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Classic Easter Poems to Inspire Reflection and Praise

Classic Easter Poems to Inspire Reflection and Praise

Easter is not only a time to read what Scripture tells us about Jesus’ sacrifice and victory. It is also the perfect time to look at classic Christian writings that have considered Easter’s events, writings that help us reflect on Easter’s full meaning. 

Poetry can be particularly effective at capturing the Easter message, perhaps because the event is an inherently poetric subject: deep tragedy turned into deep beauty. A.W. Pink sums up the message this way:

The Lord Jesus died as none other ever did. His life was not taken from Him; He laid it down of Himself. This was His claim: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:17-18). The most convincing evidence of this was seen in the committal of His spirit into the hands of the Father.

In Matthew 27:50 we read, "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit." But this translation fails to bring out the proper force of the original: the meaning of the Greek is He "dismissed His spirit." This expression is most appropriate in Matthew, which is the kingly gospel, presenting our Lord as "The Son of David, the King of the Jews." Such a term is beautifully suited in the royal gospel, for the Lord’s act connotes one of authority, as of a king dismissing a servant. The word used in Mark - which presents our Lord as the perfect servant - is the same as in our text - taken from Luke, the gospel of Christ’s perfect manhood - and signifies, He "breathed out His spirit." It was His passive endurance of death. In John, which is the gospel of Christ’s divine glory, another word is employed by the Holy Spirit: "He bowed his head and gave up the spirit" (John 19:30), or "delivered up" would perhaps be more exact. Here the Savior does not "commend" His spirit to the Father, as in the gospel of his humanity but, in keeping with his divine glory, as one who has full power over it, He "delivers up" His spirit!

The end was now reached. Unconquered by death, Jesus cries with a loud voice of unexhausted strength and delivers up His spirit into the hands of his Father, and in His uniqueness was manifested. No one else ever did this or died in this way. His birth was unique. His life was unique. His death also was unique. In "laying down" His life, His death was differentiated from all other deaths. He died by an act of His own volition! Who but a divine person could have done this? In a mere man it would have been suicide: but in Him it was a proof of His perfection and uniqueness. He died like the Prince of Life!

Adapted from The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, 7. The Word of Contentment, by A.W. Pink.

If Jesus had merely died for our sins, that would be incredible enough. But he also rose again. G.K. Chesterton summarizes that shocking, poetic moment when his followers discovered there was more to the story: 

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways, they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.” —G.K. Chesterton, Everlasting Man

May the words of these classic Easter Poems help us gaze upon our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection in profoundly fresh ways.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/kevinschreiber

  • people waving palm branches, poems about palm sunday

    Poems about Palm Sunday

    Palm Sunday combines celebration with coming danger. It is a day we remember Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. While we echo Jesus’s devoted followers who shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” we’re also mindful that our own hearts, like theirs, are fickle. Oh Lord, who can keep every foot from stumbling, let us abide in You, and You in us—that our hearts may be kept from treachery.

    On that first Palm Sunday, our servant King understood the truth about His fans’ allegiance. Jesus humbly rides a donkey into the crowd’s rapturous presence and accepts their accolades, knowing that the shouts of “Hosanna” will become spiteful shouts of “crucify Him.”

    "Ride On, in Majesty" by Henry Hart Milman

    Ride on, ride on in majesty!
    Hark, all the tribes hosanna cry,
    thy humble beast pursues his road
    with palms and scattered garments strowed.

    Ride on, ride on in majesty!
    In lowly pomp ride on to die,
    O Christ thy triumph now begin
    o’er captive death and conquered sin.

    Ride on, ride on in majesty!
    The winged squadrons of the sky
    look down with sad and wond’ring eyes
    to see the approaching sacrifice.

    Ride on, ride on in majesty!
    Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
    the Father on his sapphire throne
    awaits his own anointed Son.

    Ride on, ride on in majesty!
    In lowly pomp ride on to die;
    bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
    then take, O God, thy power and reign.

    "The Donkey" by G.K. Chesterton

    When fishes flew and forests walked
    And figs grew upon thorn,
    Some moment when the moon was blood
    Then surely I was born.

    With monstrous head and sickening cry
    And ears like errant wings,
    The devil’s walking parody
    On all four-footed things.

    The tattered outlaw of the earth,
    Of ancient crooked will;
    Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
    I keep my secret still.

    Fools! For I also had my hour;
    One far fierce hour and sweet:
    There was a shout about my ears,
    And palms before my feet.

