The Very First Easter was a Gold Medallion Book Award finalist and its author, Paul L. Maier, Ph.D., is a bestselling author of many books for adults and children. In this book, Maier attempts to retell the Easter story while providing some historical background on the subject.
The book begins with Christopher, a grade school boy, sitting at the table dyeing Easter eggs, when his father decides to read the biblical story of Easter aloud. Dad reads passages, and makes comments and answers questions along the way. We learn about Jesus' boyhood, a little bit about his ministry, and then the details of the original Palm Sunday. Dad explains why Jesus rode a donkey, and why some people hated Jesus. Dad explains about the Last Supper and why believers take communion today. He goes on to tell about Judas' betrayal, how Jesus went before Pilate, how the soldiers mocked him, and how he was hung on a cross alongside two thieves. When Christopher learns how dark it became, he asks if there might have been an eclipse. Dad says there was no eclipse; "the sun and moon were simply in the wrong positions."
Next, Dad tells about Jesus' burial, and how some were afraid Jesus' body would be stolen. Angels appear, and announce that Jesus is risen, and how Jesus appeared to many. Chris asks if Jesus was a ghost, since he could walk through doors. Dad replies, "That's exactly what the disciples thought. But to prove that He wasn't a ghost, Jesus ate some fish and invited them to touch Him." A ghost, Jesus said, "doesn't have flesh and bones." Dad says, "Jesus was both God and man. As God, he could walk through walls. As a man, he could eat food." Dad tells about doubting Thomas, and several more of Jesus' appearances, including to Paul. Then Dad says,
"Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to be with us always, His great work for us continues..."
What I Like: I like how the author has tried to answer many questions within the text, through Chris' and Dad's dialogue. Christopher asks many important questions, and his father (a history teacher) answers them mostly well. I also appreciate that this book goes into much greater detail than most picture books do about what happened after Christ rose. Too, Francisco Ordaz' illustrations are gorgeous. They are rendered in warm hues and much detail; they remind me of some of the great masters' biblical paintings.
What I Dislike: Sometimes the dialogue is stilted and sounds unnatural. And while the author mostly does a good job of inserting questions into his text and answering them well, sometimes his answers are inadequate. For example, his answer to the question "How do we know Jesus was really God?" is weak. He says: "Jesus spoke the truth as only God could. And He did incredible miracles...He even stopped the wind and calmed the waves. Only God could do those things." A good answer to this question could probably take up an entire book, but it would have been nice to at least mention Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.
Overall Rating: Very Good.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 9 - 12, but some slightly younger kids will enjoy this, too.
Publishing Info: Concordia, 2000; ISBN: 0570070538; hard back, $14.99.
Special Info: Some Christians will object that Jesus' face is depicted in this book.