Easter: More Than Bunnies and Chocolate
About the Guest
Barbara Rainey is passionate about Easter - and when she says "Easter" she doesn't mean chocolate bunnies and nice dresses for the kids. Join us as Barbara helps us understand and explore Easter, the pinnacle of the Christian holiday season.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey helps us understand and explore Easter, the pinnacle of the Christian holiday season.
Easter: More Than Bunnies and Chocolate
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 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear today from Barbara Rainey about what we can do to emphasize the most important day of the year—Resurrection Day. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. Because I know the woman to whom you’re married, I know that for the last several weeks you’ve been giving up something; right?
Dennis: Barbara is all about using the days that lead up to Easter to celebrate our Savior’s death, burial, and resurrection—to celebrate our salvation.
Bob: So she’s been a proponent of the Lenten season.
Dennis: She has, and she’s created some great resources to be able to help families to do just that. Frankly, I’m really proud of her. I told her that last night. I said, “You know, I am really, really proud of you for your study of the Bible—making it clear and simple so that moms, dads, and grandparents can pass on the truth of Easter to their children and their grandchildren in an effective way and have some fun doing it.”
Bob: So, my question is: What did you give up?
Bob: So you gave up sugar?
Dennis: Yes, it will be good for me.
Bob: And it’s good, I think, for all of us to have this season where every time there’s a little sugar craving or whatever else you have an interest in—maybe, media. Mary Ann gave up “Words with Friends” for Lent so she’s not playing “Words with Friends” on her phone.
Dennis: A game—and you? What are you giving up?
Bob: I gave up white stuff. That would include sugar; but it would also include flour—white flour—and rice, and those kinds of things.
Dennis: That kind of eliminates about 90 percent of the food groups.
Bob: I look forward to Sunday every week; and I’m really looking forward to Easter when we celebrate, not only the resurrection, but the end of the time of preparation.
Dennis: No doubt about it. It’s really good, I think, in our lives, to do a fast from time to time. They call us to deny our flesh, which we don’t do that very well in America.
Dennis: We’re pretty well-trained in how to pamper the flesh and satisfy its every desire.
Bob: Yes. Do you remember back when we were with many of our friends on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, back in February?
Dennis: I sure do.
Bob: Your wife spoke to the couples onboard about the need for us to elevate the celebration of the resurrection.
Dennis: Oh, yes, she did! She is passionate about Easter. In fact, she thinks we’ve got it all backwards. We celebrate Christmas for the better part of a month; and Easter just kind of sneaks up on you and it is a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, at best, with a lot of people—not doing much until Resurrection Sunday. So, she’s all about calling families to get with the program and elevate Easter. She’s got some great points in this message that we’re going to hear today.
Bob: Well, since we still have a few weeks between now and the celebration of Easter, we thought it would be good for us to spend a little time reflecting on how we can prepare our hearts and how we can elevate this holiday. Here is Part One of a message from Barbara Rainey on the importance of the Easter celebration.
Barbara: One of the reasons I’m excited to talk to you about Easter is—about a year ago, Dennis and I were listening to a sermon by Tim Keller. Tim Keller is a pastor of a church in New York City. He had a sermon that was about Psalm 2—it was about the King. During the sermon, he quoted this stanza of a hymn, and I had never heard it before. The stanzas of the hymn go 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.
So, after I heard that and I kept thinking about it—I kept saying those verses over and over again in my head—I said, one day: “Lord, what do you want me to pray? What large petitions do you want me to bring before Your throne?”
I waited for a while. 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 had 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. So, 300 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.
But 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 on 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—which is so typical, I think of us, as children—we get it all upside down. Interestingly, I did a little bit of research before, as I was preparing for this. I got on some Bible software real quickly and just looked at how many verses there are in the New Testament that talk about the resurrection of Jesus Christ compared to how many that talk about His birth.
I discovered that there were roughly 185 verses that talk about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in the New Testament compared to only 80 about His birth.
