Making the Most of Easter
About the Guest
When raising her family, Barbara Rainey always wanted to make Easter about more than bunnies and colorful eggs. Now an empty-nester, Rainey considers the meaning behind Passover and the beauty of celebrating the resurrection of the Lamb of God.
When raising her family, Barbara Rainey always wanted to make Easter significant. Now an empty-nester, Rainey considers the meaning behind Passover and the beauty of celebrating the resurrection of Christ.
Making the Most of Easter
Bob: We are in the middle of the Lenten season; and yet, many Christians don’t know what Lent is all about. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas—does that make sense? Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas. Both of them are times of preparing to celebrate God’s intervention on our behalf—the coming of Christ at Christmas and then the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ at Easter. Both of them are very important holidays, but Easter is the most important.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Barbara Rainey about what we can do, as moms and dads, to draw more attention to the most important day of the year—Resurrection Day. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. If any of our listeners are not interested in getting fired up about Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, they ought to go ahead and tune the—turn their channel somewhere else right now.
Dennis: I’m telling you—this is the greatest season of all. I love Christmas—I think Christmas is fantastic. Obviously, Easter would not be possible had not Christmas come first. But this [Easter] is the holiday on which all of the Christian faith really pivots.
Bob: Your wife is joining us this week.
Barbara, I used to think that Thanksgiving was your favorite holiday. Didn’t it used to be your favorite holiday?
Barbara: It did—used to be my favorite holiday.
Bob: But something has happened.
Barbara: It’s not anymore.
Barbara: I still love Thanksgiving / Thanksgiving is great fun. But I absolutely love Easter; because I have come to understand it in a way that I didn’t, years ago—what it’s all about and how pivotal it is, as Dennis has just said.
Without Easter, nothing else would matter. We wouldn’t have Thanksgiving; we wouldn’t have Christmas; we wouldn’t have anything because we would still be in our sin. We would have no hope; and we wouldn’t understand forgiveness; and we wouldn’t understand love. It’s everything. So, to me—because I’ve come to understand that Easter is all about everything that God intended—to me, we need to do a better job of celebrating it.
Bob: It’s interesting—if you read I Corinthians 15, which is that resurrection chapter—
Dennis: Did you look over my shoulder?
Bob: I did not! [Laughter]
Paul begins that chapter by saying, “This is of first importance.” He said, “I delivered to you what is of first importance.” Then he goes on and he says it’s the gospel / the good news. You can summarize the gospel into: Jesus died, He was buried, and He was resurrected—that’s at the heart of our message. He goes on to say [paraphrased], “You take that away, we got nothing.”
Barbara: Right; he said, “If Christ wasn’t raised, our faith is in vain.”
Dennis: Yes; that’s what I was reading—I Corinthians 15, verse 17-19. If you haven’t read it—to your children; to one another, as husband and wife; or to a friend—you just ought to remind somebody of this truth / it says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile,”—empty—
Dennis: —“and you are still in your sins,”—which means you’re still guilty, as charged, before Almighty God and you are falling under the wrath of God. Then it goes on to say, “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished,”—they don’t have eternal life / they died—they went to hell! And verse 19, “If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we of all people are most to be pitied.”
What’s Paul saying there?—if Christ did not defeat death / if the resurrection is not a reality, then we are without hope.
Bob: We are basing everything on a lie.
Dennis: I mentioned it earlier—all of Christianity pivots on the reality and the historical fact that Jesus Christ lived, died, rose again, and is seated at the right hand of God.
Bob: Barbara, you had the opportunity, a number of years ago, to share with our listeners at an event. You were sharing about your growing burden and passion for the celebration of Easter. It’s interesting to listen back to this because you can see how it’s starting to formulate and take shape in your own thinking. Again, this is from a few years back, as Barbara is connecting with a group of our listeners about why Easter is so important.
Barbara: About a year ago, Dennis and I were listening to a sermonby Tim Keller.
During the sermon, he quoted this stanza of a hymn; and I had never heard it before. The stanza of the hymn [Thou Art Coming to a King] goes like this—that I memorized:
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring.
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.
