As we drove to church this past Good Friday, a few of my kids grumbled in the car, “I still don’t understand why we have to go to church again. Today is our day off - I just want to do something FUN!”
Their complaints continued with heavy sighs, “We literally just went last night (Holy Thursday), and we’re going again on Sunday, so why can’t we just skip today?”
It was approaching the 3 o’clock hour as we neared the church. To be honest, part of me could have easily just left the moaners at home - if it meant I could have one hour of sacred silence on this holy day, at this holiest of hours.
As I listened to their protests, I wanted to ring their necks - but deep down I got it. Going to church in the middle of their day off from school was hard. It would be a sacrifice for them - to enter into the sacrifice of Christ. It would hurt. It would cost. There would be something they’d have to let go of and deny themselves of.
Doing the hard thing is a hard thing.
And it’s in the midst of “hard things”, that we insert truth.
So my husband inserted truth. As we turned into the parking lot, he reminded our kids why we were doing what we were doing. Our Christian faith is a story of seasons. So is our life. We can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. If we want to rise with Christ, we have to be willing to die with Him too. If we truly want to celebrate the joy of Christ’s resurrection, we have to embrace the sorrow of His cross.
“So we have a choice guys…”, my husband offered as we pulled into a parking place and turned off the car. We can look at our three day weekend as an “Easter weekend” of pure fun and joy. Or we can enter into these three days for what they truly are - the story of our life - a story of seasons. A story of easy and hard; celebration and sacrifice; victory and loss; dying and rising, holding on and letting go.
So we piled out of the car, walked in to the church, slid in to a pew, and entered into our church’s Good Friday 3pm service. We prayed the fourteen “stations of the cross”, a journey along the path of Christ’s suffering and death.
Easter Sunday was a beautiful day - a day that began with the exciting hunt for Easter baskets, followed by a glorious Easter service, taking family pictures, two different extended family gatherings, and more food than we could possibly ever eat. The day was so full and flew by so fast, there was hardly a moment to contemplate the Resurrection of Jesus, much less truly enter into it.
But that’s perfectly okay, because Easter Sunday was just the beginning...
Here we are on Monday morning - invited now to enter into a forty day Easter season, a season of reassuring HOPE and transforming POWER.
We’ve walked the road with Jesus to Calvary; now we’re invited to walk with Him and His disciples throughout the forty days He spent with them after He rose from the dead. These were the exciting yet scary days that led up to the explosively transforming power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
This story of seasons is our story.
I love what we read about on that first Easter Sunday. When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary discovered the empty tomb, they were “fearful yet overjoyed”. They felt both joy and fear. And right in the midst of their conflicted emotions, Jesus “met them on their way”. He spoke right into their hearts, reassuring them with the words, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (From Matthew 28: 8-15, NAB)
On this Easter Monday, Jesus meets us “on our way” too. We know in our heads He has risen and conquered death, but yet in our hearts we may feel our own conflicted emotions. The women felt both joy and fear. Depending on what's going on in our life, we may feel joy and fear. Or maybe we feel joy and sadness; or doubt, despair, loneliness, insecurity, or anxiety - about the days we're in and the days ahead.
Jesus’ disciples felt every one of these emotions too. And He reassures them with His presence. He allows them to see Him, touch Him, eat with Him, walk with Him and laugh with Him. He works more wonders in their midst. Most importantly, He promises He will send the Holy Spirit to descend on them and fill them with power.
They did not know exactly what all this meant. Yet with faith and hope in their Risen Savior, they followed Him still. Jesus was the Author of their story; a story they had painfully discovered was a story of many seasons… but Jesus had proven that no matter what season they were in, He would never leave them or abandon them. Tragedy could lead to triumph, and Love conquers all.
Over the years I have often struggled with this Easter season, unsure of how to truly enter in to the mystery of the cross and the resurrection. As a mom, I’ve also grappled with how to unveil this mystery for my children.
In so many ways, our life itself unveils the mystery. The “real life” way we enter the story, is simply by living it out - in its messiness and imperfection - page by page, chapter by chapter.
But today I want to offer you something very concrete, not to mention exciting. This past week, my husband and I stumbled upon a Netflix series called “A.D. Kingdom and Empire”. This TV miniseries began airing on NBC on Easter Sunday in 2015. (Produced by the same guy that produces Survivor and The Voice, so you know it's good!) I have absolutely no idea how we’ve only just now heard about it, but it is perfect timing for our family.
Perhaps it might be for you too.
We started watching this miniseries together on Good Friday, and it is blowing wide open the scriptures for us! The twelve week series begins with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and continues with the first ten chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
We’ve found ourselves watching in suspense, and then pushing pause, while we open up the Bible and read about what we just saw unfold before our eyes on the screen. Our kids are loving it. I am in AWE of how this incredible TV series has so concretely invited us into the story of the Easter season.
While we watch on edge, we're imagining ourselves there and feeling all of the emotions, including the horror of Roman brutality and the corruption of the Jewish leaders; who not only demanded Jesus’ tortuous death, but did everything in their power to kill the growing movement of his followers.
Would we have had the faith and courage to follow Jesus, even then?
My children have been swept up into the dramatic story of not only Jesus’ death and resurrection, but the intensely heroic story of the early Christians that followed.
As I prayed about what to share with you in our blog this week, this miniseries immediately came to mind. It offers such a practical opportunity to experience the season we now enter into, the day after our Lord has risen. I hope it might draw you and your family more deeply into the Easter season, as it has for me and mine.
With faith and hope, in the power of our Risen Lord, let us continue to courageously live our story of seasons!
“I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your holy ones to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
(Acts of the Apostles 2:25-28, NAB)
(Note: Re: age appropriateness for the A.D. series - our ten year old daughter has watched some scenes with eyes half-covered, because they are too graphic for her. So use your own parental discretion with your children. I would say in general, 10 years and older is the appropriate viewing age.)