Instead of the Bunny, Focus on the Lamb

courtesy of jonfletch via rbgstock.com

courtesy of jonfletch via rbgstock.com

Today is Good Friday and the start of Passover. Christians reflect on the day our Savior gave His life for ours on the cross, and the Jewish people remember the day God spared their lives and delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

As it happens every year at this time, I have found myself aggravated again on Good Friday. The boys were sitting down to watch some cartoons and became so excited. It was a new Wonder Pets! Connor comes running to find me, yelling, “Easter is coming! Record it, Mom!”

I went to see what was on and, sure enough, the Wonder Pets were talking about Easter coming. They were talking about collecting eggs and helping out the bunny. Oh, how I despise that bunny. I paused the show and told the boys we were going to have a talk before I turned it back on.

I asked, “Is the Easter bunny real?”

They both shouted, “NO!”

“What is Easter about?”

“Jesus!” Cameron answered.

Not to be outdone, Connor yelled, “Jesus is alive!”

We talked about it a little more and then I let them watch the show. As I walked away, I realized that we’re doing it right. It’s okay for them to watch the shows like that one as long as they understand what it’s all really about. And they knew what Easter is about with no prompting. They get it and understand it as much as kids that age can.

I let the aggravation roll off me. All the pictures of the bunny and Facebook post of Easter crafts and center pieces that are about nest and eggs and bunnies. I don’t have to let it bother me. I don’t have to let it affect the way we spend this weekend.

And then I thought back to the Jewish people and Passover. Last Sunday I attended a church where the message was given by a Jew for Jesus. It was amazing. I knew almost nothing about Passover, other than it was in remembrance of God freeing the Jews from slavery in Egypt. I learned so much.

I found it incredible how every part of the Passover meal relates directly to Jesus. The first time Christians had communion was at Jesus’s last Passover Seder. And as the Jewish people remember the sacrifice of a lamb to spare their firstborn sons, we remember the sacrifice of the Lamb who is the firstborn Son.

Last year on Good Friday, I took the boys on an adventure to find the cross. This year I’m focusing on the Lamb. When I see that bunny, I’ll remember the Lamb. And, when we are on our egg hunt, we will remember the Lamb.

Remember the Lamb who died so that we may live and rejoice that He is alive! The tomb is empty! Our Savior lives!

The bunny doesn’t matter.

From my family to yours, happy Easter.

You can learn more about Jews for Jesus here.

A journey to find the cross

Today is Good Friday. It’s the day of rememberence and reflection of Jesus dying on the cross for the world. I believe it’s as important to know that He didn’t have to die as the fact that He actually did die.

At any moment, He could have changed the story. The soldiers taunted Him as he hung on the cross saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” Luke 23:35

 

Let there be no doubt

 

At any time, Jesus could have stopped it all.

Matthew 8:23-27 tells us the story of Jesus and the disciples out on a boat. Jesus took a nap as a storm rolled up. The disciples panicked and woke him, thinking they were on the verge of death.  Jesus rose and rebuked the wind and immediately it was calm.  (Matthew 8:27) “So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Luke 19:39-40, as Jesus is coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the crowd praising him, “And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Matthew 4 tells us about Jesus being tempted by Satan. Jesus was tempted three times by Satan, and each time He turned Satan away with the word of God. And at the end, “the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” (Matthew 4:11)

If the seas and the winds obey Him, if the stones would cry out to worship Him, if the angels ministered to Him, why would He die for you and me?

Where’s the cross?

We live in a very religious community. With very little thought, I can come up with ten churches within 5 miles of my house.

I knew I wanted to write this post today, and I knew I wanted a picture of a cross to go with it. Being Good Friday and in a religious community, you might think I could walk out my front door and find a cross. You’d be wrong.

The boys and I set out on an adventure today. They were so excited and asked what kind of adventure it was. I told them we were looking for a cross.

“What kind of cross?”

“The kind Jesus died on.”

