the world” but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way. …
The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship. …
The Bible tells how a star appears in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love, and above all hope, guide us in the times ahead. It is in that spirit I wish you a very happy Christmas.
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Friedrich Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.
In Part I the text begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. When King George II attended a royal performance of Messiah he stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus in honour of the King of kings. When the king stood everyone in his presence had to stand. So it became the tradition for the audience to stand up when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, as millions of us have done in honour of the King of kings.
Chorus — Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:8-11, 13 There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Chorus — Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!
Lyrics: Holy Bible, Authorised Version, 1611, arranged by Charles Jennens, 1741 Music: George Friedrich Handel, 1741
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II wrote for this book:
I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness.
As I embark on my 91st year, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the words of a poem quoted by my father, King George VI, in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939, the year that this country went to war for the second time in a quarter of a century.
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. (Matthew 28:1-8 NKJV)
A summary of the events on one Jewish Day – from sunset to the next sunset.
The Passover lamb was killed that day. Jesus chose to die on that day, fulfilling the Passover and the prophecies about the Messiah/Christ – God’s Anointed One.
This Blog: selections from the book Crucified and Risen: The Easter Story.
Use and reproduce these resources any way you wish to share the Good News of Easter – He is risen indeed.
From the Introduction
The Easter Story
Tension rose. Many believed that the famous, radical young prophet from the rural hills of the village of Nazareth in the north was the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ. That ancient title Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) meant God’s Anointed One. People believed their Messiah would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire and establish his eternal kingdom.
Some people, like the Zealots, wanted to fight to free their nation. Roman soldiers savagely crucified these insurrectionists as a public demonstration of the futility of opposing their Empire. One disciple of the young prophet was Simon the Zealot.
Other people, such as the Jewish leaders, co-operated with their Roman overlords, hoping to keep the peace and prevent further invasion and destruction. One of the radical prophet’s disciples was Matthew, approved as a tax collector for Rome. People regarded tax collectors as traitors.
Other disciples of the popular prophet ran a successful fishing business in Galilee, owning many boats and employing many fishermen. They returned to their business after the traumatic and confusing events of their prophet’s arrest, torture and public execution.
This radical young prophet annoyed the Jewish leaders. He broke many of their strict religious laws and traditions. He welcomed all kinds of people and was widely known as a friend of prostitutes and traitors like tax collectors. He visited their homes. He welcomed sinners to join him in the homes of strict religious leaders who were shocked, appalled and angered.
He survived many assassination attempts. Two kings, father and son, wanted to kill him (Matthew 2:13; Luke 13:31). People in his home village attempted to push him over a cliff (Luke 4:29). People in Jerusalem tried to stone him more than once (John 8:59, 10:31). Religious leaders often plotted to kill him (Matthew 12:14, 26:4; Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47). At times, his own family thought he was crazy, and many Jewish leaders said he used demonic powers (Mark 3:21-22).
So, during his three years of public teaching and preaching, he stirred up opposition as well as a huge following of people wanting healing and miracles. Then during his final journey to Jerusalem for that momentous Passover, he warned his closest followers three times that he would be arrested, tortured and executed. They could not comprehend that, and Peter earned a harsh rebuke for disagreeing with Jesus. But Jesus clearly described what lay ahead, as in this explanation:
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34, see also Luke 9:22, 44-45)
The High Priest and the chief priests of the ruling Sanhedrin were determined to kill this dangerous, radical young man. Driven by jealousy of his popularity and the threat that his popularity may lead to a possible uprising and severe Roman retaliation (as did happen around 40 years later in 70AD), the religious leaders wanted him dead and his threat removed.
Eventually they did kill him. But he chose the time and the place and the method (John 10:17-18). He was publicly crucified on the day the Passover lambs were killed. He fulfilled prophecies about the Messiah, but even his closest friends did not understand that, until later. One of his disciples betrayed him. Another fought to defend him, slicing off a high priest’s servant’s ear – which needed immediate repair. Then all his friends deserted him and fled. By nine o’clock that morning their leader and friend, the Messiah, was savagely tortured and crucified.
