It is the story of tragedy and triumph, passed down through the ages as part of the greatest story ever told, encouraging news for a troubled world.
As we celebrate this Easter season, we would like to share, once again, this story with our readers.
So Pilate, anxious to please the crowd, released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip then turned Him over to the Roman soldiers to crucify Him. They dressed Him in a purple robe and made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on His head. Then they saluted, yelling, "Hail! King of the Jews!" And they beat Him on the head with a stick, spit on Him and dropped to their knees in mock worship. When they were finally tired of mocking Him, they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes on Him again. Then they led Him away to be crucified.
A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross. And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Hill).They offered Him wine drugged with myrrh, but He refused it. Then they nailed Him to the cross.They gambled for His clothes, throwing dice to decide who would get them.
It was nine o'clock in the morning when the crucifixion took place. A signboard was fastened to the cross above Jesus' head, announcing the charge against Him. It read: "The King of the Jews." Two criminals were crucified with Him, their crosses on either side of His. And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. "Ha! Look at you now!" they yelled at Him. "You can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, can you? Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!"
The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. "He saved others," they scoffed, "but He can't save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe Him!" Even the two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus ridiculed Him.
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock. Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought He was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to Him on a stick so he could drink. "Leave Him alone. Let's see whether Elijah will come and take Him down!" he said.
Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing Him saw how He had died, he exclaimed, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"
Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph) and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for Him while He was in Galilee. Then they and many other women had come with Him to Jerusalem.
This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, an honored member of the high council, Joseph from Arimathea (who was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come), gathered his courage and went to Pilate to ask for Jesus' body. Pilate couldn't believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman military officer in charge and asked him. The officer confirmed the fact, and Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth, and taking Jesus' body down from the cross, he wrapped it in the cloth and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus' body was laid.
The next evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James went out and purchased burial spices to put on Jesus' body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they came to the tomb. On the way they were discussing who would roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. But when they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone - a very large one - had already been rolled aside. So they entered the tomb, and there on the right sat a young man clothed in a white robe. The women were startled, but the angel said, "Do not be so surprised. You are looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified. He isn't here! He has been raised from the dead! Look, this is where they laid His body. Now go and give this message to His disciples, including Peter: Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there, just as He told you before He died!" The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, saying nothing to anyone because they were too frightened to talk.
It was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw Him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping. But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen Him, they didn't believe her.
Afterward He appeared to two who were walking from Jerusalem into the country, but they didn't recognize Him at first because He had changed His appearance. When they realized who He was, they rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them.
Still later He appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their unbelief - their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
And then He told them,
"Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in My name, and they will speak new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won't hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them."
When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God's right hand. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked with them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
To all of our readers we wish a safe and blessed Easter.