Countdown to Easter
This guide will help you reflect on the days leading up to the Cross, Jesus’ death, His burial, and the empty tomb. One Scripture. One brief reflection. Once a day, for 12 days.
Easter is a time to reflect on the sacrifice God made in order to fix our relationship with Him. In an act of sheer grace, mercy, and love, God placed the punishment for the world’s sin on His beloved Son. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose and secured our salvation forever.
We encourage you and your family to approach this Easter season with a deep reverence for who He is and what He did for us. We hope this 12-day countdown to Easter will help. It will guide you to reflect on the days leading up to the Cross, His death, burial, and the empty tomb. One scripture. One brief reflection. Once a day.
FamilyLife’s Resurrection Eggs® are a great way for kids to follow along. You’ll find the format and scripture references similar to the countdown below, and we’ve even put a notation on each day for which egg to open.
12 Days before Easter: Who is this man they cheer for?
*open the blue egg
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me … They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:1-2, 7-9
When Jesus traveled the road to Jerusalem from Bethphage by donkey, He received a king’s welcome. An excited crowd laid their garments along the path to honor Him. They waved palm branches and shouted praises to Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Hosanna wasn’t just another term of admiration. It was a hope-filled cry for help. The prophecy was unfolding before their eyes by this man entering the city on the back of a donkey.
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
What the people were really saying was, “Save us!”
What an unexpected shout that must have been to those coming close to see this man the crowd gathered around. “Who is this?” the people in Jerusalem asked. And the joyous crowd that had followed Jesus into the city answered, “This is the prophet Jesus” (Matthew 21:10-11).
The Messiah had come.
11 Days before Easter: How much?
*open the light pink egg
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:14-16
Thirty silver coins. Was that the going rate to betray a friend? A brother?
Judas’s betrayal wasn’t the first time this specific amount showed up in Scripture. Thirty pieces of silver was an insulting amount paid for a prophet’s wages in Zechariah (11:12-13), and it’s referenced as the going rate for a slave’s life in Exodus (21:32). So how much for the life of a Savior?
After Jesus was sentenced to death, Judas remorsefully approached the priests and elders to return the money—a desperate attempt to undo his own sin. But it was too late. Judas threw the silver down in the temple and later hung himself. How much for a betrayer’s life? Thirty silver coins. And the life of a Savior.
10 Days before Easter: A new covenant
*open the light purple egg
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28
Jesus knew His time was drawing near. So during the Passover (a time to remember and celebrate God delivering the Jews from Egypt) meal, Jesus predicted his pending death to the disciples.
With His closest friends gathered to Him, He spoke of the new covenant God was making with His people through one final sacrifice. He broke the bread, passed it around the table, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Passing around a cup of wine, He said, “This is my blood of the covenant …”
The new covenant was coming. The covenant God promised His people through the prophet Jeremiah several centuries before was coming to completion with the death of His Son. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant … I will be their God, and they shall be my people … For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
9 Days before Easter: Your will be done
*open the orange egg
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed … “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:32-36
Jesus knew His death was coming soon. It would not be a quick death, but slow and painful. His imminent future was filled with suffering. He confided in three of His closest friends, Peter, James, and John, that He was distressed and troubled. His soul was filled with sadness.
Anyone else would have run. And who would have blamed Him? He was innocent. He had done nothing wrong, yet He would be sentenced to death for the wrongs of the world.
But His great love for us and the Father dictated His every action. Instead of trembling in fear, allowing the anxiety to overwhelm Him, He fell to His knees to pray. No, what was coming was not desirable, but He prayed for God’s will to be done. He would endure it all: the Cross, the pain, the ridicule … for us.
8 Days before Easter: True innocence
*open the green egg
[Pilate] went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. John 18:38-19:1
Betrayed with a kiss from Judas, Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested without resistance.
Then in the early morning, Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked Him. Nothing Jesus said spoke of His guilt to the governor.
After their exchange, Pilate declared to the crowd that had gathered, “I find no guilt in Him.”
Innocent. Yet the crowd demanded a different fate for this man. So Pilate had Him whipped. With each blow, excruciating pain seared His body and tore at His skin. And the first drops of blood of the new covenant were shed.
