The events that took place around Jesus’ death and resurrection are remembered by Christians each year during the Easter season. Christians believe that Jesus truly defeated death, by ascending to Heaven after his resurrection.

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar. It celebrates God raising his son, Jesus, from the dead, which for Christians symbolises Jesus’ destruction of the power of sin and the possibility of an afterlife in Heaven. Christians remember the events of the last week of Jesus’ life (before his crucifixion) during Holy Week. Holy Week ends with Easter Sunday, which is the day when Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

Visual representation of the Easter story.

Jesus’ crucifixion

The Gospel of Mark (15:21–41) describes the events of Jesus’ crucifixion:

  • Jesus is forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, the place of his crucifixion, but Simon of Cyrene, a passer-by, is made to carry it when Jesus becomes exhausted.
  • At Golgotha, Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh to reduce his discomfort but he does not take it.
  • The soldiers take his clothes and gamble to decide who gets what.
  • Jesus is crucified in the morning alongside two criminals, who are nailed to crosses either side of him. Many passers-by insult and mock Jesus.
  • At noon, darkness settles over the land. Then, at three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”, meaning My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
  • At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain of the Temple rips in two from top to bottom. A Roman soldier who witnesses Jesus’ death exclaims, Surely this man was the Son of God!

Interpretations of the Easter story

Most denominations of Christianity teach that Jesus’ crucifixion happened just as described in the Bible. The crucifixion is important for Christians who believe that God sacrificed Jesus, his only son, to atone for the sins of humanity. For some Unitarian and Quaker Christians who not believe that Jesus was the son of God, the crucifixion is not of significance. For these Christians, the Eucharist, which celebrates Jesus’ crucifixion, is not a feature of their worship.