A Bird’s Eye View of Easter ~
The Easter Story retold for children ⇔
©Michael Krigline (March 2003), wp.krigline.com (regarding illustrations, see note at bottom) ⇔ [also available in Chinese; 复活节]
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Imagine what it might have been like, if a small sparrow living 2000 years ago near Jerusalem had been an eye witness to the greatest events in history…
What a storm! My wings are still drenched, even though I’ve been in here for a few hours.
“Where,” you ask? I think it’s some sort of little cave. At first I thought I was lucky to have found it, but now I seem to be trapped in here, and I don’t think I’m alone! This whole week has been strange, but how did I ever get into THIS mess?!
Well, I guess I’d better start my story at the beginning.
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It all began about five days ago. I was taking a little nap on top of a small date palm tree when the earth started to shake! The “earthquake” was man-made, for a small crowd of jubilant young people was ripping branches off the poor tree beneath me. I took to flight as I fell from my perch, and when I looked up I saw similar scenes in several directions. What could have inspired this insanity? As a curious little bird—without much else to do—I decided to find out. Dust and joyful shouting were rising from a crowd as they ascended into Jerusalem, so I flew over to investigate.
What a noise! Children were dancing, and people of all ages were waving palm branches and lining the road with their own coats! I’d never seen such a thing! The center of attention was a 33-year-old man, riding on a young donkey. “Hosana! Hosana!” the crowd shouted and sang, “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord!”
He didn’t look much like a king to me. I’d seen King Herod ride into town many times—trumpets blaring, and soldiers pushing crowds out of the way for his chariot, all decorated with gold and fine linen. Those crowds were more likely to jeer than to cheer! But THIS entry was different. There was no gold, no fine linen, and no soldiers; and even if there had been, I don’t think they could have contained the celebrating masses!
At the Temple
The next day I went to visit my cousin who lives in the Temple. Now, there’s a grand place to live—if you don’t mind excitement (especially around annual festivals like the Passover). My cousin says the temple guards don’t kick his family out because long ago King David said, “even the sparrow has found a home in your tabernacle, O God—blessed are they that dwell in your House, for they will ever be praising you…” (Ps 84).
According to my cousin, the previous day’s excitement was over a Rabbi from Galilee named Jesus. Many of the city leaders hate him, probably because the Roman governor is unhappy with anything that disturbs the peace. Did I say peace? in Jerusalem? Hah! This is a city that has rarely known peace in its long history, and that’s especially true under Roman rulers!
Anyway, many of the religious leaders dislike this young Rabbi, but the opinions of others range from confusion to devotion, with still more who don’t care one way or the other. I suppose the same could be said for Jerusalem’s masses. Most people don’t care much about what is going on in the Temple—life is hard these days, and folks are too focused on simply making it to tomorrow to worry about new teachings and new teachers who proclaim God’s Truth. This attitude seems silly to me—but we birds KNOW that every meal and every feather is a gift from God!
Nonetheless, apart from the unconcerned masses, hundreds of people adore Jesus, as I saw myself the day before along the road. My cousin said he had heard stories that made this understandable. Jesus dresses and lives like the common people—quite different from most Rabbis with their fancy robes and nice houses. What’s more, Jesus has spent a lot of time with common people—telling them stories and listening to their concerns. My cousin said Jesus has even talked about us birds! “Consider the birds of the air,” Jesus said. “They don’t plant or harvest crops, but my Father in Heaven feeds them! Not one sparrow falls to the ground without my Father knowing about it.” Now, anyone who says such nice things about us birds has got to be a good man!
Jesus doesn’t just talk, either. A little bird told me that his touch can heal people of their diseases! A swallow I know (who lives in Bethany—just a short flight away) said a man had even come out of his tomb when Jesus called out: “Lazarus, come forth!” I’m sure that stirred quite a commotion! No wonder all these people were celebrating his arrival in Jerusalem—and no wonder the authorities (both Roman and Jewish) were even more anxious than usual.
Well, there my cousin and I were, up in the Temple rafters talking about all these things, when people below us started yelling and screaming! Once again, Jesus was at the center of it all, but this time he was not humbly riding on a donkey. He had made a whip from some ropes and was wildly turning over the tables of the money changers, releasing lambs, throwing incense and grain everywhere, and opening the cages of birds meant for sacrifice. “Looks like it’s about to get crowded up here,” my cousin said as flocks of turtledoves and other winged creatures crowded onto our ledge.
What was going on?! Sure, the Pharisees had complained about this noisy market for years, but no one ever did much about it. The Temple leaders made a fortune through it—exchanging Roman coins for Temple money—and of course the priests got to eat a part of the sacrifices. But Jesus was deeply offended by any religious activity that kept people away from God. To explain his outburst he cried out: “My Father’s House is supposed to be a place of prayer for people of all nations—but you have made it into a den of thieves and robbers!”