I just thought: “Wow! I am coming to the King every time I pray.” So often, I come with little things—selfish things: “Lord, help me find a parking place,”—just trivial, dumb stuff; right? But when I heard that that day, I thought: “I’m coming to the King. God wants me to come before Him with prayers that are worthy of Him.” It’s not that He doesn’t want us to pray about small things—I still pray about small things—but it lifted my eyes to the magnitude of who He is and what He wants me to do.
After I heard that and I kept thinking about it—I kept saying those verses over and over in my head—I said, one day—I said: “Lord, what do You want me to pray?
“What large petitions do You want me to bring before Your throne?”
The first thing that popped into my head was “Easter.” I thought: “That’s it! I’m going to start praying that God would give me the privilege of helping us change the way we celebrate Easter.” I have been thinking about it anyway; but when I heard those stanzas out of that hymn, I thought: “That’s it! I want God to use me and many others to help change the way we celebrate Easter—not only in our country—but around the world.”
I’m going to explain to you why I think that’s so important. I want to tell you a little bit about the history of Easter and also the corresponding holiday of Lent. From this—I read in A.W. Tozer’s book—he said, “To the early Christians, Easter was not a holiday.” We think of it as a holiday; don’t we? He said: “It wasn’t even a holy day. It wasn’t even a day at all—to the early Christians.”
He said, “Instead, it was an accomplished fact that lived with them all year long.” He said, “They did not celebrate His rising from the dead and then go back to their everyday lives and wait another year.” He said, “They lived by the fact that Christ had risen from the dead and they had risen with Him.”
That’s the way Easter should be celebrated. When I read that, I thought: “That’s what I want! I want to help us, in this country, find a way to elevate the celebration of Easter; because it is the pinnacle of our faith. If it were not for the cross, we would all be lost.” We should celebrate it as the important event that it was in our lives.
I want to tell you a little bit about Lent, because Lent is something that I’ve been recently discovering. I grew up in the Methodist church. We never talked about Lent / we never celebrated Lent.
I had a lot of friends, as a child, in the Catholic Church. They celebrated Lent; and it didn’t make sense to me / I didn’t understand it.
Lent was first sort of instituted many, many, many centuries ago out of the Council of Nicea in 325. Three hundred years after Christ, the church fathers got together. They were writing documents to help clarify people’s faith and to put into writing the universal statements and tenets of our belief. During that council, they wrote a piece about Lent. They wanted to give believers several practical ways of celebrating church life. It was described as a 40-day time period to mirror Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.
Lent was given to the churches to prepare believers for Resurrection Sunday. Lent also means “the lengthening of days.” So, as we begin Lent, it’s still wintertime; but by the time we get to Easter, the days are longer /spring has come. So, the word, “Lent,” also means “the lengthening of days.”
Here’s what I want you to remember to think about it—Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas. Both of them are times of preparing to celebrate God’s intervention on our behalf—the coming of Christ at Christmas and, then, the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ at Easter. Both of them are very important holidays, but Easter is the most important.
But today—and you all know this just as well as I do—there is a great disparity in the way we celebrate those two holidays; isn’t there?—a big, big difference! How much time do you spend celebrating and preparing for Christmas?—if you’ll just think about it / you don’t need to give me answers—but more than likely, most people in this room spend days and weeks getting ready for Christmas—decorating for Christmas, shopping for Christmas, cooking for Christmas. Some people spend months; right?
When do we start thinking about Christmas?
A lot of us start thinking about Christmas in January. We start thinking about our list—we find things on sale. I mean, I used to do this—it was more of a practical matter for me. Ashley, my daughter, does it; because it’s a practical matter for her. I used to find things on sale; and I would think, “Oh, that would be a great gift for this child,” so I would buy it and stick it in a closet.
Because of everything that’s wrapped up in the Christmas holiday, we start thinking about it really early. If you don’t start thinking about it in January, you might start thinking about it in June or July; if not in June or July, most people—for sure—in the fall. In other words / the point is—we think about it way before the actual day.
By contrast, how much time do we spend thinking about and preparing for Easter? When do you start thinking about and preparing for Easter? If you’re like most people—maybe, on Palm Sunday, which is seven days before Easter Sunday—maybe, not even until Thursday or Friday before Easter Sunday—or maybe not at all / maybe, Easter Sunday is just another Sunday.