7 Days before Easter: Denying Christ
*open the yellow egg
But [Peter] began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:71-72
When Jesus told the disciples they would scatter during His final moments, Peter scoffed at such an idea. “If I must die with you, I will not deny you,” he told Him (Mark 14:31).
But then he denied knowing Jesus to the servant girl and the rooster crowed (verse 68). Then again when she talked to the bystanders (verse 69), and finally to the bystanders themselves (verse 71). And then the rooster crowed a second time.
Hours before, Peter had cut the ear off one of the guards who had come to arrest Jesus in an effort to protect Him. Yet here he was now, one of Jesus’ closest friends, broken and weeping over his denial of Christ.
What could have caused him to betray the One he loved? Fear. Fear of sharing the same fate that awaited his Lord and Savior.
6 Days before Easter: The King’s Crown
*open the light orange egg
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Matthew 27:27-29
Just days before, crowds shouted “Hosanna!” as He entered Jerusalem. Now the crowds cried “Crucify!” His fate sealed, Jesus was turned over to the Roman soldiers who mocked and spit on Him.
The One who entered Jerusalem with a king’s welcome now received a crown. Oh, the heart-wrenching irony of this moment. Instead of bringing the honor and majesty He deserved, this crown of thorns brought pain and scorn. “Hail, King of the Jews!” they laughed at Him. They bowed before Him and struck him on the head with a stick.
Then they led Him to Golgotha to the Cross.
5 Days before Easter: The Cross
*open the light green egg
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” John 19:16-19
The soldiers nailed Jesus to the Cross at Golgotha. Refusing the wine mixed with gall to ease some of His pain (Matthew 27:34), Jesus took on the full agony of the crucifixion. The ridicule continued as He suffered. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” they scoffed at Him (27:42).
In His suffering, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke: 23:34).
Beside Him on either side was a criminal. One of them said to Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And He replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
4 Days before Easter: It is finished
*open the purple egg
Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30
In the account of Matthew, before Jesus died, darkness fell across the land. Bearing the terrible weight of our guilt, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Then at the moment of His last breath, the earth shook. Rocks split apart. The curtain in the Temple split from top to bottom, no longer separating man from God. In the words of Jesus, it is finished.
It’s hard to fully grasp the weight of those three words. His time on earth? Finished. The pain He endured on the Cross? Finished. The old covenant? Finished. Our salvation? Complete.
3 Days before Easter: Jesus’ Burial
*open the light blue egg
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Matthew 27:57-60
When Jesus was still in Bethany eating at the home of Simon, a woman came and poured expensive perfume over his head. The disciples saw it as a waste; they said she could have sold it to give money to the poor. But Jesus told them it was to prepare His body for burial. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” He told them. “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:6-12).
Now, the time of the Savior’s burial had come. According to Luke, Joseph was a member of the high council, but had not agreed with the religious leaders. He took great risk in asking for Christ’s body. He wrapped Jesus’ body in a long sheet of clean linen and placed Him inside the tomb, rolling a large rock in front to close it.
2 Days before Easter: The stone rolled back
*open the pink egg
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. Matthew 28:1-4
These women had watched Him suffer, bleeding and dying on the Cross. They watched as He took His last breath, as the spear was stabbed in His side. When many of His followers feared coming near, they remained close to their Savior. They watched as Joseph placed Him in the tomb.
The day after the Sabbath, these two women went back to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body. It was likely they brought myrrh, a common spice used for its sweet, earthy smell. But as they approached the tomb, there was an earthquake. And sitting on the rolled aside stone was an angel of the Lord.
The shock and fear of what they saw paralyzed the guards, but the angel was there to speak with these two faithful women.
1 Day before Easter: He has risen
*open the white egg
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:5-6
He has risen! “Go quickly and tell his disciples … he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him,” the angel told the women. With “fear and great joy” they ran from the tomb. On their way, they saw their risen Savior and fell to His feet in worship. (verses 7-10)
He later appeared to more of His followers and sat with the remaining 11 disciples. Before He was taken to heaven again, He left His disciples with both direction and assurance. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching then to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Copyright © 2019 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.