Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Easter Program

I wrote the following for a family Easter program about 15 years ago. Unfortunately I did not properly site my sources at the time because I never planned on sharing it outside of my little family. Today I have felt very strong that I should share. I do remember using the New Testament student guide and my home study seminary manuals along with the scriptures as I pulled this all together. I do not claim all of the words to be mine and original and am sorry that I did not keep my references with the work. It is long, it took us an hour to go through it. We used more scripture quotes than I have included here and we also had songs interspersed throughout.

All Jerusalem was in an uproar. It was the season of the Passover, and everywhere in the city travelers arrived. Lambs and pigeons for offerings were sold and sacrificial coins clattered in the coffers of those who had perverted the stewardship of caring for Israel. Above the festive clamor for religious merchandise, Jerusalem reverberated with concern about the "Prophet of Galilee". Among the common people and on the lips of staunch Pharisees was ever the same question-

"What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?" (John 11:56)

Many in Jerusalem must have been awed by the majesty of the drama played before them, the full significance of which they did not perceive. This commemoration of God's blessing to ancient Israel would be the last authorized Passover-the killing of paschal lambs after this year would be apostasy. For even now, as the bleating of young lambs echoed amidst the confusion of Jerusalem's din, another great and last sacrifice, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), was receiving an anointing under Mary's hand in the quiet of Simon's house at Bethany.

Jerusalem was a natural fortress. It was surrounded on three sides by unusually deep ravines and was reinforced by massive walls and strong defensive towers.. To travelers or armies approaching from the east or west, Jerusalem must have presented a formidable sight! here David established the throne of his kingdom; and after David, his son Solomon perpetuated the fame of Jerusalem through what has been called Israel's golden age. But strong walls alone do not guarantee security- from Jerusalem also gushed the fountainhead of apostasy and moral decay that vitriated the strenght of Israel and wasted her glory until pagan kings with their godless legions tramped almost at will in the very lifeblood of God's covenant people.

Jerusalem had bowed in submission to many kings- Shalmaneser, Sargon II, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Herod the Great- and even now, as Jesus prepared to enter Jerusalem, Roman troops occupied the fortress Antonia that overlooked the oft-contested city.

Jesus brandished no sword as he approached the city. And in His triumphal entry, a door wider than Jerusalem's gate opened to receive him, for at Jerusalem He gave His life for all mankind and there took leave of this mortal world to return to an estate of surpassing honor and majesty on the right hand of that God who gave Him life. (Hebrews 1;3)

First day- Jesus arrived at Jerusalem. He secured a donkey and a colt and rode through the city gates into Jerusalem. A "very great multitude" who knew Him to be the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee placed palm branches in His was and greeted Him with a hosanna shout:

"Hosanna to the Son of David:blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." (Matt. 21:9)

He went directly to the temple and according to Mark, took note of what He saw and retired to Bethany for the night.

Second Day- Early the next morning Jesus went again to the temple and made a decisive thrust calculated to challenge the Jewish religious leadership. He drove from the outer court area of the temple those who were trading and making money exchange from foreign currency. The money exchange was apparently sanctioned by the Jewish leaders, and by preventing the merchandizing, Jesus was in effect challenging their leadershhip. The issue was clear: Was the temple to be a place of worship of God or of pursuit of gain? As He cleared the temple courts, He said,

"It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." (Matt 21:13)

Third & Fourth days- jesus' wrath in the temple raised the issue of authority, and the priests were not about to let the incident pass. As Jesus came to the temple the next day, the priests challenged Him:

"By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" (matt. 21:23)

Jesus responded by relating a series of parables that offended the religious leaders of the Jews. The scribes and Pharisees challenged Him again: Jesus openly denounced them and condemned them as hypocrites.

From this point on, Jesus did not teach the public, but only the Twelve.Perceiving that Jesus had gained the upper hand in their confrontations, the Jewish leaders consulted again how they might bring about Jesus' death. They would have to move quickly before the Passover to avoid a riot, however, since Jesus had become very popular with the Jewish people. How to bring about an arrest without provoking crowd reaction was the problem... An unexpected turn of events that took place abetted their plot. One of Jesus' own disciples offered to betray Him.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.(Matt. 26:1-2,14-16)

Fifth day-Jesus had arranged to commemorate the Passover meal in a home privately reserved for Him and the Twelve. (Luke 22:7-6) Following the Passover meal, Jesus introduced a new ordinance, the sacrament, which presaged His atoning sacrifice. (Matt 26:26-29) he then prophesied of His death and indicated who would betray Him. (Matt 26:21-25)

After some instructions, Jesus offered His great intercessory prayer. Then, with the eleven (Judas had left), Jesus led them outside the walls to a familiar spot- Gethsemane. Then taking Peter, James and John with Him, He went further into the Garden where He then left those three and went off by himself to pray. There he pled with His Heavenly Father.