Even though we’ve been talking about it, they didn’t really understand. They are my babies (even at four and six, they are babies in my heart) and I’ve protected them from death as much as I can. They know their great-grandma Aust is with Jesus, but they haven’t asked any hard questions so I haven’t given them any more details. They love adventures because adventures mean fun so we were off.

Exactly none of our local churches had a cross outside today, not the ones in town or in the country. We drove and drove and could not find a cross.

Finally I had an idea. There is a “mega” church that does a huge walk through Bethlehem for Christmas. Certainly they would have a cross for Easter. It was a few miles out of the way, but we were on an adventure. I pulled into their parking lot and no cross.

Really?!

On the verge of giving up on our quest for the cross, I looked across the four lane highway. And there it was.

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If I hadn’t looked up at just that moment, if I hadn’t pulled into that church parking lot, I would have missed it. Way in the back, meaning so much and looking like so little, was the cross we were looking for.

We drove across the road and pulled in. The boys still didn’t get it, just like most of the world. They were just on an adventure, searching for something that they didn’t understand. We parked and got out of the truck.

Way out of the way, there was a sidewalk leading up to the cross. We walked up to it. This ordinary cross in this ordinary field on this ordinary day took my breath away.

The boys didn’t understand what it meant or even what it was. How could they? They started asking questions. What was a cross? What did it have to do with Jesus?

And standing there it just all made sense. I told them about the nails used in His outstretched hands. I told them about the nails in His feet. Standing there at the cross, I was watching their faces as they both finally understood.

It was an amazing moment that I can’t properly put into words as at the same time a look of understanding crossed both their faces. This is why we had them; this is what we’re raising them towards. An understanding of the cross.

For a moment, the three of us stood there in silence, reflecting, staring at the cross.

Love is a choice

There is only one reason that Jesus willingly died on that cross and it’s love.

Jesus loves you and me and everyone before and after us. There were so many opportunities for the story to change. So many chances for Jesus to just go back to Heaven and leave us all to our wicked ways, but He didn’t.

Just before His arrest, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and prayed for what was about to transpire “saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.'” (Luke 22:42)

And because of God’s great love for us, He did not take that cup from Jesus.

Jesus was arrest, found guilty of nothing, and still was convicted. The people cried out for his death. He was beaten. He was mocked. He was forced to carry the cross (for us) until He fell under the weight of our sin. He was nailed to the cross.

And hanging there on that cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Even on the cross, He thought not of Himself but for those that He was hanging there for.

That day, that cross

When I think of that day, it’s a day unlike today. Today was warm. The sun was shining. The birds were singing.

That day on Calvary I imagine to be much different.

I imagine it to be dark, as if the sun couldn’t bear to shine. I imagine the birds are silent as they mourn the death of our King. I imagine it cold and dreary, without hope, as the Son of God hangs on that tree. I imagine a silent Heaven as the angels wish to swoop down and end His suffering. And I imagine a God heartbroken at the pain and proud of the strength as His Son gives up His life for you and me.

And as dark and dreary as I imagine that day to have been, the sunshine seemed fitting today. It serves as a reminder of the amazing and wondrous thing that happened just three days later.

The Heavens rejoiced. The world sang out. Jesus conquered death so that we may live forever with Him.

As dark as that day was, today my Savior lives. And soon He is coming to take me home.

Sunday is not an egg-stravaganza or celebration of spring

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(photo credit: Cassidy Lewellen)

 

This is the holiest week in the Christian faith. It is a week of reflection and celebration. And contrary to everything my kids have seen on tv this week, it is not a spring egg-stravaganza.

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It was the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people spread palm leaves out on the road. They shouted, “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:1-11)  as He rode in. It was just days before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified.

Friday is Good Friday, the day Jesus died for you and me and everyone else. It is a day of remembrance. Jesus lived a sinless life and was willing to die on the cross for all of us. God loves us so much He sent His Son to die a horrible death for you and me.

