A Bird's Eye View of Easter
(The Easter Story retold for
©Michael Krigline (March 2003)
(Note: This was created to read to children at an expatriates meeting in Xi'an, Easter 2003. See note at bottom.)
(Other Easter resources:
This story in Chinese 中文;
Easter Holiday Handout; article about
The Passion--with Emperor Kangxi's poem)
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.
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
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!
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!
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. 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 quite 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!
(continued in the other column--above right)
(continued from the other column)
One of the big
guys didn’t like it either. “You will never wash my feet, Lord,” he said
when Jesus came to him.
replied, “If I don’t wash you then you don’t belong here with me.”
“Ho, ho! In that case,
don’t stop with my feet—wash my hands and head as well!”
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 stop 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! The “good guys” ran off in every direction.
There was even a kid who had tagged along—his coat 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.
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 laws, 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 say you are a king, or something
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 had been
severely beaten. His back looked like raw meat. 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 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
And that is where
I am now: trapped in a cave with something big that is starting to smell a
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?
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 beckoned 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!
Notes: I wrote this in
March 2003 to be read aloud to children at an Easter
meeting in Xi’an for Internationals. 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 pronouns in lower case letters, even when they refer to God
(I don’t think a bird would know any different!).
© 2003 Michael Krigline, all rights
reserved. Permission granted to print/copy for personal use only.
Website Standards and Use Policy)
(See a picture of the "empty
tomb" on our Israel photo page. Read
some thoughts for adults on Easter by clicking here:
The Passion of Christ.
A holiday summary for students/teachers is
Click here to see
this story in Chinese 中文.
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