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matt. 26:39)

Jesus returned to the three and found them sleeping. Apparently at this point Jesus spoke directly to Peter, the apostle who only a short time before, during the Last Supper, had pledged his loyalty to the Savior, declaring,

"Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. "(Matt. 26:33)

Now he had fallen asleep during the Lord's most agonizing hour. jesus gave Peter a mild rebuke and assigned the three an activity to help them.

Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation (Mark 14:38)

Jesus again departed to His place of private prayer, returned again to the apostles and found them sleeping. And again a third time He prayed and returned to find them sleeping. This time He let them sleep. As Jesus prayed, He suffered "the pain of all men" (D&C 18:11) and the agony was so great that it caused Him to bleed at every pore. He was not left alone, but an angel came to the Garden to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43)

Some time later He rejoined His apostles and indicated that His betrayer was at hand. While He spoke, an armed band led by Judas approached Jesus to seize Him. The soldiers knew which man was Jesus by giving them a prearranged sign- a kiss.

Without resistance, Jesus submitted. Jesus was brought to an illegal trial that night before Annas the former high priest. He was questioned and struck.

Sixth day- He was then taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest. He was then tried byCaiaphas, the scribes, and the elders commonly known as the Sanhedrin. This trial was to find some crime of which to convict Jesus and put Him to death. The Jewish leaders now faced another problem- they were not content that Jesus should be put to death; they also wanted to discredit Him before His own people. To do this, the leaders arranged to have Jesus charged with two crimes. The first was blasphemy, a capital offense under Jewish law. he was unanimously convicted of this charge solely on the evidence that he had said that He was the Son of God. (see Matt. 26:57-66)

This conviction would discredit Jesus before the Jews, but the rulers knew well that they could not carry out the death penalty; only the Roman governor could pronounce this. Therefore, they had to find political indictment against Jesus. The surest means of securing this was the charge of sedition against the state, for He had claimed to be a "King of the Jews."

jesus was then bound and taken before the Roman leader Pilate. The Romans believed in many gods. They even believed that some of their rulers and political leaders were gods. Blasphemy was not a crime in the eyes of the Romans and the Jewish leaders knew this. Hence, when the Jewish leaders brought Jesus before Pilate, they accused Him of treason instead of blasphemy.

Pilate's examination found Jesus guiltless and Jesus was sent back to Herod where he was mocked and made to wear a robe. Jesus was then sent back to Pilate for a second hearing and was again found innocent. During this trial, Pilate reminded the Jews of one of their customs to release one prisoner at the time of the feast. Fearing a demonstrationk Pilate gave in to the clamor to free the murderer Barabbas and crucify Jesus.

Pilate had Jesus scourged before delivering Him to the Roman soldiers for crucifixion. When Jesus was delivered to the soldiers by Pilate, they placed a crown of thorns on His head, a purple robe on His shoulders, and a reed in His hand as a mock scepter. After mocking Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews", they beat Him with their hands and with the reed and spit upon Him.

Jesus was then led out of the city to a hill called Golgotha, "the place of a skull", to be crucified. (John 19:17)

He was made to carry His own cross. As the crucifixion procession left the city, they encountered Simon, a man from Cyrene, coming to Jerusalem. Simon was forced by the soldiers to carry Jesus' cross for Him.

Jesus was offered a cup of wine with a drug in it; he refused to drink it. he was then stripped and nailed to the cross at about 9:00 a.m. A sign denoting the accusation against Jesus was attached to the cross above His head. It was written in three different languages- Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and said something like: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Two theives were crucified at the same time. One hung on a cross to the right of Jesus, the other to His left. After they had crucified Him, the Roman soldiers cast lots for the various pieces of Jesus' clothing.

