The most important thing you can know about Easter is that Easter is about love. Because Easter is about God, and God’s love for all that God created– you, and me, and the whole wide world and all the people and animals and plants and everything in it. God made us all, and God loves us all– and God wants everyone to know and understand love, and live in love, and love each other. That’s why God made the world.
The world is full of darkness, and that hurts God’s heart. God did not make the world to be dark or sad or scary, and yet there are lots of dark and sad and scary things in the world. Instead of loving each other, people often hate each other. People are unkind or cruel to each other. People hurt each other and hurt all the beautiful things in the world that God made.
Have you ever been in a room at night with all the lights turned off, with not one little bit of light anywhere? That can be scary, can’t it? You can feel lost and alone and afraid. That is kind of how the world was, and God decided that They were going to do something about it. God loved the world too much to want it to stay lost in the scary darkness.
So God became a person– a man named Jesus, and Jesus came and lived in the world. He was born as a little baby and grew up with a mother and father and brothers and sisters just like any other person, and he worked and played and laughed and cried and was happy and sad just like every other person. Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus was still part of God, yet he was also every bit a human being, just like you, and just like me. That’s how much God loved us, that God decided to become like you and like me.
When you’re all alone in the scary darkness, imagine what it’s like if you turn on a flashlight, or a lamp, or somebody lights a candle. Suddenly, the darkness doesn’t seem quite so scary. Jesus came to be a light in the darkness of the world. He came to teach people how to love each other. He was kind to people– especially to all the people who seemed to be the most alone and the most lost in the scary darkness. Jesus taught people what God was like– telling them about God’s love, and about God’s plan to rescue the world from the darkness and sadness and bad things.
There were people who didn’t like what Jesus said. They were people who wanted everyone else to believe that the only way God would love them is if they followed a whole long list of rules. They didn’t care about love at all, really: they just wanted to control other people. And the long lists of rules gave them a handy way to do it.
So then Jesus came, telling everybody about how God loves us all, and that the only rule God wants us to learn isn’t really a rule at all, it’s more like a map that will show us the way to how life will work best and make us happy– a map of how to love each other. And what Jesus said made that group of hateful, controlling people very upset. In fact it made them so angry that in the end they decided that they wanted to kill Jesus and put an end to his message.
Now, of course, these hateful, controlling people didn’t believe that Jesus came from God. They didn’t believe that Jesus could have snapped his fingers and had a whole army of angels to defeat anybody who tried to hurt Jesus. But Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus knew that the hateful, controlling people were going to kill him. And Jesus let them do it. Why?
People have talked about that for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even in the Bible, which tells us about Jesus and what he said and did and what people close to him thought about him, there are different ideas of why Jesus died. But here are some ideas that people have come up with:
Jesus died to show the world that real love will always sacrifice itself rather than hurt someone else. Darkness and death had the world and everyone in it in their grip. To rescue the world and all of us from the darkness and death, Jesus had to enter into death– to die. And then, by coming back to life, he ended the final power of death, and broke the power of the darkness that makes people want to hurt each other and be cruel to each other.
We probably will never understand exactly what it is that happened when Jesus died. But what we do know is that Jesus hung on a cross and died because God loved us. Easter is about love.
Jesus died and was put into a tomb. A tomb is like a cave; many hundreds of years ago that was where people would put their dead. A big stone was rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb, so that nobody could get in or out. And men stood in front of the stone to guard it.
Jesus’ friends were very sad and afraid. They didn’t understand why Jesus had died either. And they felt lost and alone and scared without him.
Early in the morning on Easter Sunday, a group of women who had followed Jesus and been his friends went to the tomb. In those days, when somebody died people would take oils and spices and strips of cloth and they would prepare the body for its final rest by putting the spices, oils, and cloths on the body. It was a way to show how much they loved the dead person, a way of saying goodbye.
But when the women got to the tomb, the men who had guarded it were lying on the ground as though they’d been put to sleep, and the big stone was rolled away. When the women went inside, they were frightened because two glowing angels were there. But the angels said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Jesus is alive! He’s not here!”
The women didn’t know what to think. There was one woman whose name was Mary and she was a special friend of Jesus. She was so sad about Jesus being dead that she didn’t really understand what the angels had said. She wandered about the garden where the tomb was, crying. Suddenly she almost ran into a man. “Why are you crying?” the man asked her. “Because they have taken my friend Jesus away, and I don’t know where they have put him,” said Mary.
Mary’s eyes were so full of tears that she didn’t recognize that it was Jesus who was speaking to her. But then Jesus said in a gentle voice, “Mary!” And hearing her name said with such love, Mary realized who it was, and she hugged Jesus in the joy and amazement that he was alive again.
Jesus was alive! And he still is alive. After he had spent some time with his friends on earth, he went back to live with God. But his Spirit still lives with us, teaching us how to love each other, giving us the light we need to drive back the darkness, and giving us hope that even when we are scared and alone and sad, reminding us that God is making everything sad come untrue. Someday, the darkness will be all gone– there will be nothing but light. The sadness and tears will be all gone– there will be nothing but joy. The hatred will be all gone– there will be nothing but love and kindness and goodness. Nobody will ever get sick or hurt again. Nobody will ever die. There will never be any need to say “goodbye.” God is making the whole world new again.
That is what Easter is about.