Although many people immediately think of Christmas as the most important date in the Christian calendar, Easter actually has a great deal of religious significance. In fact, most Christians would argue that Easter is the most important time of year. What is the significance of Good Friday and Easter Sunday?
Good Friday – Jesus is killed on the Cross
According to the Bible, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, who told the Romans where to find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas identified Jesus with a kiss, so that the soldiers knew who he was. Jesus was arrested by the Sanhedrin and sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Good Friday was the day that Jesus was crucified at Golgotha (The Place of the Skull). He was crucified between two criminals, and Jesus’ crime was blasphemy – he claimed to be ‘King of the Jews’. It is believed that at the time when Jesus was on the cross, God turned away from him. Jesus shouted “My God, my God, why have you foresaken me?’
The Gospel accounts of the crucifixion indicate that Jesus went through a relatively quick death on the cross. Although crucifixion is a slow and painful death, Jesus was already dead by the time they came to break their legs. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke – synoptic as they can be seen together) record three hours of darkness from 12pm-3pm at the time of the crucifixion. John’s Gospel records that at the time that Jesus died, the curtain at the temple tore in two and it was said that ‘He really was the son of God’.
Easter Sunday – Jesus Rises from the Dead
On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead according to Christian belief. Easter Sunday remembers the day of the resurrection.
Easter Sunday is perhaps the most important date in the Christian calendar. The resurrection was the ultimate miracle, and proof that Jesus really was the son of God.
Easter Sunday Celebrations
In the run up to Easter, many Christians will give something up for lent. This remembers Jesus’ time in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights.
On Good Friday, hot cross buns are eaten to remember how Jesus died on the cross so that the sins of man could be forgiven.
On Easter Sunday itself, chocolate eggs are given as gifts in Western Europe, which symbolise new life through the resurrection. Cuddly toy lambs may be given because Jesus was seen to be the ‘lamb of God’.
Easter Sunday may be celebrated in many different ways around the world and depending upon denomination. Catholics avoid eating meat on Good Friday. In many parts of Africa and South America, re-enactments of the carrying of the cross may take place.