    "Palm Sunday: A Sonnet" by Malcolm Guite

    Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,

    The seething holy city of my heart,

    The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?

    Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;

    They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,

    And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find

    The challenge, the reversal he is bringing

    Changes their tune. I know what lies behind

    The surface flourish that so quickly fades;

    Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,

    The hardness of the heart, its barricades,

    And at the core, the dreadful emptiness

    Of a perverted temple. Jesus come

    Break my resistance and make me your home.

    Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Avel/Chuklanov

  • Jesus Anointed at Bethany-German engraving 19th century

    Poems about Holy Wednesday

    On the Wednesday before His crucifixion, Jesus spends time in Bethany. As He dines with friends, Mary approaches Him, carrying a vessel of costly fragrant oil. She breaks open the bottle and spills her most valuable possession over the head of Her beloved Lord—who had raised her brother from the dead. Then empties the bottle upon His feet—the same feet at which she’d basked in “one needful thing.” She anoints her Savior for burial, not fully realizing that her offering symbolizes the precious, costly blood Jesus will soon pour out for her. (Matthew 26:10-13)

    The disciples are indignant about Mary’s extravagant gesture and ask why the expensive perfume was not sold to help the poor. As the group’s treasurer, Judas Iscariot’s greed seethes within his traitorous heart. His lust for money gives birth to sin. From that moment on, Judas resolves to betray Jesus.

    "The Anointing at Bethany" by Malcolm Guite

    Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus
    So close the candles stir with their soft breath
    And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
    Lit by these mysteries of life and death.

    For beauty now begins the final movement
    In quietness and intimate encounter
    The alabaster jar of precious ointment
    Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

    The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
    With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
    The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
    Here at the very centre of all things,

    Here at the meeting place of love and loss
    We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

    (Excerpted from Illustrations and Meditations by Charles Spurgeon)

    O, my Lord, let me not merely talk thus,

    and pretend to despise earthly treasure,

    when all the while I am hunting after it

    but grant me grace to live above these things,

    never setting my heart upon them,

    nor caring whether I have them, or have them not

    but exercising all my energy in pleasing thee,

    and in gaining those things which thou dost hold in esteem.

    Give me, I pray thee, the riches of thy grace

    that I may at last attain to the riches of thy glory, through Christ Jesus.

    "Good from Evil" by John Sterling

    Thou God, so rulest; such the plan
    Of endless change, evolving good.
    Thou leadest thus desponding man
    With hope on all thy works to brood.

    In all to see an endless will
    For all educing light and life,
    The blessings born from seeming ill
    And peace the end assured of strife.

    So thou in me, O God! ordain
    That quiet faith and gladness pure
    O’er all convulsions past may reign,
     And root my soul in Thee secure.

    So haggard wrecks of former woe
    Beneath thy radiant light may shine,
    And charmed to steadfast being show
    O’er all their havoc bliss divine!

    Photo Credit: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld/Getty Images

  • jesus' cup with gethsemane in the background, poems about maundy thursday

    Poems about Maundy Thursday

    On the Thursday before His crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples share their last Passover supper. The meal marks history with a sacred allegory of Christ’s atoning death. The wine—His blood. The bread—His body. We receive Him as the priceless antidote for sin-poisoned souls. 

    As Jesus knelt before each of the twelve, He saturated their feet at a basin, then wiped the world’s grime onto a linen towel wrapped around His waist. After He symbolically takes their uncleanliness upon Himself, He issues a new command for them to “love one another,” and He will soon give them an example of how to accomplish that lofty feat by laying His life down for them. 

    After The Last Supper, Jesus takes His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, an ancient olive tree grove they had been to before. Twice, Jesus has to awaken His inner circle of prayer partners. The three man can’t keep their eyes open, they fail our Lord at the most needed hour. Anguished and sorrowful, Jesus moves away from his friends and cries out to his heavenly father. “And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.’” (Mark 14:36 NAS). Jewus knowing the depth of our sin and our complete unworthiness. Still, he loves us enough to give Himself to the Father’s will.

    As Jesus recommits to His selfless commission, Judas completes His traitorous quest. For 30 pieces of silver (about what someone in Jesus’ day would pay to purchase a slave), the loveless disciple leads the authorities to Jesus’s place of prayer. The disciple betrays the master with a kiss.