Romans crucified their victims along the main road just outside a town or village. They lopped trees and their victims carried the crossbar to the dreadful execution site where they were nailed to the crossbar and hoisted onto a tree trunk or stake. Peter later wrote that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The execution place just outside Jerusalem’s city wall was called the place of the skull, with graves nearby. There are tombs and graves just outside that city wall even today.
Eye-witnesses saw and heard the horrendous spectacle. A few, like John, saw it from nearby. Spectators taunted the central victim: And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ (Luke 23:35-37)
The three victims gasped out brief cries, one with angry accusations: One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ (Luke 23:39)
Soldiers divided the victims’ clothes among themselves, gambling for some. Eventually they smashed the legs of the two victims still alive so they died quickly, no longer able to push up from their spiked feet to gasp more breath. Religious leaders wanted them off the crosses before the Sabbath began at sunset.
The other victim was already dead so one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out.
The mystery deepened rapidly. Matthew, the disciple who had been a despised tax collector for Rome, reported that the curtain of the temple was split from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split and tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life and came out of the tombs after the resurrection and went into the city and appeared to many people (Matthew 27:51-52).
Rumours began to spread that weekend.
Most people thought that the unbelievable rumours that the Messiah was alive were impossible, and said so. Loudly.
Only a few, very few at first, thought that it had really happened. Even after a month some still doubted that it actually happened. (Matthew 28:16-17)
They saw the awful, brutal execution. Their leader had been severely flogged and tortured early one morning before his execution. The conquering Romans made sure their victims suffered maximum agony and humiliation on thousands of crosses, suffering publicly and slowly in excruciating pain to their last agonized breath. That’s how we got our English words excruciate (ex-crux – out of the cross) and agony from the Greek word agon (struggle or contest).
Then, on the third day, he mysteriously appeared to many of his friends. That afternoon and evening he explained that the Scriptures said that the Messiah had to suffer:
Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).
Crucified, as thousands were, their Messiah and King then appeared mysteriously for just over a month from the full moon at Passover until his ascension beyond the clouds. Even his name, Yeshua/Joseph/Jesus told that story. It means God saves.
The Greek word Ἰησοῦς (Iesous, Yeshua), translated mostly as Jesus, but also as Joshua, means God saves, or God is salvation. English translations of the Bible traditionally use ‘Jesus’ when the reference is to Joshua/Yeshua of Nazareth and commonly as ‘Joshua’ for anyone else with that name (see Luke 3:29; Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8). So in English the name Jesus became unique for Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.
These brutal and mysterious events transformed the lives of the people involved and changed the history of the world.
Eye-witnesses wrote their reports on parchments in the Greek language, now incorporated into the New Testament, the most translated and most read book in the world. All or part of it is translated into over 3,000 languages and the whole Bible translated into over 670 languages. I use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) in this book with other translations added occasionally.
This story covers the most momentous events in history because it not only affected those involved but also changed the lives and eternal destiny of countless millions through history.
Events in this book are reproduced in more detail in my book The Lion of Judah. There I include extra passages, some from Paul’s letters and from various passages in the New Testament including The Revelation.
In this book, I reproduce Bible passages in italics. These passages, translated from the original eye-witness reports, tell the astounding story.
Matthew, Mark and John saw it personally. Luke gathered his reports from eye-witnesses for his two books, the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles.
