What Happened On Easter Sunday?

6 min read

Maybe you’ve got a faint idea of what happened on Easter Sunday from your school days? Or maybe you only know it’s a great weekend to indulge in chocolate and gather with friends. 

There are two key things to understand about the Easter holiday. One, is learning exactly what happened on Easter Sunday. The second is understanding what the significance of that is, and how it impacts you and your life today. 

Before we dive into the ins and outs of Easter Sunday’s events, now’s a good time to remember this. The Bible isn’t the only book that talks about Jesus of Nazareth. Other writers around the same time mention a man called Jesus. There’s a general scholarly consensus that a man called Jesus, from Nazareth, did live during the period the Bible describes.

Christianity is a faith, it requires an out-and-out surrender to God and complete trust in Him, even when you can’t see Him. So, you can’t expect to have black-and-white historical evidence for every element of your belief. It wouldn’t be much of a faith, then, would it? But, it’s a great stating point when examining such a momentous event as Easter, to know that the fact that there was a man called Jesus living as the Bible described is a widely accepted truth. 

So, What Exactly Happened On Easter Sunday?

Let’s jump straight into perhaps the most pivotal moment in world history: Jesus lives again. 

Luke 24: 1-6 says: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

‘He is not here; he has risen’. Seven short words that changed the course of history and that still radically transform our lives today. 

Easter Sunday, as we call it today, followed Jesus’ brutal crucifixion two days earlier on Good Friday. 

After being betrayed by one of his followers, Jesus was murdered, in the most violent and base of ways: He was crucified on a cross. Crucifixion was a form a death sentence saved only for the very lowest of the low in Roman society. For Jesus to have been served, this punishment would have been an intense offence for his followers. 

The Short Version Of An Epic Story

If you’re new to the story of Jesus, then the short version is that He was a total radical, bringing a message of unrestricted love to the poor, the needy, and the forgotten. He also announced God’s sovereignty over the earth through his very being, as He lived as both man and God. Both of these things earned Him a fair few enemies in the Roman Empire and high religious circles. 

Jesus’ death was a world-shattering moment for His followers. They believed He was going to save the world, that He was the answer they had been waiting for, as the messiah prophesied about in the Torah.  His death was not part of their plan. It’s impossible to know exactly what they were thinking and feeling as their beloved saviour and teacher died before them, but you can imagine they were confused, scared, and wondering whether maybe they got it all wrong.

Two agonising days followed Jesus’ death. In the depths of heartbreak and confusion, some of the loyal women who followed Jesus went to his tomb to dress his body in oils and spices. 

But, instead of a dead saviour, they found an empty tomb, a stone rolled away as if it were a pebble, and an angelic presence. 

Just pause here and take a breath: Imagine going to visit your most beloved friend, whom you had watched die, only to find their grave empty. Would you dare to hope?

The Story In Matthew’s Words

Matthew continues the story for us: 

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28: 8-10

It takes a little while for the message to get through to His followers but the truth does eventually sink in: Jesus has risen from the grave. He has conquered death. 

This is the crux of Easter Sunday. Jesus was killed, and yet He lives. That was true then, and it remains true today. 

What Does What Happened On Easter Sunday Mean Today?

Two truths were confirmed when Jesus walked out of the tomb. One is that death has no power over God. Two, Jesus lived as fully man and fully God and His death was a redemptive, extreme, act to reconcile God to His children. Amazingly, Jesus’ resurrection revealed that His death was part of God’s plan all along. 

As the disciples celebrated the return of their savior, they grappled with these truths and started to announce the good news. 

Jesus’ triumph over death meant that God’s kingdom had overcome all and that every one of us, no matter how broken, has a place in it. 

2 Timothy 1:9 says: “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” 

Easter Sunday was the launch point and revealing of the most startling message ever to be proclaimed in our world. God sacrificed His one and only son, to die in the most brutal of ways, in order to save us. And it’s not just the righteous and holy that get saved by Jesus’ extreme mercy, it’s every single person who gives their heart to God. No hoops to jump through, no catches, no exceptions. 

As Paul writes in Romans “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ”. 

And What Does What Happened On Easter Sunday Mean For Me?

What’s the meaning of Easter, and the resulting good news, for you? John 3:14 puts it best:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice, we have eternal life. Jesus, being sinless and pure, took on the weight of all of humanity’s great sin and brokenness. And took it to the grave. Because He shouldered the burden of death, we no longer have to. 

We are free not only from death, but also from living enslaved to sin. 

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 

Our inheritance as children of God is one of eternal life in the future, and tangible freedom in the present. 

Easter Sunday, Jesus’ empty tomb, and bold defeat of death have a radical and practical impact on our lives today. 

We have been liberated from the burden of sin and death. We can live an expectant life with God. And we can spend our days here on earth knowing we are loved without condition.  

This is the good news that was revealed on Easter Sunday, the message that founded the early church and this is the hope that we carry in our hearts today.

Jesus Christ died, and yet He lives. 

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