Today Christians unite to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The Good Friday story was a bleak one. Worshippers hear of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the denial of Christ three times by Peter before the cock crowed, and the Gospel story of how the Jews demanded the crucifixion of Christ from Pilate. The sorry discovery of Christ in Gethsemane, the denial in the Temple and the endless trials by the Jewish and Roman authorities make grisly reading. Easter Sunday replaces all this sombre news with the joy of the knowledge that Christ is risen. The Sunday story tells of the three women preparing to go to the tomb â€“ Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Salome, only to find the entrance stone rolled away. They hear the news that Jesus has risen.
Today Easter takes place in Britain in a largely secular country, where a majority do not believe Jesus was the Son of God, and do not think he rose from the dead. Easter has been overwhelmed instead by commercial interests celebrating the new life of spring through Easter bunnies and Easter eggs in chocolate.
It is a testament to the power of the Christian message and the enduring nature of the Christian story that so much of our secular debate 2000 years on from those events in Palestine should still be about the values of love and justice that Jesus stood for, recorded by his disciples through the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. It is a testament to the deep rooted Christian values that we still have an established Church of England, and see the growth of the Catholic and non conformist Churches alongside the official religion. Whilst a majority do not believe, a majority will sit through the occasional Church service at times of need or for the bigger events in their lives, and most will have some understanding of the Easter story.
Indeed, more will have a view on the events that befell Jesus than will understand what their Easter egg is about. There are arguments over the origins of the Easter egg. Some think it was always Christian â€“ a blood red painted egg to celebrate the new life inside, purified by the blood of Christ. Some think the egg was allowed as part of the diet again only after the end of Lent, so Easter Sunday was the day to celebrate the change of menu. Some trace the eggs back to a pagan goddess, Eostre. In several places there are ancient ceremonies of egg rolling hard boiled varieties with or without painted shells. Faberge took the art of the egg to new heights with their amazing jewelled precious metal eggs given to lucky recipients as Easter gifts.
All agree that the egg is a symbol of new life and hope. The Easter hare, who transposed into the Easter bunny, is a symbol of fecundity and spring activity. Many celebrate with a meal of Spring lamb; some remember the Simnel cake with its characteristic chicken and egg decorations over marzipan. Simnel cakes probably date from medieval times, when they would have eleven marzipan balls around their top to represent the eleven true disciples of Jesus. It is a delightful story that Lambert Simnel, the pretender to Henry VIIâ€™s throne, devised them when he was given work in the royal kitchens as his punishment for rebellion.
A happy Easter to all my readers.