As he suffered in agony on the cross, Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, taunted, and scorned by the crowd including the chief priests, the scribes, the soldiers, and one of the thieves. (Matt 27:40 & 42, Luke 23:35)

Jesus prayed even though He was suffering terribly. (Luke 23:34)

He spoke to one of the thieves (Luke 23:43)

He spoke to His mother, Mary and to John the apostle (John 19:26,27)

Again to His Father in Heaven (Matt 27:46)

And His final statements at about 3:00 p.m.

I thirst (John 19:28)

It is finished (John 19:30)

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46)

These events occurred on a Friday, the day prior to the Jewish Sabbath. Since it would violate the rabbinical Sabbath laws to leave bodies hanging on the cross during the Sabbath, and since the Sabbath began at sunset on Friday, several of the Jewish leaders went to Pilate and obtained permission to have the legs of the three men broken so that their deaths would be hastened and the bodies could be removed prior to the Sabbath. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves. Since it was apparent that Jesus was already dead, the soldiers did not break His legs. However, to make sure that He was dead, one of the soldiers thrust his spear into Jesus' side. blood and water gushed forth from the wound.

Joseph of Arimathea obtained Pilate's permission to take the body of Jesus and bury it. He and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus' body in fine linen with spices and laid it in a tomb or sepulchre wich had been "hewn out of a rock". They rolled a large stone in front of the door of the spulchre. The next day the chief priests and Pharisees became worried that some of Jesus' disciples would steal His body and then publicly proclaim that Jesus was resurrected. They posted soldiers to guard the tomb and they sealed the stone door of the tomb.

Had the gospel ended with jesus' burial, there would be no gospel story, no "good news". The great message of these testators is that Jesus was risen and was seen again by any witnesses. On the first day of the week, the most memorable Sunday in history, Jesus Christ emerged alive from the tomb, and appeared before mary. The testimony of these witnesses constitutes the gospel story, the "good news".

Just before dawn on the third day, the earth began to quake; an angel came and rolled the stone away. The Roman soldiers were so frightened by what they saw that they shook and fell down as if they were dead.

Very early in the morning, some women who were friends of Jesus came to the tomb. They brought sweet spices to pour upon the body of Jesus as was the custom. On their way to the tomb, one thing troubled them. How could they reach the body of Jesus? The heavy stone would be in the way. They knew nothing of the angel who had rolled the stone away. They did not know that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. When they arrived and discovered He was not there, they were frightened. But the angels, who were there in the tomb, spoke to the women. They said, "FEAR NOT... HE IS NOT HERE; FOR HE IS RISEN"

Mary Magdalene was the first person on earth to see Jesus as a resurrected being. As she lingered near the tomb, Jesus spoke to her. When she realized that it was Jesus, her sorrow turned to overwhelming joy.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a glorious and important event. Because of His sacrifice, we will al be resurrected and live forever.

"These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believeing ye might have life through His name." (John 20:31)

Said the angel, “He is risen!”Tell it out with joyful voice:He has burst His three days’ prison;Let the whole wide earth rejoice:Death is conquered, we are free,Christ has won the victory.
Come, ye sad and fearful hearted,With glad smile and radiant brow!Death’s long shadows have departed;All our woes are over now,Due to passion that He bore—Sin and pain can vex no more.
Come, with high and holy hymning,Chant our Lord’s triumphant day;Not one darksome cloud is dimmingYonder glorious morning ray,Breaking over the purple east:Brighter far our Easter feast.
He is risen, He is risen!He has opened Heaven’s gate:We are free from sin’s dark prison,Risen to a holier state;And a brighter Easter beamOn our longing eyes shall stream.

Cecil Francis Alexander


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Cami said...

Hello Sandra! I found your blog site on David Woolley's blog site. This was a fabulous ending to a wonderful day! I'm looking forward to reading your blog in the future, and I also enjoy YOUR comments on Top O' The Morning! Thanks for the Easter gift! :) Cami

Cami said...

Hi Sandra, me again. I just finished reading a few more of your posts. WHERE is there a $10.00 shoe store?!!! And two of my children and I are also going to California in July. I am a bit nervous and alot excited! I am a single mother with 5 children and have just recently been realizing how very HUGE this world is and what a small fish bowl I've been confining myself to! I'm feeling stronger and stronger the more I learn and feed my spirit! Thanks again, this has been some very enjoyable reading! :)