    (Excerpted from Paradise Lost by John Milton)

    So judg’d he Man, both Judge and Saviour sent,

    And th’ instant stroke of Death denounc’t that day

    Remov’d farr off; then pittying how they stood

    Before him naked to the aire, that now

    Must suffer change, disdain’d not to begin

    Thenceforth the Form of servant to assume,

    As when he wash’d his servants feet, so now

    As Father of his Familie he clad

    Thir nakedness with Skins of Beasts, or slain,

    Or as the Snake with youthful Coate repaid;

    And thought not much to cloath his Enemies;

    Nor hee thir outward onely with Skins

    Of Beasts, but inward nakedness, much more

    Opprobrious, with his Robe of righteousness,

    Arraying cover’d from his Fathers sight.

    "Maundy Thursday" by Malcolm Guite

    Here is the source of every sacrament,

    The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

    Replenishing our every element

    Remaking us in his creative Word.

    For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

    The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

    The fire dances where the candles shine,

    The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

    And here He shows the full extent of love

    To us whose love is always incomplete,

    In vain we search the heavens high above,

    The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

    Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

    He meets us here and loves us into light.

    "Betrayal" by Hester H. Cholmondeley

    Still as of old
    — Men by themselves are priced —
    For thirty pieces Judas sold
    — Himself, not Christ;

    Still as of old
    — Men by themselves are priced —
    For thirty pieces Judas sold
    — Himself, not Christ.

    Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/Lord_Kuernyus

  • cross covered in red robs, poems about good friday

    Poems about Good Friday

    After Judas betrays our Savior in the garden, Jesus begins his sorrowful journey to Calvary. His frightened disciples have fled, so Jesus faces an unjust trial by himself. The crowds condemn Him to death and release the convicted murderer Barabbas instead. Jesus is beaten and tortured, stripped naked, and given a crown of thorns.

    Jesus’s blood drains slowly from His body as he stumbles toward Golgotha (Luke 22:44, Matthew 27:26-29). The Romans nail Jesus to a cross, and He pours Himself out as a love offering for humanity. 

    Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5 NAS)

    "From Whence This Fear and Unbelief" by August Toplady

    From whence this fear and unbelief?
    Hust thou, O Father, put to grief

    Thy spotless Son for me;
    And will the righteous Judge of men
    Condemn me for that debt of sin

    Which, Lord, was laid on thee?

    “If thou hast my discharge procured,
    And freely in my room endured

    The whole of wrath divine,
    Payment God cannot twice demand
    First at my bleeding Surety’s hand.

    And then again at mine.

    “Complete atonement thou hast made.
    And to the utmost farthing paid

    Whate’er thy people owed;
    How then can wrath on me take place,
    If sheltered in thy righteousness
    And sprinkled with thy blood ‘I

    “Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest
    The merits of thy great High Priest

    Speak peace and liberty;
    Trust in his efficacious blood;
    Nor fear thy banishment from God,

    Since Jesus died for thee!

    (Excerpt from;The Necessity of Atonement by Charles Spurgeon)

    My soul looks back to see
    The burdens thou didst bear
    When hanging on the accursed tree,
    And hopes her guilt was there.

    "When Jesus Came to Golgotha" by 
    G.A. Studdert-Kennedy

    When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged him on a tree,

    they drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;

    they crowned him with a crown of thorns, red were his wounds and deep,

    for those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

    When Jesus came to Birmingham we simply passed him by,

    we never hurt a hair of him, we only let him die;

    for we had grown more tender, and we would not give him pain,

    we only just passed down the street and left him in the rain.

    Still Jesus cries, “Forgive them for they know not what they do,”

    and still it rains the winter rain that drenches through and through;

    the crowds go home and leave the streets without a soul to see,

    and Jesus crouches ‘gainst a wall and cries for Calvary.

    "I see His Blood Upon the Rose" by Joseph Mary Plunkett

    I see his blood upon the rose
    And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
    His body gleams amid eternal snows,
    His tears fall from the skies.

    I see his face in every flower;
    The thunder and the singing of the birds
    Are but his voice – and carven by his power
    Rocks are his written words.

    All pathways by his feet are worn,
    His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
    His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
    His cross is every tree.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Alicia Quan

  • empty tomb with folded linen, poems about resurrection sunday

    Poems about Resurrection Sunday

    It is the Sunday morning after Jesus’ death. The women who dearly loved Jesus trudge to his burial spot, heavily laden with grief. But when they arrive, they’re terrified to discover that the tombstone has been rolled away, the guards are gone, and their Lord’s body is missing.

    Suddenly, two angels appear to the women and ask, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” (Luke 24:5 NAS)

    Their beloved Jesus—our beloved Jesus—had risen. He IS risen.