Paul wrote: For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
John penned the famous words: God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
The Last Supper
Preparation of the Passover – Mt 26:17-19 Mk 14:12-16 Lk 22:7-13
Washing the disciples’ feet – Jn 13:1-17
The breaking of bread – Mt 26:26 Mk 14:22 Lk 22:19
‘One of you shall betray me’ – Mt 26:21 Mk 14:18 Lk 22:21 Jn 13:21
‘Is it I ?’ – Mt 26:22-25 Mk 14:19
Giving of the dipped bread – Jn 13:26-27
Departure of Judas Iscariot – Jn 13:30
Peter warned – Mt 26:34 Mk 14:30 Lk 22:34 Jn 13:38
Blessing the cup – Mt 26:27,28 Mk 14:23,24 Lk 22:17
The discourses after supper – Jn 14:1-16:33
Christ’s prayer for his apostles – Jn 17:1-17:26
The hymn – Mt 26:30 Mk 14:26
Gethsemane and Trials
The agony – Mt 26:37 Mk 14:33 Lk 22:39 Jn 18:1
The thrice-repeated prayer – Mt 26:39-44 Mk 14:36-39 Lk 22:42
Sweat and angel support – Lk 22:43,44
The sleep of the apostles – Mt 26:40-45 Mk 14:37-41 Lk 22:45,46
Betrayal by Judas – Mt 26:47-50 Mk 14:34,44 Lk 22:47 Jn 18:2-5
Peter smites Malchus – Mt 26:51 Mk 14:47 Lk 22:50 Jn 18:10
Jesus heals the ear of Malchus – Lk 22:51
Jesus forsaken by disciples – Mt 26:56 Mk 14:50 1) Trial with Annas – Jn 18:12,13 2) Trial with Caiaphas – Mt 26:57 Mk 14:53 Lk 22:54 Jn 18:15
Peter follows Jesus – Mt 26:58 Mk 14:54 Lk 22:55 Jn 18:15
The high priest’s adjuration – Mt 26:63 Mk 14:61
Jesus condemned, buffeted, mocked – Mt 26:66-67 Mk 14:64-65 Lk 22:63-65
Peter’s denial of Christ – Mt 26:69-75 Mk 14:66-72 Lk 22:54-62 Jn 18:17-27 3) Trial with Pilate – Mt 27:1,2 Mk 15:1 Lk 23:1-4 Jn 18:28
Repentance of Judas – Mt 27:3
Pilate comes out to the people – Jn 18:29-32
Pilate speaks to Jesus privately – Jn 18:33-38 4) Trial with Herod – Lk 23:5-11
Jesus mocked, arrayed in purple – Lk 23:5-11 5) Trial with Pilate, scourged – Mt 27:26 Mk 15:15 Jn 19:1
Jesus crowned with thorns – Mt 27:29 Mk 15:17 Jn 19:2
‘Behold the man’ – Jn 19:5
Jesus accused formally – Mt 27:11 Mk 15:2 Lk 23:2
‘Behold your King’ – Jn 19:14
Pilate desires to release him – Mt 27:15 Mk 15:6 Lk 23:17 Jn 19:12
Pilate’s wife message – Mt 27:19
Pilate washes his hands – Mt 27:24
Pilate releases Barabbas – Mt 27:26
Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified – Mt 27:26 Mk 15:15 Lk 23:25 Jn 19:16
Simon of Cyrene carries the cross – Mt 27:32 Mk 15:21 Lk 23:26
They give Jesus vinegar and gall – Mt 27:34 Mk 15:23 Lk 23:36
They nail him to the cross – Mt 27:35 Mk 15:24,25 Lk 23:33 Jn 19:18
The superscription – Mt 27:37 Mk 15:26 Lk 23:38 Jn 19:19 1) Father, forgive them – Lk 23:34
His garments shared – Mt 27:35 Mk 15:24 Lk 23:34 Jn 19:23
Passers-by and the two thieves revile – Mt 27:39-44 Mk 15:29-32 Lk 23:35
The penitent thief – Lk 23:40 2) Today you will be with me … Lk 23:43 3) Woman, behold your son. … Jn 19:26,27
Darkness over all the land – Mt 27:45 Mk 15:33 Lk 23:44,45 4) My God, my God, why … ? [Psalm 22:1] Mt 27:46 Mk 15:34 5) I thirst – Jn 19:28 [Psalm 22:15 ; 69:3, 21] The vinegar – Mt 27:48 Mk 15:36 Jn 19:29 6) It is finished – Jn 19:30 [It is accomplished] 7) Father, into your hands … [Psalm 31:5] Lk 23:46
Rending of the temple veil – Mt 27:51 Mk 15:38 Lk 23:45
Graves opened, saints resurrected – Mt 27:52
Testimony of Centurion – Mt 27:54 Mk 15:39 Lk 23:47
Watching of the women – Mt 27:55 Mk 15:40 Lk 23:49
The piercing of his side – Jn 19:34
Taken down from the cross – Mt 27:57-60 Mk 15:46 Lk 23:53 Jn 19:38-42
Burial by Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus – Mt 27:57-60 Mk 15:46 Lk 23:53 Jn 19:38-42
A guard placed over the sealed stone – Mt 27:65-66
Women carry spices to the tomb – Mt 28:1 Mk 16:1,2 Lk 24:1
The angel had rolled away the stone – Mt 28:2
Women announce the resurrection – Mt 28:8 Lk 24:9,10 Jn 20:1,2
Peter and John run to the tomb – Lk 24:12 Jn 20:3
The women return to the tomb – Lk 24:1
