Most people are familiar with the story of Easter, whether or not they believe it. It is in movies, plays, songs, TV shows, and kid storybooks. Though we know the crucial details of Easter, we may not be as familiar with the people (other than Jesus) and minor details of the story. In The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s biggest Miracle, Daniel Darling invites us to take a fresh look at the Easter story by examining the cast of characters and their roles.
It is a sequel to Darling’s popular book, the Characters of Christmas, which examines the unlikely and ordinary people who witnessed or played a role in the nativity story.
The Characters of Easter has ten chapters, each about one or more characters. These are the failure: Peter, the beloved: John, the betrayer: Judas, the rogue: Barabbas, the powerless: Pilate, the doubter: Thomas, the religious: the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, the witnesses: the women at the tomb, the secret disciples: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and the executioners: The Romans.
This book aims not to learn more about these characters per se, but to learn more about Jesus Christ. None of these people got caught up in the Easter story by accident. God providentially placed them there and attributed their roles before time began. And Darling believes that learning about them will help us learn about Christ.
He says, “At the center of Easter, at the center of gravity of world history and of the cosmos, stands Jesus. But let us learn about Christ by learning about the ragtag cast of characters who were swept up into His story. By looking at the unlikely disciples, unprepared civil authorities, and unscrupulous religious leaders, we learn more about the setting in which Jesus lived and died, and we will gain a great love for God’s long and sure plan for salvation and rescue.”
Darling does a good job of helping us examine the Easter story with fresh eyes. I particularly enjoyed learning more about less popular characters such as Pilate, Barabbas, and the Romans. He also includes background history that I did not know before, and it shed new light on the Easter story. Though Darling provides interesting insights about the characters, he often ascribes them extra-biblical motivation or emotions.
Like almost every book published recently, The Characters of Easter has questions at the end of each chapter to provoke further reflection and discussion with others. But what I loved most was the hymn and song suggestions at the end of each chapter. It is a pleasant touch.
Overall, The Characters of Easter is a good book to read during the Lenten season. It will give you insights that will make you read the most extraordinary story ever told with a fresh perspective.
*Moody Publishers graciously gave me a complimentary copy and this is my honest review. *