That, to me, is really, really sad. I think the modern reality for most of us is—we do a little something / we may have a special dinner. If you have kids at home, they may get new clothes, you have little Easter baskets or whatever, and you go to church. Then, we come home—and life is back to normal—watch TV, watch golf, do errands, kids do homework. There’s nothing really different about the day in which we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Did you know that Jesus never told us to celebrate His birth? He never told us to celebrate His birth. What did He tell us to celebrate? What did He tell us to commemorate and remember?—His death, burial, and resurrection. He told us to focus on His sacrifice for us.
What do we do? We get it all backwards.
There was a poll conducted in 2012 asking people some basic questions about Easter. Only 55 percent correctly identified Judas as the man who betrayed Christ—only half of the people interviewed correctly knew who Judas was. Another question was about Pontius Pilate. Again, only half of the people correctly knew who Pontius Pilate was. There were some people who thought he was one of Jesus’ disciples. And then, another question—the response was really low. There were only 21 percent of these people interviewed who knew anything about what Good Friday and Easter was. It’s such an illustration, again, that the meaning of Easter has been lost. I think, if the poll were taken on Christmas, more people would know that Christmas was about Jesus’ birthday.
I want to encourage you to begin to think about Lent. It’s been kind of a new discovery. I’ve noticed, in our church—we go to a Bible Church—and our church is beginning to put some emphasis on Lent. I’m really grateful that they are. For the last two years, we’ve had a Lent service on Ash Wednesday; and it was a wonderful service.
So, let me tell you just a little bit about Lent. Sometime after the Reformation—I don’t know when—most Protestant churches began to distance themselves from the practice of Lent. Lent was a very integral part of believers’ lives from the Council of Nicea in 325 until sometime after the Reformation. The Reformation started with Luther, when he nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church. For a long, long time, Lent was an integral part of church life; and then it kind of began to go away.
As I said before—Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas. It’s a wonderful time to prepare for the greatest moment in history—the resurrection of Christ.
A lot of people give up something for Lent. It’s not necessary to do that, but the whole point of Lent is to prepare your heart to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let me give you a couple of tips on practicing—or what to do with Lent—if you decided you want to do this and it’s a foreign concept. Here are a couple of things that might be helpful.
It’s a time, first of all, to prepare for Resurrection Sunday. Secondly, it’s a time for families to grow together spiritually and biblically. We have a product called “Messiah Mystery™.” If you have children—and even if you don’t have children—you might want to consider doing this. This is a product that we’ve created for Lent. It’s a resource to help you and your family focus in on the need for Jesus Christ: “Why did He come? Why did He have to die? Why did He sacrifice His life on our behalf?” It’s simply six sessions that you do once a week.
You start on Ash Wednesday. Then, a week later, on the next Wednesday, you can do session two; then session three; and so on. It takes you up to Easter Sunday.
What it does is—it walks you through the Old Testament. In Session One, it talks about Adam and Eve in the Fall—and what that meant for us, as human beings—yet, how in the very first words that God spoke right after the Fall, He gave a promise that there would be a Messiah. Then, another lesson is on the Passover; another lesson is on the Temple and all the symbolism in the Temple that hinted at the coming Christ. It’s a way for you, in your home, to grow together, during Lent, and build some anticipation for Easter Sunday.
Another suggestion on Lent is that many people fast from something during Lent. It doesn’t have to be food—I know people who have fasted from Facebook® / I know people who have fasted from reading books or—
—it doesn’t really matter. The point of it is—the reason that choosing to give something up for Lent is meaningful—is because it reminds us that Jesus Christ gave everything for us. Some people choose to do that because it’s a way to remind them, on a daily basis, for the six weeks of Lent, that: “Jesus Christ gave His all for me. Therefore, I can sacrifice something for Him.”
Then, last, for those people who do choose to fast—Lent is 46 days long. The reason it’s 46 days long and not just 40 is because the church has historically regarded every Sunday as a mini-Resurrection Sunday. So, Sundays are to be celebrated / Sundays are to rejoice in—Sundays are not a time to fast and to mourn. If you choose to do that, you fast Monday through Saturday. Then, on Sunday, the fast is broken. You celebrate the risen Christ on Sunday and then, again, on Monday, you would start the fast again.
Bob: I remember, in the years when we had children at home, and we were participating in Lenten fasts—there were nights on Saturday night when we waited up until midnight because then it was Sunday —
Barbara: You could eat!