    Because He lives forever, we who believe in Him will live forever. Is there any more significant cause for celebration? Is there any better reason to honor Christ’s work on the cross with the fruit of our resurrected lives? He is risen!

    (Excerpted from Intimations of Immortality by Phillips Brooks)

    Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
    Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
    Stronger than the dark, the light;

    Stronger than the wrong, the right;
    Faith and Hope triumphant say
    Christ will rise on Easter Day.

    (Excerpted from The Works of John Donne Volume 1)

    Many of us have seen death in our particular selves;

    in many of those steps, in which the moral man expresses it;

    We have seen Mortem infantiw, pueritiam, The death of infancy in youth;

    and Pueritiw, adolescentiam, the death of youth in our middle age;

    and at last we shall see Mortem senectutis, mortem ipsam,

    The death of age in death itself.

    But yet after that,

    a step farther than that moral man went,

    Mortem mortis in morte Jesu,

    We shall see the death of death itself

    in the death of Christ.

    As we could not be clothed at first, in Paradise,

    till some creatures were dead,

    (for we were clothed in beasts’ skins)

    so we cannot be clothed in heaven,

    but in his garment who died for us.

    "The Resurrection" by Thomas Traherne

    Then shall each Limb a spring of Joy be found,

    And every member with its Glory crown’d:

    While all the Senses, fill’d with all the Good

    That ever Ages in them understood

    Transported are: Containing Worlds of Treasure

    At one delight with all their Joy and Pleasure,

    From whence, like Rivers, Joy shall ever flow,

    Affect the Soul, though in the Body grow,

    Return again and make the Body shine

    Like Jesus Christ, while both in one combine.

    Mysterious Contracts are between the Soul,

    Which touch the Spirits and by those its Bowl;

    The Marrow, Bowels, Spirits, melt and move,

    Dissolving ravish, teach them how to love.

    He that could bring the Heavens thro’ the eye,

    And make the World within the Fancy lie,

    By beams of Light that closing meet in one,

    From all the parts of His celestial Throne,

    Far more than this in framing Bliss can do,

    Inflame the Body and the Spirit too:

    Can make the Soul by Sense to feel and see,

    And with her Joy the Senses wrap’d to be:

    Yea, while the Flesh or Body subject lies

    To those Affections which in Souls arise;

    All holy Glories from the Soul redound,

    And in the Body by the Soul abound,

    Are felt within and ravish ev’ry Sense

    With all the Godhead’s glorious Excellence,

    Who found the way Himself to dwell within,

    As if even Flesh were nigh to Him of kin:

    His Goodness, Wisdom, Power, Love Divine,

    Make by the Soul convey’d the Body shine,

    Not like the Sun (that earthly Darkness is)

    But in the strengths and heights of all this bliss,

    For God designed thy Body for His sake,

    A Temple of the Deity to make.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/alessandrophoto

  • easter message

    How Can We Share the Poetic Easter Message with People?

    These poems can be a great way to reflect on the Easter message, or to share its message with people. If you need a simple method for explaining the Easter message to someone interested in accepting Jesus as their savior, Jack Graham summarizes it this way:

    In Christ Jesus, you and I have received an astounding gift… it's the gift of grace. So let me share a little acrostic that will make it easy to share Christ with those he brings across your path. It's based on the letters G-R-A-C-E:

    "G" stands for the "Gift" of salvation. You and I can do nothing to earn his grace; it's a gift. Ephesians 2:8 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….

    "R" stands for "Repentance." To repent means to turn. In our sin, we were walking away from God, but then we turned from sin and began to follow Christ!

    "A" stands for "Almighty" God. We need to develop a relationship with Almighty God… the one who loves us and who has a wonderful plan for our lives.

    "C" stands for "Commitment." You and I are called to live in a committed relationship with Jesus, the Bridegroom. He died for us, he lives within us, and he's coming again to receive us to himself!

    "E" stands for "Eternal" life. We receive the gift of eternal life by faith the moment we come to Christ!

    Taken from "Sharing his G.R.A.C.E." by PowerPoint Ministries (used by permission).

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Boonyachoat

    Annette GriffinAnnette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.

    This article is part of our larger Holy Week and Easter resource library centered around the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

    What Lent and Why is it Celebrated?
    When is Lent? When Does Lent Start and End?
    What is Ash Wednesday?
    What Is Palm Sunday?
    What is Maundy Thursday?
    What Is Good Friday?

    What Is Easter?
    What is the Holy Week?
    Easter Prayers