Blog: I Believe in Easter
Easter differs in meaning for people all around the world today. For many, Easter is simply
a holiday about eating chocolate bunnies, easter eggs, and hot cross buns. Rarely do people think
about the connection between Easter, and how it relates to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A few years ago,
I produced a documentary entitled “I believe in Easter”. This documentary investigates how Christianity
and Easter are linked and asks important questions such as: what are the origins of Easter?
Are the Passover and Easter linked? Where did some of the Easter traditions come from?
Passover is important to the story of Easter as it symbolically points to Christ being the sacrificial lamb
of passover. The Passover is a jewish festival about God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt through
ten miraculous plagues. The final plague was about how the death angel struck all the firstborn in Egypt dead.
The angel passed over the houses where the Israelites lived and left them unharmed. This is because the Israelites
were instructed to kill a year old male lamb without blemish and to put the blood over their doorposts and lintels.
The lambs that were killed are symbolic of Jesus and how his blood was spilled to save us from our sin.
Prophecy of the true paschal lamb
Around 800 BC Isaiah the prophet, predicted that the Messiah would be the final paschal sacrifice.
In Isaiah 53:7 E.S.V it states “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb
that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
Christ was also introduced by John The Baptist as the sacrificial lamb in John 1:29
Messianic significance of the Passover
At the time of Jesus, Passover had developed into a very large festival in Jerusalem
where tens of thousands of people would attend. Jesus made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem
on a donkey when he came for the passover. He was presenting himself as the Passover lamb.
The Last Supper
Jesus’s last meal was the Passover. He revealed the significance of the bread and wine at passover in
Matthew 26:26 E.S.V Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, broke it
and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body". By breaking the bread, Jesus was
symbolically saying that his body was a holy sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. And he took a cup,
when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood
of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."(Matthew 26: 27-28 E.S.V ).
The religious leaders arrested Jesus on the night of Passover and delivered him to Pontus Pilot,
who sentenced Jesus to be crucified on the cross for claiming he was the son of God. On the eve
of Passover, the lambs would be taken to the temple to be slaughtered and sacrificed, just like
Jesus was taken to be sacrificed on the cross for our sins. Jesus's crucifixion was the fulfilment
of God’s plan prophesied by the prophets and by Jesus himself. David wrote about Jesus's crucifixion
1000 years before it happened in Psalm 22: 15-18 E.S.V : “they have pierced my hands and feet...”
As Jesus hung on the cross with his life pouring out of him, he said: “Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do.” Isaiah prophesied this very act in Isaiah 53:12.
Jesus’s body was placed in a tomb by his followers after he died. When Jesus's followers
returned to the tomb, it was empty and they were met by an angel who said in Luke 24: 5-7 E.S.V
"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen...” Jesus made numerous appearances
to his followers. Paul tells us in Corinthians that Jesus was seen by more than 500 people at one time. Peter's
first sermon in Acts 1:14, preached of Christ's resurrection and 3000 people believed and received Him as their living
Saviour that day. The Resurrection proved that Christ was divine. It revealed Christ's power over death,
and the Resurrection secured for the Christian believers, victory over death.
Judaism and Christianity
The New Testament tells us that Jesus, Paul and the early Church kept the Passover festival in a new spirit.
Christians kept the Passover as a remembrance, emphasising the death of Christ as the true Paschal lamb.
The disciples, believers and the first church in Jerusalem were Jewish. As the message of salvation spread,
more and more gentile believers were added to the church. It took some 300 years for Christianity in its
official status to start separating from Judaism.
The Dating of Easter
The dating of Easter became a source of controversy between believers.
Christians, from the Roman Church began celebrating the festival on Sunday as the day of Christ’s resurrection.
While Christians from Asia Minor and Syria kept to the original Jewish dates of Passover. This meant that
the resurrection, could fall on any day of the week. Real change came in the beginning of the 4th century
when Constantine, the Roman Emperor, converted to Christianity. Constantine called all the bishops
together at the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. to address a number of differences within the Church.
One of council's decision regarding Easter, declared that it was to be kept on a Sunday.
It was decided to make Easter Sunday the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
This is why the date of Easter moves around between March 21 and April 25th today.
Origin of the word Easter
According to the English Church historian Bede, the word Easter refers to the old Anglo Saxon word Ēostre
which refers to the Germanic fertility goddess whose festivals were celebrated in the month given
to her name. Recently scholars have disputed this theory but it is still a popular belief. In Greek and Latin,
Easter is called Pascha, a word derived from Aramaic, with the same meaning as the Hebrew
word Pesach - the term for the Passover festival.
Symbols and Customs
The most popular symbol associated with Easter is the Easter bunny. The Easter bunny has
acquired a cherished role as the legendary producer of Easter eggs. Rabbits were symbols of fertility
and were associated with spring time. One legend is that the fertility goddess Ēostre found a bird wounded
on the ground and in order to save it she transformed it into a hare. The bird took the appearance of a
hare but kept the ability to lay eggs.