Bob: —and we could eat those chocolate chip cookies. We were baking them. [Laughter]
Barbara: —at 11:00 at night!
Bob: Oh; yes! It was a big deal!
Dennis: I think God knows that we, as human beings—we need to celebrate. It’s clear—He had seven different feasts in the Old Testament. The nation of Israel enjoyed to celebrate who God is, what God had done, what God was going to do. In fact, there were three feasts around the issue of Christ’s coming, and defeating death, and resurrection that the Israelites celebrated—one of which was called Passover.
Barbara: I started learning about Passover a few of years ago in Bible study. The significance wrapped up in the Passover celebration, which included two other feasts— the whole group was called Passover—but the symbolism and the prophetic elements that look forward to Christ are just amazing.
A year ago, I remember—I came to Dennis and I said to him, “I think we should go to the local Jewish temple and experience Passover with them; because they do it together. They all gather and they do Passover, and the Rabbi leads them through the Passover experience. I said, “Let’s go see what that’s like.” So we bought our tickets, and we—
Dennis: No, no, no! It’s not that simple, Bob! I said: “Say what? You want to go to a synagogue?” And you said?
Barbara: I said: “Yes! Let’s do it.”
Dennis: I’ve got to tell you—it was a great experience / it really was fun to go do it; because it took us back and immersed us back to the Old Testament. All of this proclaimed who Christ is—
—that He has come, He died, and He rose again, and He’s coming back! I was so glad we went to that, because it really gave us a sense of our biblical roots around a very common celebration for Christians, here in our country. I think, if you have never been to a synagogue or to a temple, maybe it’s time to venture out during Passover and see if you experience what I experienced.
Bob: At the center of the celebration of Passover was the Lamb who was slain for the forgiveness of sin.
Barbara: One of the things that is so interesting about Passover is that the story comes out of Exodus, when the children of Israel were in Egypt. God commanded them to get a lamb—every family had to get a lamb, and they kept the lamb—then, on the 14th of the month, that lamb was then killed and sacrificed for their sin. They did that for the first time in Egypt, the night before Pharaoh let them go.
One of the things, if your family ever watched the movie, The Ten Commandments, one of the things that is so memorable about that movie—one of many things—is they show the Israelites, literally, with a bowl of blood and some kind of a brush; and they painted on their doorways. First of all, it’s an illustration of Easter. It’s a clear picture of what Christ did for us—He shed His blood for us so that we would be passed over, which is where the word, Passover, comes from.
A fun exercise for families is to actually pretend to do that. Go out to your front door—I’ve done this at our house. You can buy washable finger paint in red, and you can literally paint it around your door. It will wash off—I did it; and it will come off, even if your doorframe is painted white. Or you can get a red ribbon or a red sash and hang it over your door on the night of Passover—or on Good Friday—because that’s when Christ died—was on Passover / on the actual Passover day that year.
It’s a way to bring the two feasts together, practically, today with our families—to bring Passover into our present-day Easter experience.
Bob: You’ve got a resource you’ve created called “Behold the Lamb,” where you have printed eight cards, each one using one of the I AM names of Jesus from the Gospel of John, each one designed to be read on a different day during Holy Week, with the last one on Resurrection Sunday. Throughout the week, these cards can be displayed in your home on a chained garland—that you created—with I AM in the middle of it.
In addition to the “Behold the Lamb” resource, there is the “He Is Risen Banner” that you hang on your front door. On one side it has a lamb—and it says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” and on Easter morning, you flip it over, and there is a crown, and it says, “He is Risen!”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you’d like to see what Barbara has been working on. Again, all of these resources have the same goal in mind—
—you want to see us more focused, more aware, more thoughtful about the Easter holiday as we prepare for it and as we celebrate it on Resurrection Sunday. Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com—you can see all that Barbara has been working on there. Or if you have any specific questions or would like to place an order by phone, call 1-800-FL-TODAY; and someone on our team can help with any questions you have.
This really syncs up with what listeners have told us, over the years, they are looking for from us; because they have said the spiritual training, and equipping, and formation of their children is their number one parenting priority—the number one thing they want help with. We try, regularly, to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage, for your family / for you, as parents, as you are raising your children. The resources we are creating, these radio programs, the articles we have online—all of it is designed to help your home stay centered in Christ.
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Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about how we can make Easter a bigger deal in our homes and with our families. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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