The guards report to the chief priests – Mt 28:11-15 12 APPEARANCES OF CHRIST 1) To Mary Magdalene – Mk 16:9,10 Jn 20:11-18
2) To the women returning home – Mt 28:9-10
3) To two disciples going to Emmaus – Mk 16:12 Lk 24:13-35
4) To Peter – Lk 24:34 1 Co 15:5
5) To ten Apostles in the upper room – Lk 24:33 Jn 20:19-23
6) To eleven Apostles in the upper room – Mk 16:14 Jn 20:26-29
7) To 500 at once – 1 Cor 15:6
8) To James – 1 Cor 15:6
9) To disciples at the sea of Tiberias – Jn 21:1-23
10) To eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee – Mt 28:16-20
11) Eating together in Jerusalem – Acts 1:4-5
12) The Ascension from the Mount of Olives – Mk 16:19 Lk 24:50-51 Acts 1:6-9
Jesus explained these events on the afternoon of his Resurrection Sunday:
Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. …
Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
I was told by a distinguished rabbi about the ceremony when the Children of Israel presented lambs to the priest. The lamb would be impaled on a horizontal and vertical pole. Its back would be flayed to ensure it was a spotless lamb. None of its bones would be broken, and the blood would be drained from the lamb.
Does that sound familiar? The lamb was roasted on two poles forming a cross. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was placed on a cross. His hands and feet were pierced, and none of His bones were broken. Jesus was crucified on the very day the Passover lambs were being offered up.
Dr Michael Evans (Jerusalem Prayer Team)
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
The angel’s quote on the door of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
A Mysterious Month
Most people who were involved at the beginning of that mysterious month thought the unbelievable rumours were impossible and said so. Loudly.
Only a few, very few at first, thought it may have happened. Even after a month some still doubted that it actually happened: “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17).
They saw the awful, brutal execution. Jesus had been severely flogged and tortured early that morning before his execution. The conquering Romans made sure their victims suffered maximum agony and humiliation on thousands of crosses, suffering publicly and slowly in excruciating pain to their last agonized breath. That’s how we got our English words excruciate (ex-crux – out of the cross) and agony from the Greek word agon (struggle or contest).
Romans crucified their victims along the main road just outside a town or village. They lopped trees and their victims carried the crossbar to the dreadful execution site where they were nailed to the crossbar and hoisted onto a tree trunk or stake. Peter later wrote that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The execution place just outside Jerusalem’s city wall was called the place of the skull, with graves nearby. There are many tombs and graves just outside that city wall even today.
Eye-witnesses saw and heard the horrendous spectacle, a few like John from nearby. Spectators taunted the central victim: And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ (Luke 23:35-37)
The three struggling victims gasped out brief cries, one with angry accusations: One of the criminals hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ (Luke 23:39).
Soldiers divided the victims’ clothes among themselves, gambling for some. Eventually, they smashed the legs of the two victims still alive so they died quickly, no longer able to push up from their spiked feet to gasp more breath. Religious leaders wanted them off the crosses before the Sabbath began at sunset.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)
And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things (John 19:33-35; Luke 23:48-49).
