Here are ten things about Easter you may or may not know:
1. Where does the word Easter come from? It appears early Christian missionaries co-opted a pagan spring festival celebrating the fertility goddess Eostre – hence the eggs and rabbits. They turned what had been a pagan rite into a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
2. Cock’s crow: When Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times before the cock crows, Jesus may have referred to something other than somebody’s rooster. The Roman army mounted a guard through the night. At the start of each three-hour shift, a bugle was blown and the guard changed. The bugle call at 3 a.m. was called gallicinium or “cock’s crow.”
3. The black man at Calvary: A Roman soldier could draft any non-Roman to do any sort of menial task. Mark tells us Simon of Cyrene was grabbed to carry the cross for Jesus. Cyrene is in Africa. Simon becomes more than a bystander and hapless pack animal to the Christian story. Since his children are known to the early readers of Mark, it is quite likely that Simon’s experiences that day lead him to become one of the first members of Christ’s church.
4. Three days in the grave: If Jesus was buried on Friday and was raised on Sunday, how could he be in the grave three days? Jews at this time believed the new day began at sundown. Jesus was buried Friday afternoon. That was one day. He was in the grave Saturday. That is two days. Sunday began at sundown on Saturday. That is three days.
5. The Easter date moves around: Western Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon, following the Spring Equinox. Other traditions use other dates.
6. Attending church only on Easter and a couple of times a year is biblically acceptable. Certainly the Ten Commandments admonishes us to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” but a couple of verses later, God instructs the Israelites to keep feast with him three times a year.
7. The hymn sung by Jesus and the disciples before going out to the Garden was Psalm 136.
8. Who were the three Marys at the crucifixion? According to the Gospel of John they were Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Cleopas who was Jesus’ aunt. Children’s shoes were not big enough to hold all of the goodies, so Easter baskets became the popular place to hide holiday treats.
9. There was a streaker at the Garden: It is quite likely the young man Mark refers to in his Gospel who was in the garden wrapped only in a sheet was himself. How else would he know what Jesus prayed that night? When Jesus was arrested, a soldier grabbed the sheet and Mark had to run naked back to the house.
10. Each Gospel writer attributes different last words from Jesus on the cross. Mark says he made a “great shout.” According to Matthew, Jesus said, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” Luke wrote that Jesus said, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” “It is finished”
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