And Sunday is Easter. A day of great celebration. The day Jesus conquered the grave and rose from the dead. It is the day that the stone was rolled away from the tomb to show the world an empty grave. (Matthew 28) This is the most important of all the biblical stories. Without Jesus rising from the dead, none of the rest of it matters.

 

Egg-stravaganza

I have two young boys, and they love cartoons. Their favorites can be found on Nick Jr. and the Disney Channel. Yesterday every cartoon was about Easter. Wow. That sounds great, doesn’t it? But the Easter being celebrated on tv is not the Easter that we will be celebrating. All the shows were about the Easter bunny and finding eggs and helping the bunny and a celebration of spring and the blooming flowers. It got to the point that my youngest son asked me if Easter was the Easter bunny’s birthday. Um, no. Easter is not the bunny’s birthday.

This lead to a long discussion where we pulled out their children’s Bible (or the Jesus book as it gets called around here). We read through all the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) discussing all the miraculous things Jesus did. And then we got to the crucifixion (which is very, very condensed). I then had to explain all sorts of fun words to a four year old and a six year old. Words like death, dead, grave, and tomb. Once they understood that as best they could, we got to the resurrection.

We talked about how Jesus rose from the dead and how that meant that He was alive again. We talked about how He is living in Heaven with God and someday He is going to come back and get us so we can live with Him. I told them that Easter is the day we celebrate that Jesus is alive. And my six year old reacted to that information the way we all should. He looked at me with his eyes wide and said, “WOW!” And, really, wow is the best way to describe all of it.

 

Are we doing it wrong?

 

As I’ve been writing here about faith, I’ve thought a lot about it. I’ve thought about what my faith means to me and how we celebrate the holidays, especially now that we have kids. I’ve thought about Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’s birth. I wrote a post about how we handle Santa Claus in a Christian home. And then I thought about how we celebrate Easter. We read the Bible. We talk about how Jesus is alive. We do go on egg hunts. We do not do the Easter bunny. The boys know that the bunny is pretend.

But as I was thinking about all of this, I wondered if we are celebrating these two important holidays the right way. For Christmas, we gather our families together sometimes with celebrations happening on multiple days. There are gifts and lights and decorations and parties. It is spectacular and over the top.

And then Easter comes. There are no lights and decorations unless you have an Easter Lily. Theres no big gift giving. Depending on your family, there may be some candy or even Easter baskets and some gifts like religious jewelry or Bibles. And sure, you may even have an Easter dinner. But I’m guessing that you don’t put up decorations a month (or more) in advance of Easter. I’m guess there’s not a giant pile of gifts awaiting your kids when they wake up Easter morning. And although you may have dinner with your extended family, I think it’s a safe bet that you aren’t having Easter dinner three or four times with all of your family and friends. And your employer probably hasn’t thrown an Easter party for you and your coworkers.

Compare the two holidays. These are the two big ones for Christians, and I think we may be doing them wrong.

 

A real reason for celebration

 

Don’t get me wrong. Christmas deserves all the celebration and grandeur it gets. Jesus came to Earth as a baby and it is right that we celebrate His birth. But without Easter, without the cross and the resurrection, Christmas would be just another birthday. Without the cross and the empty tomb, the manger is just another birth.

At any time, Jesus could have ended His mission on Earth. He didn’t have to let the soldiers arrest Him. He didn’t have to be beaten. He could have saved Himself from the cross. But He chose to fulfill God’s plan. He chose you and me. He gave His life so we could have eternal life with Him. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

We should be shouting it from the rooftops. Our Lord is alive! Our Savior has risen! The stone was rolled away so we could see that the tomb was empty. The sun rose that morning to show the world that He is alive.

This Sunday we will thank God for the sunshine and the flowers that are starting to bloom and the green grass and even bunnies, but that’s not what we’ll be celebrating.  We will be celebrating that Jesus is alive.

This year we are celebrating while looking through the eyes of a child who heard the story and could only say, “Wow!”

Jesus IS alive! WOW!