The mystery deepened rapidly. Matthew, the disciple who had been a despised tax collector for Rome, reported that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people (Matthew 27:51-52).
Model of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, Temple Mount left (east), Pool of Bethesda (sheep pool) and Antonia Fortress alongside, Herod’s Palace right (west), Golgotha just outside.
Message Outline, 4 March 2018 – by Nick Kikuchi, Riverlife Baptist Church, Brisbane. Message given at the Easy English service for overseas visitors.
Love Declared · Love Demonstrated – The Meaning of Easter
Easter Today * Easter is one of the two biggest Western festivities, along with Christmas. * Pagan (non-christian religions) celebration of re-birth of the earth in the spring was combined into Easter Festivities. (like bunnies and eggs) * Lots of celebrations and even non-christian celebration. (egg hunt, Easter Bunny) * Easter is a Christian Festival and it celebrates the Resurrection (come back to life) of Jesus after His death on the cross.
Easter is Related to the Jewish Festival of Passover
* Passover is the most important Jewish festival.
Jesus celebrated Passover every year. Jesus died on Passover weekend.
* History of Passover (Exodus 1-12) 1. Slavery (bondage) of Israelites in Egypt in 1700BC. 2. Moses’ job to free Israelites from Egypt and God’s ten disasters to Egypt. (Exodus 7-11) 3. Tenth disaster (different from others) – the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:5-14) and an act of faith was needed by Israelites. (a) Free from bondage needed a substitution of payment. (b) Unblemished (perfect) lamb to be sacrificed (killed) and blood to be put on the pillars of entry. (Exodus 12:5-7) (c) They feasted on roasted lamb, herbs and hard bread. (d) Anticipate the liberty and be ready to leave. (Exodus 12:11) (e) Angels of death passed over the entry ways marked with blood of lamb. (Exocus 12:12-13) (f) People celebrated passing over and being free. (g) It became a festival, remembering this great day. (Exodus 12:14) 4. It was a model of Great Salvation to all human beings. 5. Passover showed that substitute Death is needed for salvation. What Happened in the original Easter Week? (2000 years ago – AD30)
* Jesus celebrated Passover.
*The last year of His life, the last Passover (Matthew 26-27) 1. He taught disciples extensive teaching.
I am going away but believe in me. (John 15) 2. He had the Last Supper and told them to do this in memory of Jesus. (Matthew 26:26-31) 3. Jesus lived a sinless life. (1 John 3:5-6) 4. Jesus was killed on the cross and His blood was placed on the cross. 5. Whoever believed in Jesus’ blood on the cross (that He is God in Man to die on the cross for our sin and his death will save us from God’s wrath) will be saved. (1 John 1:7; John 3:16)
* He came back to life (Matthew 28:6) to prove He won against sin and death. Proof that He is God, who has power to save us. (Romans 6:9)
* We celebrate His resurrection because Jesus has done it all. We don’t have to do anything. We are saved if we believe He is our personal Saviour.
God’s Master Plan to Save Humans from Sin and Death * Passover was a model to show what is to come. (Hebrews 10:11) * Easter Passion Week – death of Jesus on the cross was the real substitute death that lambs in the past have represented. * Similarity: 1. Unblemished lamb vs sinless man (God in Him – Lamb of God). 2. Both killed. 3. Blood on the door pole vs blood on the cross. 4. Believing gave liberation from slavery vs believing gives liberation from the slavery and curse of sin and death. 5. Israel became a nation of God to bless other nations vs Christian became saved people to give Good News to the world.
* Key Points 1. Jesus is God in human body (incarnated God). 2. Jesus lived a sinless life. 3. Jesus died for our sins to pay the sin’s debt and came back to life to guarantee it. 4. Jesus is offering His guarantees to anyone who believes in Him our Saviour and Lord.
Discussion Questions 1. What are the similarities between Christmas and Easter? 2. What is the meaning of Passover? 3. What are the similarities and the differences between Passover and Easter? 4. What does Easter mean to you?