Because Easter is not a biblical term (and has pagan origins), some suggest that "Resurrection Sunday" would be a better term. The word only appears once in the King James Bible, at Acts 12:4, where is is better translated as "Passover." So significant was the event of that Sunday morning that Christians since have celebrated it as "the Lord's Day," and it has become our weekly sabbath, replacing the Saturday of the Old Testament. Still, for millennia the term "Easter" has come to be synonymous with resurrection, hope, and the joyful refrain "He is risen!"
|"Empty Tomb," Interior View of the Herodian Family Tomb, first century AD, Jerusalem.|
With the rays of the morning sun, the agony of Thursday, the pain and grief of Friday, and the separation of Saturday suddenly melted away in the joy of the first Easter. For millennia the term “Easter” has come to be synonymous with resurrection, hope, and the joyful refrain “He is risen!” So significant was the event of that Sunday morning that Christians since have celebrated it as “the Lord’s Day,” and it has become our weekly Sabbath, replacing the Saturday of the Old Testament. As a result, while the week leading up to and including Easter is a wonderful time to commemorate and reflect upon the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is something we celebrate as a church family every week. Indeed, the covenants that we renew each Sunday enjoin us to remember him always.
The accounts of the resurrection in the four gospels serve as the foundation of our understanding of the rise of our Lord from the tomb. They paint for us a dramatic story as the women found an empty tomb and heard the testimony of angels. The story crescendos as Peter and John confirm that the tomb was empty. First Mary, then the other women, and then two disciples converse with Jesus on the way to Emmaus. Finally the ten of the remaining eleven apostles see the Risen Lord. These and subsequent appearances confirm that Jesus in fact rose from the dead “with healing in his wings,” and though he ascended again into heaven, the gospels leave us with the assurance that in a very real way he remains here with us. (From God So Loved the World, 107–108)
Scriptural Accounts: Matt 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20:1–18
|William Bouguereau, The Three Marys at the Tomb, 1876.|
- The Empty Tomb (Mark 16:1–8; Matt 28:1–8; Luke 24:1–9; John 20:1–10)
- Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9–11; Matt 28:9–10; Luke 24:10–11; John 20:11–18)
- Chief Priests React to the Resurrection (Matt 28:11–15)
- The Road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–35)
- Jesus Appears to the Disciples (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:26–48; John 20:19–23 [to the Ten only])
Ideas for Families
- I find nothing wrong with traditional activities such as egg hunts and gathering candy Easter morning. But as we do Christmas morning, we make sure that the spiritual focus comes first and the "fun" second.
- Gather in a room, say the parents' bedroom, other than where Easter baskets and candy may be found. Read one of the resurrection stories, such as Luke 24:1–12. Then bear testimony of the resurrection, sing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," and have family prayer. After this other Easter traditions can follow.
- Talk about the reactions of the different characters to the evidence provided them that first Easter: the stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the witness of angels, and finally appearances of the Risen Lord. How do we react to the news of the resurrection of Jesus? How does our testimony start with small evidences, is reinforced by the witness of others, and finally solidified by personal revelation?
|Walter Rane, He Is Not Here|
Brief Discussion of the Events of Easter Sunday
See the much longer discussion in God So Loved the World, 107–119.
All four gospels begin their resurrection narratives with an account of the empty tomb, preserving the wonder and awe that filled the women who came to the tomb that early morning to find the stone rolled away.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, "Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him." (Mark 16:1-6)
|Eeugen Burnand, The Disciples Running to the Sepulchre, 1898.|
Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the vict’ry won, Alleluia!
Jesus’ agony is o’er, Alleluia!
Darkness veils the earth no more, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia! (Hymn 200)
- Jesus and Thomas (John 20:24–29)
- Jesus Meets the Disciples in Galilee (John
- Jesus and Peter: Three-fold affirmation of Peter’s love (21:15–19)
- Jesus and the Other Disciple (21:20–23)
- The Forty Day Ministry (Acts 1:1–5)
- Apostolic commission (Mark 16:15–18 [still in Jerusalem?]; Matt 28:16–20 [Galilee]; Acts 1:6–8)
- The Ascension (Mark 16:19–20; Luke 24:49–53; Acts 1:9–11)
- See also Paul’s list of post-resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:3–9 (Peter, the rest of the Twelve, over five hundred, James the brother of Jesus, "all the ‘apostles,’" and, last of all, Paul)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1–3)
|With Samuel at the Garden Tomb, Holy Week 2011|
Each of the resurrection narratives carries beauty and power, confirming our own testimonies that Jesus indeed rose from the dead and lives today. The fact that the first to actually see him were Mary Magdalene, the other women, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus suggests that all disciples, not just the Twelve, can receive sure testimonies that Jesus lives. Nevertheless, we are grateful for such special witnesses, "to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs [Greek tekm riois, "sure signs" or "tokens"]" (Acts 1:3).
For my final Easter message, however, I want to share the implications of his resurrection for us. Inasmuch as Jesus has overcome death, all shall live again . . . and as the Book of Mormon teaches, all will be restored to a perfect frame with imperfections corrected and challenges overcome (see Alma 11:42–44).
Mounting examples in this life of those who struggle with physical, developmental, and other challenges—including those of my own precious son—have caused me to see a new need for the hope of renewal, rebirth, and healing that are so marvelously illustrated in the reality of the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ own resurrection healed hearts as "grief turned to joy":
"A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:20–21)The hope of the resurrection continues to heal many grieving hearts as well as bodies, giving new meaning to the prophecy "but unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2). Significantly, Jesus’ final commission to the apostles included the important injunction that they go forth not only to teach and baptize (Matt 28:19–20) but also to lay hands on the sick that should recover (Mark 16:18, 20). Certainly part of our discipleship should be that as Christ brought hope and healing, so should we work for these ends in our own small way.
Beyond this, however, is the hope of a glorious resurrection for those who accept him and are true and faithful to the covenants that they make with him. In recent years the death of grandparents, my father, my mother-in-law, and others dear to me has brought new meaning to this Easter message. Because He lives, so shall we . . . accordingly I close with the words of Paul that I shared at Dad's funeral: