Archives: Who's Risen from the Dead, Anyway?

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Easter Seder

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Graphic from Alternatives' collection Spirit of Simplicity: Art #3A-559

Easter Seder

by Milo L. Thornberry


Jewish people observe the Passover, which commemorates the Israelites' redemption from slavery in Egypt, about the same time Christians celebrate Easter. At the heart of the Jewish festival is the retelling of the story behind the Passover meal, the Seder ("order"):

"When your children say to you: What do you mean by this service? Then you shall say . . ." (Exodus 12:26)

In response to a set of questions from the children, the different generations at the table recount the story and the meaning of the celebration. This rite has proven an important way to keep the significance of this celebration before the children and the whole family.

For Christian people, with the popular cultural and commercial forces bearing Easter bunnies, new clothes, baskets, candy, toys, etc., it is not always easy to remember that the reason for celebrating Easter is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The following series of questions and answers attempts to use the form of the Jewish Seder to retell the story of the resurrection and to explain its significance. It is designed for use by families or other groups at the celebration meal on Easter Sunday. It focuses attention on the central meaning of Easter and, in doing so, to contribute to the development of "a spirituality of cultural resistance." This Seder, like the Jewish one, assumes the presence and participation of more than one generation at the family or group meeting: the youngest generation present asks the questions and the older generations answer and explain.

You may want to revise or rewrite this Seder. The idea is to create one that you can use year after year so that the Seder becomes an Easter tradition in your family.

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The Seder

 The youngest child:
Why is this day different from all other days?
An elder:
On this day, almost 2,000 years ago, God raised up Jesus from the dead.

Jesus' body, which had been crucified three days before, had been taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. Early in the morning on the third day, some women went to the tomb. When they got there, they found that the stone which had sealed the tomb had been removed and the body of Jesus was gone.
A child:
What happened to his body?
An elder:
They thought his body had been stolen. An angel appeared to the women and told them not to be afraid, that Jesus wasn't there because he had been raised from the dead, just as he said he would, and that he would see them later.

The women ran to tell Jesus' disciples what they had seen and heard. Some of the disciples didn't believe the women's story until Jesus actually appeared to them. When they personally experienced his presence, they knew he was alive.
A child:
Who killed him?
An elder:
Although they were encouraged by some religious leaders, Jesus was executed by the Roman authorities. The Romans had overrun Judea almost a hundred years earlier, but the Jews had never ceased trying to regain their freedom. Since Jesus was very popular among the people, the Romans were afraid that if he did become King, he might try to drive them out. Some of the religious leaders, who had received special favors from the Romans, were also afraid of Jesus. Together with the Roman officials, they cooperated in a plan to bring Jesus to trial and have him executed.
A child:
Why were those religious leaders afraid of Jesus?
An elder:
For three years, Jesus and his twelve disciples had traveled throughout the land preaching, teaching and healing people. Great crowds of people followed him wherever he went. He taught them that God loves all people and that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love one's neighbor. He enlarged the meaning of "neighbor" to include the poor, the outcasts and even one's enemies. He spent most of his time with people rejected by society. They flocked to him and heard him gladly.
With the religious leaders, it was different. Jesus was often in trouble with them. His hard words about the dangers of wealth, injustice and hypocrisy didn't sit well with people who were neither poor nor outcast, people who didn't really care about the poor. Because he exposed the religious leaders for what they were, they were afraid they would lose their privileged positions.
A child:
Were all of the religious leaders opposed to Jesus?
An elder:
No, not all of the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus. Some of them were amazed at his teaching, healing and his courage in confronting the authorities, and believed that he was sent from God. Others were secret disciples. Those who feared him, however, conspired with the Roman authorities to put him to death.
A child:
Did God really raise Jesus from the dead?
An elder:
There are stories in the New Testament about the risen Lord appearing to his followers, sometimes by the sea, sometimes on the road, and sometimes when they were all together in a house. One of the stories tells about a disciple who doubted that Jesus was really alive. Only after Jesus appeared to him and invited him to touch his wounds did he believe. But the stories make it clear that the risen Jesus was not exactly as he was before.

Whatever the differences, his followers came to recognize him when he appeared to them. Their sense of his presence was so real that they were willing to continue doing the things he had been doing, even though that meant suffering, persecution, and often death.
A child:
Why do we celebrate Easter?
An elder:
God's only begotten One, Jesus, was sent into the world to bring God's good news of love and forgiveness for all people, including us. Because he included the poor, outcasts and enemies in the circle of God's love, he was persecuted and finally killed.

God raised him from the dead as a sign of approval for the work Jesus had done on earth. His preaching, teaching, healing and identification with the poor was the work God wanted done in the world.

For a couple of days after the crucifixion, it appeared that all Jesus had done was just a beautiful but fleeting dream. That wasn't the end! God raised up Jesus as if to say, "The words he spoke in my name are true! The deeds he did are my deeds! And they are now the work of all who follow him." When Jesus appeared to his followers after the resurrection, he told them, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

And so we are his followers today because we believe this story.
All children:
The Lord is risen!
All elders:
He is risen indeed!
Hallelujah! Amen!

"An Easter Seder" was created by Milo Thornberry, former director of Alternatives. He currently serves as pastor of a United Methodist Church in Oregon.

Get to know Milo at Post #181.

©Creative Commons (originally Alternatives)
For more resources (some in Spanish) for Advent & Christmas, Lent & Easter, weddings and other celebrations, visit SimpleLivingWorks.org.

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Page updated 13 Jan. 2014

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