The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s Biggest Miracle
February 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-2364-1
Meet the unlikely people who witnessed history’s greatest event.
At Easter, the Son of God took on the world’s sin and defeated the devil, death, and grave. How is it, then, that history’s most glorious moment is surrounded by fearful fishermen, despised tax collectors, marginalized women, feeble politicians, and traitorous friends?
In The Characters of Easter, you’ll become acquainted with the unlikely collection of ordinary people who witnessed the miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection. Enter their stories and ultimately draw closer to Christ Himself as you encounter His Passion through their experiences. Take a journey back to first-century Palestine and walk in the shoes of legendary people like Simon Peter, Judas, Pilate, John, Mary Magdalene and others.
This book provides a fresh approach to the Lenten season and can be used as a devotional or study for both individuals and groups. Once you’ve learned about the characters of Easter, meet those who witnessed the birth of Christ in the companion title The Characters of Christmas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Darling is the Senior Vice-President of Communications for the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and a regular contributor to several leading evangelical publications, including Christianity Today, Homelife, InTouch and others. He has authored six books, including Teen People of the Bible, The Original Jesus, and The Dignity Revolution. Dan is a teaching pastor at Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee and lives with his wife and four children in the Nashville area.
Dan Darling is such a delight to read! With eloquence and clarity, he gives us a tour of the many characters who witnessed the most important event in human history—Jesus’ resurrection. Readers will be blessed to pick up this book!
– Jonathan Pennington
Professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary; Spiritual Formation Pastor, Sojourn East
The most tragic reality of last Easter and too many other Easters is that so many people spend holidays like this alone, with no human connection; 2020 was agonizing because it brought funerals where loved ones couldn’t gather to mourn loss, empty bedsides where those gasping for air were denied comforting touch, and long months when the elderly were isolated from meaningful community.
Humans are intensely social creatures, not made for isolation. On Good Friday, we can see in the agony of Jesus in His dying moments a true loneliness we are spared from experiencing. Jesus – the blame of humankind’s worst evil thrust upon His sagging shoulders – felt the cold shoulder of the Father, who turned His face away. Jesus was alone so you would never be alone and could enjoy communion with the One who created you.
He felt the sting of isolation so you could be baptized into a body of believers in Heaven and earth. Jesus took upon Himself your sins so you could enjoy intimacy with your Father. He is the One who broke through the sting of death, who defeated sin, and who ushers you into communion with God.
To the grief-stricken sisters of Lazarus, Jesus gave this promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25 NIV).
Jesus isn’t only predicting that He would rise again. Jesus is saying more than that: He is the resurrection and the life. And this is why everything we say and believe hinges on this one reality. It separates Christianity from just another fantasy or religious exercise. Tish Warren writes poignantly, “It’s painfully clear that the Resurrection is either the whole hope of the world – the very center of reality – or Christianity is not worth our time.”
This Easter we are declaring that it is worth our time because the Easter story is declaring that Jesus put death to death. It means that the curse that takes mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children and grandchildren, coworkers and neighbors isn’t eternal.
Consider the words of Paul, the educated, elite religious leader who once thought this new Jesus movement was a dangerous fad and a fool’s errand. After his own encounter with the risen Jesus, he writes passionately in the most eloquent apologetic for Easter, in 1 Corinthians 15, why Jesus’ resurrection changes everything:
But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (vv. 20-22)
Easter means those who are in Christ will be made alive, spiritually and physically. It means there is a new world dawning that is better than the old one. It means there is something afoot in the world. In the words of N.T. Wright, “Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.”
Perhaps it’s hard to make sense of it all, in the midst of whatever hardship or difficulty you are facing at the moment. The world, perhaps your world even, seems as upside down and unstable as it has ever been. But if the resurrection really happened, then it means this reality isn’t forever.
Easter is the sign that a new world is coming, that one day God will take rotted dust particles, ravaged by disease and decay, and will reconstitute them into real, physical bodies fit for eternity. This cycle of pain and sadness, viruses and death has an expiration date.
How often do we know the style and traditions of Easter, pastel colors, spring dresses, and seersucker suits, more than we know the actual characters involved in the story of our Lord’s resurrection? The ultimate importance of Easter is that the tomb is empty, but there is so much more to the story that Dan Darling unlocks to help us see the significance of all those involved in the story leading up to the Super Bowl of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m looking forward to using The Characters of Easter as a primary reference for
preaching a sermon series leading up to Easter, and I’m thankful he wrote this book.
– Dean Inserra
Author of The Unsaved Christian; founding pastor of City Church Tallahasee
How fitting that a book about the resurrection makes the characters come alive! In The Characters of Easter, Dan Darling manages to make the most important theological event in history equally accessible to the person who’s learning the story for the first time and the seasoned theologian who has studied it carefully for years. Filled with thoughtful and practical insights, this book will fuel the reader’s passion for the passion story.
– Hershael W. York
Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church
I don’t know how it happened. But somewhere along the way, I became numb to the wonder of Easter. I still believed that Jesus rose from the grave, but the miracle no longer moved and amazed me the way it once did. The Characters of Easter was the perfect antidote for my spiritual stupor. Darling’s vivid portraits of the people present at the first Easter brought the momentous event to life for me. I learned fascinating details about the ancient world and received fresh insights about Jesus’ friend and enemies. In the end, The Characters of Easter renewed my gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection and left me worshiping in the light of the empty tomb. I know it will do the same for you.
– Drew Dyck
Editor; author of Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science