Did you know that the words “Happy Easter” in Chinese literally translate into “Happy Resurrection Festival”?
This Easter, I taught my students about Easter egg hunts and the Easter Bunny, but I also felt that I would be remiss if I did not share the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–even in Chinese, it’s the true meaning of the holiday, and it shouldn’t be skipped!
I was especially looking forward to sharing the story behind Easter with one class in particular. Do you remember when I got really grumpy last December and I decided to cancel Christmas for one of my classes? That class just happens to be the only class that I have kept from last semester; all of my other classes were brand new at the start of the second semester. The only reason I can come up with for why I would be assigned to keep that particular class out of all six of my classes is that God might be giving me a second chance with them. I have another opportunity to share the gospel with them (and another opportunity to show them love instead of grumpiness).
It would have been really difficult for me to summarize the story of the life of Jesus and translate it into Chinese. In fact, if I had simply used an online translator (which tend to be notoriously unreliable), my story of Jesus would have come out sounding all jumbled and confusing and grammatically incorrect. The only solution I could come up with was to use www.BibleGateway.com to look up certain verses (in the Simplified Chinese translation of the Bible) that I felt best summarized the Easter story. I also found pictures online, and I created a kind of storybook PowerPoint to use for my Easter “history lesson.”
I’ve found that it’s really not as intimidating to share the gospel with Chinese people as it is with Americans. Most non-believing Americans have already heard bits and pieces of the gospel and formed their own opinions about it already–simply telling a stranger that you are a Christian can spark either a sudden kinship or sudden animosity and resentment, depending on whom you are speaking with. Chinese people don’t act that way. Many of them know that the prominent religion in America is Christianity (just as we know that many people in the Middle East are Muslim and many people in the Far East–like China–are Buddhist or Taoist), but they don’t always know much about Christianity beyond that. Many students whom Justin and I have spoken with are sincerely curious to know what we believe, though they often politely express (just like so many Americans rudely express) that they are not interested in conversion. But they are almost always interested in learning more–hence, my Easter “history lesson.”
The following is the Easter “history lesson” that Justin and I presented to about 450 students total at our school. The only exception is that for their presentation, the scriptures were entirely in Chinese:
John 3:16 and Matt 1:22-23: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Luke 2:40, 52: And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Matthew 4:23-25: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Luke 4:22 and Mark 11:18 : All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
Mark 14:43, 50: Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Then everyone deserted him and fled.
Mark 14: 61-65: But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
Mark 15:13-14: “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Luke 23:33-34: When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Luke 23: 50, 52-53: Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.
John 20:1-2: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
John 20: 10-14: Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
John 20:15-18: “He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 1:3, 10-13: Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Because I cannot read Chinese, I picked a student volunteer to read out loud to the class each page of the story. Some of them puzzled over it, some of them laughed at it, and some of them slept through it. But some of the students paid close attention to the story. I’ve done my part, and I just have to trust that now God will do the rest. My prayer is that these scriptures will transform from words spoken on their lips for a class assignment into real truths embedded in their hearts and minds. I really hope that God has used me to do something good for his kingdom, even if it’s only just planting a seed.