The custom of the Easter bunny bringing eggs gained popularity in Germany around the early 16th Century.
Parents told their children that if they were good on the day before Easter, the Osterhase (Easter Bunny)
would come and lay colourful eggs. As the new world expanded, immigrants took their traditions with them,
now Easter egg hunts have became a universal custom. Chocolate Easter eggs were made in Europe
in the early 19th Century and continues as a billion dollar business today.
Christians adopted the egg as an Easter custom and gave it a new context of representing the tomb
from which Jesus came forth to new life. Originally the eggs were painted red to represent the blood
of Christ. Hot cross buns are another Easter tradition that was adopted. Saxons ate buns marked with a
cross in honour of the goddess, Ēostre. The church clergy tried to put a stop to the sacred buns
being baked at Easter but eventually they gave up and blessed the bun instead, giving it a
new context of representing the cross of Christ. From the fourth century, the Church kept the Friday
before Easter as the day of Christ's crucifixion. This Friday became known as
Great Friday, Holy Friday or Good Friday.
Easter is a time to share our faith and to be part of a greater story: the redemption of mankind.
I would encourage readers to look more closely at the Jewish festivals and feasts especially Passover,
to further enrich your faith in Jesus Christ. The Old Testament continually points to Christ as the saviour.
Remember the words of Jesus as He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples in 1 Corinthians
11: 25-26 E.S.V “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance
of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
Blog: Film Festival Interview
I recently did an interview for Christian Worldview Film Festival about our documentary
HUDSON TAYLOR INTO THE HEART OF THE DRAGON which won the best documentary category.
Here are some of my thoughts to some questions from the interview.
How did this project help you grow as a filmmaker?
The scale and size of Hudson Taylor’s story was challenging and I wanted to do justice
to it. I needed to tell the story in a creative engaging way with a limited budget by thinking
outside the box. It challenged me to take more risks. An example of this was getting three local
historians, who were part of the Hudson Taylor Group in Barnsley England, to have a conversation
with each other about Hudson Taylor’s life. The conversations brought up interesting, amusing,
insightful and unique information about Hudson’s story in a natural engaging way.
Any moments from creating this film that impacted you personally?
Hudson Taylor lost three of his children and his wife within a span of 3 years while living in China.
When we dramatised Taylor talking about his loss’s, this scene made a strong impression on me
about not giving up but enduring and overcoming the journey we are on.
How did you work to honour God in the process of making this film?
I was looking to shine a light on the faithfulness of God which kept Hudson Taylor
going through all his trials and tribulations of 50 years of ministry in China until his last breath.
Why are you passionate about the message of Hudson Taylor Into the Heart of the Dragon?
China, at the time for Westerners, was this vast unknown giant full of mystery, evoking an image
of this powerful unapproachable dragon. It would take courage, faith, commitment, and love to reach
into her heart with the message of salvation in Jesus. Hudson Taylor showed all
of these characteristics throughout his life.
Any additional comments you would like to make to encourage young filmmakers?
Filmmaking is telling a story. Once you have learned the basics you will need to experiment and
learn from the process. Don’t be limiting, try something new and always be adaptable.
Each story will pose different challenges but there is always a creative solution.
Lastly don’t overcomplicate the process.
Blog: In God’s Company
Some of the most well known companies such as Heinz, Kraft, Thomas Cook, Hartley’s Jam,
Tropicana, Colgate and Quaker Oats have the most humble beginnings. We are
currently producing a documentary series called IN GOD’S COMPANY telling the
life stories about the men who started these companies. They all had two things in common:
they each had a solid Christian testimony and they applied their faith in their business practices.
They were Philanthropists who were committed to the betterment of others.
The series is presented by Peter Lupson, who is an author and historian.
We have been producing the first two stories of Thomas Cook and William Hartley over
the past several months. Filming on location in Snowdonia, Loch Lomond, Liverpool,
London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Colne and many more other places in England,
Wales and Scotland. The Thomas Cook story has been released and the
William Hartley story will be available soon. We are working towards filming the remaining
stories. If you are interested in helping us fund the rest of the stories please contact us.
Gary Wilkinson Bio:
My name is Gary Wilkinson and I am a documentary producer. I have been in the media
and broadcasting field for over 25 years. I started working in Christian media from the
very beginning of my vocation after I became a Christian in my final year of film and
television college. I went directly into the mission field in Africa fulfilling various roles
within media production. I have also worked at the highest level in the commercial sector
as a director, editor and graphic designer. Since 2009 I have been independently
producing biographical and historical documentaries about Christianity. Several of
my documentaries have received multiple awards. I am passionate about telling stories
that are an encouragement to people on their journey of faith.
Blog: I Believe in Easter