Since there was no more room on our favorite ledge, we flew over to my cousin’s nest just outside the great courtroom—humans call it the Sanhedrin, or something like that. It was normally pretty quiet in there, but not that day. Old men in fancy robes were making quite a scene! Sadducees were complaining about all the money they had lost at the hands of this Jesus; Pharisees were complaining about all the ways he had violated their traditions, and scribes were quoting scriptures about everything from “Bethlehem” (where God’s Saviour was to be born) to “death” (the penalty for saying you are equal with God). Nobody was throwing punches, but the scene was more entertaining than anything I’d seen for a while, so I decided to stay! When it was all over, they seemed to be in general agreement that Jesus needed to come and explain himself to this important body. Then the high priest said something I didn’t quite understand (at least not at the time): “It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” Frankly, I’m not sure he understood it either!
Jesus seemed to disappear for the next few days. I heard about him teaching over here or there, healing this or that person, and so on, but I guess he kept moving around. I didn’t see him again until Thursday night.
I was over in the ritzy part of town (you wouldn’t believe the great food scraps people throw out over there!). Through an open window, I saw Jesus in an upper room. There was no big crowd this time—just a dozen guys, who all looked pretty tired! They had just eaten the Passover meal together (bummer; I always like watching that!). I guess Jesus noticed that they were all feeling tired or down, because he grabbed a towel and started to wash everyone’s feet. Frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes! This was the job for a slave, not a Rabbi!
One of the big guys didn’t like it either. “You will never wash my feet, Lord,” he said when Jesus came to him.
“Peter,” Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you then you don’t belong here with me.”
Peter paused, then smiled broadly and said: “Ho, ho! In that case, don’t stop with my feet—wash my hands and head as well!”
Laughter filled the air, breaking the obvious tension.
“Do you understand what I have done tonight?” Jesus asked, taking his place at the head of their table. “You call me Lord and Rabbi (or teacher), and you are right because that is what I am. But if I—your teacher and Lord—have washed your feet like a slave, you certainly can serve each other from now on, can’t you? I’ve given you an example to follow. You know these things are right, and God will bless you if you do them.”
The tension wasn’t gone for long, because next Jesus told them that one of THEM was going to betray him! He went on, saying that he was going to be killed, they were going to run away, Satan was going to come and test them, and then something about rising from the dead—it was all too much for a bird-brain like mine. (How does he know these things in advance, anyway?) After a while the guys sang a hymn and left for the Garden of Gethsemane—and I followed a few feet above them.
It was quiet and pretty dark in the garden. Jesus asked his disciples to keep watch and pray, and then he went a stone’s throw ahead to pray by himself. My heart nearly broke when tears and drops of sweat fell like blood from his face to the rock over which he bowed in prayer. “Father, let this cup pass from me;” Jesus prayed, “yet not my will, but Your will be done.”
What cup was he praying about? I’ve heard teachers speak of a cup of pain, and of a cup of wrath—as if God somehow puts His anger at human sin and evil into a big cup. Perhaps this was it. But why would God pour out His anger on this gentle man, who many had been calling “the Son of God?” He seemed different from every other man I’d ever seen—kinder, wiser, purer, more gentle and more…well, more everything, like a perfect man!
While I considered these things, the darkness fled as dozens of men with torches and spears entered the garden. I flew up to the top of one of the olive trees—it didn’t look like the kind of people I wanted to be around.
I don’t remember the order of everything that happened in the next few minutes. There was some yelling. At one point I heard someone shout that they were looking for Jesus from Nazareth, and when Jesus answered, “I am he” the whole group fell to the ground for a minute! The big guy called Peter swung a small sword and cut off somebody’s ear, and then Jesus healed the “bad guy” and yelled at Peter to put the sword away! The “good guys” ran off in every direction. There was even a kid named Mark who had tagged along (he and I were the only ones who heard Jesus pray)—his robe got caught on something and he ran off half naked! But in the end, the “bad guys” tied Jesus’ hands behind him and they marched off toward the Temple.
I didn’t follow this time. The whole thing was too confusing, and I was exhausted anyway. The garden seemed like as good a place as any to get some sleep, so I did.
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A Stormy Friday
I woke before the sun had even come up over the hill. You know, the early bird gets the worm! After breakfast I flew over to see my cousin at the Temple. He told me there had been a trial in the middle of the night, and that the Sanhedrin had accused Jesus of blasphemy—that is a very serious crime to the religious leaders, because it means that a man claims to be God! The Jewish law said Jesus must die, but the Romans don’t let Jews carry out such punishments, and therefore the religious leaders decided to take Jesus to the Roman governor. They all argued for a while—the Romans don’t care about blasphemy, but do care about treason, so they decided to kill Jesus for that (treason sort of means that you are trying to hurt the government, or something like that).
