· It’s the greatest story ever told.
· Today we celebrate Easter Sunday.
· I want to take you back to that story, a story over two thousand years old.
· It started during the Passover time, a Jewish celebration, which celebrates the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
· It was in the evening. Jesus met with his disciples in a private dinner. They had all sat down to eat a meal together, none of them expecting what Jesus would do and what would be to come in the days following. Jesus is talking with them, and suddenly he tells them one of them will betray him. Imagine your close teacher and mentor saying to you, “You will betray me.”
· Fear came over the disciples, because none of them wanted to betray Jesus. They kept asking him, “Is it I?” This was the man they had seen do the impossible, raise Lazarus from the dead, heal the blind, and now he was telling them there was a betrayer among them.
· Then Jesus had the first communion service with them. He taught the disciples how to break the bread and drink the wine. He wanted to leave them with something, because soon he would be gone. He had been trying to prepare them for this day, but they weren’t prepared.
· After dinner, Jesus takes them to the garden to pray. They go to Gethsemane. He asked his friends to sit with him as he prayed. He took Peter, James, and John into a part of the garden. He told them his soul was sorrowful, even unto death. “Remain here and watch,” he said.
· Jesus went by himself, and began to pray. “Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Imagine the tears falling down his face. Imagine the burden. Imagine the weight.
Jesus returned to the disciples, and he looked around to find them asleep. He scolded them for falling asleep, and tries to tell them yet another lesson. Jesus went away again and prayed. Three times they fell asleep, and then the hour came.
· And while Jesus was still speaking, Judas came up to him and arrested him with the chief priests, scribes, and elders. Judas kissed Jesus, and they took him away. Imagine the terror. The horror. The injustice.
· The disciples hid, because they are afraid. Their teacher and mentor had been taken away. The day had come. The hour was now. Peter walks into the courtyard, and three times he betrays Jesus. People were standing around trying to point fingers and judge.
· Jesus is taken to Pilate in the morning. I wonder if the disciples were thinking, “Maybe this will all go away.” But it didn’t.
· Jesus comes before Pilate, and Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews. Jesus says, “You have said so.”
· Every year, Pilate released one prisoner to the Jews. So Pilate asked the people whether they should release the murderer Barabbas or Jesus, the King of the Jews. The chief priests stirred up the people, and said, release Barabbas. Pilate asked the people what to do with Jesus, and they said “Crucify Him!”
· So the soldiers led Jesus through the streets. They put a purple cloak on him, and thorn of crowns. They started to make fun of him, and salute him. “Hail, King of the Jews.” They hit his head with a reed and spit on him. And when they got bored of mocking him, they took the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him, and got him ready for crucifixion.
· They brought him to Golgatha. They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he would not take it. And they crucified him.
· They took his garments and gambled them away. It was 9am, and above his head read “The King of the Jews.”
· There was a robber on his left and on his right.
· People walked by mocking the prophecies. I thought you would destroy the temple in three days, and build it back up, come off the cross, save yourself.
· It was noon, and a darkness came over the whole land. And around 3pm, Jesus cried out one final time saying “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And he uttered a loud cry, and took his last breath. And the curtain in the temple was town into two, from top to bottom. When the centurion saw this, he said surely this was the Son of God.
· And Mary his mother, and Mary his disciple, and Salome were there. The women were there.
· After he died, they prepared the body, wrapped him in white linen, and placed him into the tomb.
· And then when the Sabbath had passed, the women went to the tomb to anoint the body. It was early the first day of the week.
· They wondered who would help them roll away the great stone on the tomb.
· When they got closer to the tomb, the stone had been rolled away, and they saw a young man in a white robe sitting down. They were afraid.
· The man told them, “Do not be alarmed,you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go tell the disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
· And so Mary, the first disciple to see Jesus, a woman, went and told the other disciples.
· Today, this is the story of Jesus.
· It is the story of how Jesus died for our sins and redemption.
· It is the story about grace, forgiveness, hope, and resurrection.
· Today, this story is for you. No matter where you are, you can receive God’s forgiveness and grace in your life. You can be filled with the Holy Spirit.
· Jesus wants to always be in your life. He loves you. He cares for you. He is here with you.
· We will now offer communion to you, a symbol and ritual to remember Jesus today.