Welcome to our garden
Why do you have a holiday at Easter?
In New Zealand we know that Christmas is linked to the birth of Jesus and we see this on Christmas cards, in some shop window displays, and in the Christmas carols we hear played on the radio. With fewer people believing in Jesus, many just accept Easter as being a holiday without giving a lot of thought to the reason why. But Easter is as important a festival in the Christian year as Christmas.
Jesus died on the cross because he was willing to stand up to the authorities of his time. He was willing to stand against the things he saw as being wrong in society during his lifetime:
the unjust ways some people were treated
the way some people were treated as outcasts or considered to be unclean simply because they came from a different culture or had suffered from a sickness
the judgmental attitudes of some
These same issues continue in society today.
The challenges that faced Jesus are now ours, and we need to consider our response. He suffered pain, sorrow and grief just as each one of us will encounter such experiences as we make our journey through life.
The Easter Garden is intended to help us to reflect on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and what this means in our lives today. As you journey around the garden remember the pain of the events in the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. What were Jesus’ experiences” What are our responses today? How do we meet the challenges we face in society today?
Easter means much more than the hot cross buns that go on sale soon after Christmas, just as the joy and celebration of Christ’s resurrection is much more fulfilling than the Easter eggs soon to be devoured.
The biblical texts, together with some points of reflection, have been put together with this text to help you to explore Jesus’ journey to the cross and to reflect on the significance of this and its meaning in your life.
Please take your time to reflect and hopefully find inner peace as you share in this experience.
STATION 1 PALM BRANCHES
Matthew 21:1-11 — Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ”Go into the villge ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, ”Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large drowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ”Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalme, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ”Who is this?” The crowds were saying, ”This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus went on a journey knowing he was heading for trouble. He knew what was right, what he had to do and the possible consequences of his actions. We all have challenges that we need to face in life and often this will mean doing things we may feel uneasy or uncomfortable with. Spend a moment reflecting on your life and challenges you may be wary of facing.
Station 2 tABLE TIPPED OVER
Luke 19: 45-48 — Jesus cleanses the temple.
Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there, and he said, ”It is written: My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people were spellbound at what they heard.
Jesus was unhappy when he saw the way in which the temple was being used. He became angry. Here we see human reactions from Jesus. He was willing to stand against such behaviour. What are the things in life that make us angry? Are they issues about things we want, wanting things our own way, or are they about unjust systems that affect the wellbeing of others? Do we have the courage and the passion to try to seek to bring justice to our society?
STATION 3 MONEY BAG
Luke 22: 1-5 — The plot to kill Jesus.
Now the festival of unleavened bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray Jesus to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money.
Judas was willing to betray Jesus for money. Money was more important to him than Jesus’ life. Are there things that come between us and our love of God? What is it that we really worship?
STATION 4 TABLE AND CHALICE
Luke 22: 7:23 — The Passover with the disciples.
When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to the, ”I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ”Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ”This is my body, which is given for you. do this in remembrance of me.” and he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ”This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
Jesus made great sacrifices for people including giving up his life, and yet he gave thanks to God. Do we take the time to reflect on God’s goodness to us and the richness of our lives? Do we remember to say, ”Thank you to God?”
STATION 5 SEAT IN GARDEN
Luke 22: 39-46 — Jesus prays.
”He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ”Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ”Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to the, ”Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”
Today we tend to fill our lives. do we have time to talk to God? Do we have time to sit and listen to God? Do we spend our prayer time asking God for or to do things or do we sit and spend time in God’s presence?
You may like to sit and spend a little time in God’s presence reflecting on and giving thanks for God’s goodness.
STATION 6 SWORD
Luke 22: 47-53 — The betrayal and arrest of Jesus.
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, ”Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ”Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ”No more of this!” And he touched the slave’s ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ”Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!” Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house.
Judas approached Jesus with a kiss, a sign of friendship, while at the same time betraying him to the people who wanted Jesus killed. Are there things that we do that give the appearance of friendship, loyalty to Christ, while in reality we are betraying him and turning people against God?
STATION 7 SMALL FIRE, CHICKENS AND ROOSTER
Luke 22: 54-62 — Peter denies Jesus.
But Peter was following at a distrance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ”This man also was with him.” But Peter denied it, saying, ”Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ”You also are one of them.” But Peter said, ”Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, ”Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, ”Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ”Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter denied knowing Jesus when he felt he was in danger. Are there times when we have — or even still do — turn against God and deny any involvement when we are challenged or fear losing friends, when our popularity or positions in life are challenged?
STATION 8 Whip
Luke 22: 63-71 — Mocking and beating of Jesus.
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ”Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, ”If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, ”If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, ”Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to the, ”You say that I am.” Then they said, ”What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”
Jesus never gave up despite the challenges, hardship and pains he had to endure. God was with Jesus and supported him through these difficult times. Are we experiencing difficult times when we, too, need an extra measure of God’s love and support?
Station 9 TERRACOTTA BOWL
Luke 23:1-16 — Jesus before the council, Pilate and Herod and his sentencing to death.
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, ”We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, ”Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, ”You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ”I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, ”He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. and when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, ”You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
Have there been times when we have taken the easy option and washed our hands of issues that we do not want to address? Have there been times when we have given in to the pressure of others even though we have known that it is not right? Let us ask God to forgive us.
STATION 10 SIGNS -- BARABBAS
Luke 23: 18-25 — Calling for the release of Barabbas
Then they all shouted out together, ”Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept shouting, ”Crucify, crucify him!” A third time Pilate said to them, ”Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that Jesus should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
Are there times when we turn with the crowd and offer greater allegiance to someone else or something else than God?
STATION 11 JESUS FALLS
Luke 23 — On the way to the cross.
As they led Jesus away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Are we willing to help others when we see they are having trouble — even if there are a lot of people who are being unkind to the person?
STATION 12 MARY
Luke 23 — The crucifixion (on the way).
A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ”Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Simon helped Jesus. Mary and other women wept for Jesus and offered help and support in any way they could. Jesus helped many people in his life. How is this type of love and support reflected in our lives?
STATION 13 THREE CROSSES, RED FLOWER & CONTAINER OF STONES
Luke 23: 32-49 — The crucifixion.
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ”Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ”He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ”If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, ”This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ”Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, ”Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, ”Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, ”Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ”father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ”Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Jesus was not alone on the cross. God was with him. god is with us also in our pain and in our sorrow. Even at the end Jesus sought forgiveness for those who killed him and those who mocked him. What they did to Jexus was horrendous. Sometimes we hold grudges, fail to forgive people who we think have wronged us in much smaller ways. Are there things we need to forgive others? Can we hand them over to God? You may like to take one of the small stones from the container and place it at the foot of the cross while asking God to help you to forgive someone.
STATION 14 TOMB
Luke 23: 30-36 — the death and burial.
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to its plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
At times we have things in our lives that we cannot see our way through. Things that can seem like the end of our hopes, the end of our lives: bitter disappointments, devastating grief, tragic betrayals, financial catastrophes, family difficulties and the whole terrain of human problems. Let us offer these times to God. Again you may like to place a stone at the entrance to the tomb.
FLOWERS -- SYMBOLISING A NEW DAY
Luke 24: 1-12 — He is risen.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed 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, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
But on Easter Day — just three days after the crucifixion, the tomb was empty. The empty tomb shows us that even though we have felt we have come to the end of our road, our journey, there is hope. It is a place for new beginnings. Let us give thanks to God for setting us free.
If, in your time of reflection, you have issued raised for you and would like to discuss these with someone, please call at the office or complete on of the cards available at the Garden, and we will arange a time for you to meet with someone.