Anyway, they marched Jesus off to a hill (not far from this cave where I am right now), and then they did some terrible things to him. Yes, I was there. It was horrible. They stripped his clothes off and I could see that he was very bloody after a severe beating. Then they attached his torn body to a cross by putting nails in his hands and feet. People were everywhere: some crying loudly, others were laughing and saying bad things about him, religious people were reciting things from the Bible, soldiers were gambling below him, and two thieves were suffering on crosses right beside him. Even one of them cursed Jesus, until the other told him to stop. I don’t know how those dying men found the strength to talk, but one asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Then Jesus asked God to forgive the people responsible for crucifying him—amazing! Finally, he looked up and said something like, “Father, it is now paid in full. Into Your hands I hand over my spirit,” and he died.
THAT’S WHEN THIS STORM HIT. Boy, it was like the earth itself was reeling in pain. The ground began to shake, darkness like midnight surrounded us, and rain burst out of the sky. The wind hit me like a ton of bricks. I flew—if you can call it that—spinning head over heels with no control whatsoever until I hit the wall of this little cave. Nothing was broken, but I was so shaken up—partly by the storm, and partly by all the horrible things I’d seen—that I just curled up in this little hole and fell asleep.
I woke up a few hours later when I heard some people coming in. I was too scared to move. First, some ladies came in and put some spices on a big shelf at the other end of the cave. Next, they left, and a big guy carried in a huge…something…all wrapped in linen. I think it’s a dead body! It’s the right shape, and it looks like there are blood stains on it. Before I could summon the courage to move, CRASH, a large round stone had sealed up the door, leaving nothing but a few tiny cracks for air and a tiny bit of light.
And that is where I am now: trapped in a cave with something big that is starting to smell a little funny.
SO MUCH has happened this week—wonderful things, terrible things, and things that I just plain can’t understand. I feel like I am in the middle of some important drama, but what does it all mean and why does it have to end this way?
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The sparrow remained in the cold dark tomb for what seemed like forever. Then, on the third day, when he had given up all hope of rescue, something even stranger happened…
FREEDOM! GLORIOUS FREEDOM! Thank you, Lord God King of the Universe, for setting me free!
OH what an ending this story has! Early this morning, as hunger, darkness, and the smell of death tempted me to surrender to the grave, I was startled by yet another earth quake. At the same moment, my eyes caught sight of a faint glow, coming NOT from the cracks around the door but from the body with which I had been trapped since Friday afternoon. Suddenly, the glow burst forth into an indescribable brilliance. It was as if light was pouring from every pore of this wrapped body, blinding me and yet filling me with unexplainable joy. A moment later the huge stone popped open. Then there was a scream outside, followed by the sound of swords, shields, and soldiers hitting the ground like dead men! Suddenly, angels appeared, glowing with light and power. They unwrapped the body that was now standing in front of me, and I saw that it was JESUS. HE WAS ALIVE, and his body was no longer covered with bloody wounds. The only scars that remained were the holes from the nails, and from the spear that had pierced his side.
He took one step toward the door and suddenly stopped. To my surprise and unspeakable delight, Jesus turned and raised his hand right beside me! I hopped in, and together we stepped into the light of Easter morning. “I came to bring freedom,” he said; “freedom from sin and death. I may as well start with you, little friend.” His voice was filled with love as he lifted me gently into the air!
Yes, I am free—free indeed! The Son of God has set me free!
Note: This was created to read to children at an expatriates’ meeting in China, Easter 2003. The events are all in the Bible—only the bird is fictitious! I got the idea for this story many years ago but never got around to writing it out. I understand that others have written similar stories—I haven’t read them, but I apologize if any of the ideas sound similar. Scripture verses were taken from my memory, sometimes adapted for children, instead of from a particular translation. I’ve chosen to keep most pronouns in lower case letters, even when they refer to God (I don’t think a bird would know any different!).
The stained glass cross is from Faith United Methodist Church in N Canton OH (in which I grew up). Back in 2003, my wife found or adapted the “coloring book” artwork from various sources (some were “Gospel Light”; others now unknown–sorry!). We are grateful to the original artists, and would be interested in finding an illustrator to help us make ‘original’ art for this story. Write to me if interested.
For more information about Christianity, check out https://peacewithgod.net/
Original content ©Michael Krigline, including photos if noted. For contact info, visit About Us. For privacy info or to make a contribution, see our Website Standards and Use Policy page (under “About Us”). [Titles that start with ↑ point to devotional articles that help us “look up”.]