Scripture supports the importance of the resurrection over the importance of His birth. Again, you can’t have one without the other; but it illustrates that we, as His people—we, as His children—have gotten 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.
So, 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 we’ve created for Lent.
It’s a resource to help you and your family focus 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—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.
So, 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: Well, we’ve been listening to the first part of a message about exalting Easter from Barbara Rainey. I am always glad for Sunday during Lent. I get a little ice cream most of the time. [Laughter]
Dennis: You know—I’ll bet our listeners heard some teaching during that message—they learned a few things about Lent; and, in their own hearts, had to evaluate: “How are we doing in terms of really celebrating the true message of Easter?”
Bob: The question is not so much whether you follow the Lenten observance—as some do / some don’t.
The question that Barbara is asking is: “What are we doing, in the weeks leading up to Easter, to prepare for this grand celebration that the resurrection ought to be in our lives? How do our houses look different? How do our schedules look different?”
I know what Barbara does for your house at Christmas. Is she starting to do the same thing at your house at Easter?
Dennis: Oh, yes; oh, yes. In fact, one of the things we’ve got hanging on our front door is the Ever Thine Home® Easter banner. Bob, I told you this story earlier—you and I did a conference together in Nashville. At the conference, there were some little shops near the conference center where we were. I walked into one of the shops because they had banners. I thought, “I’m just going to take Barbara’s new Easter banner in and see what they say about it.”
I walked up to this woman; and she said, “Are you Dennis Rainey?” [Laughter]
She said: “I’m a single parent. I listen every day to you and Bob.” She told me the story of how her husband died—I think it was like more than a dozen years ago—and how she’d raised her son all the way up to adulthood. Now, her son was going into the military. She wanted me to pray with her—so I bowed and prayed.
After we had prayed, I said: “You know, I was going to ask you a question. Would you mind looking at this and just telling me what you think of this?” I pulled out the Easter banner. As you know, Bob, it’s really beautifully done. On one side, it has “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”; and there is a lamb that is sewn on this banner—extremely well-done. I just asked her, “What would that sell for?”
I’m not going to mention the amount on the air because it was twice the amount of what Barbara has created this for—for people to hang on their front door. Then, on Resurrection Sunday, you see what’s on the other side.
Bob: You flip the banner over; right?
Dennis: “He is Risen!”
Dennis: And it’s got a picture of a crown and a cross. I tell you, I think we need to get busy about celebrating the greatest news that has ever been proclaimed: “He is Risen! We are redeemed! We’re forgiven! We can place our faith in the Savior, who has defeated death.”
I was just reading a few minutes ago, 1 Corinthians 15, where it says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Dennis: That’s the message of Easter. Our families need to celebrate the reality that Christ is alive—and a living Savior can save us from our sins.
Bob: Well, if our listeners would like to see what you were describing there, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button—in the upper left-hand corner of the screen—that says, “Go Deeper.” That’s where you’ll find a link to the Ever Thine Home® resources page, where you can see the banner that Barbara has created and the metal wreath that is also available for families to use to decorate their home at Easter time.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “Go Deeper.” You’ll also find the 20th Anniversary set of Resurrection Eggs®. Many of you are familiar with these plastic eggs that tell the Easter story—taking you from Jesus’ triumphal entry—all the way through to the empty tomb.
We’ve been making this resource available for 20 years now, and we have a special new 20th Anniversary Edition of Resurrection Eggs. You can order them from us at FamilyLifeToday.com—order, online, if you’d like. Again, click the button that says, “Go Deeper” to get the information you need about the Resurrection Eggs and to order them online.
You’ll also find them at many local Christian bookstores. I know Lifeway Christian Stores have them. I know Mardel has them. I think they’re in Walmart® this year—many of the Walmart stores have Resurrection Eggs. So, if you’d like to pick up a set of Resurrection Eggs in your community, you can go to your local Christian store; or go to Walmart; or you can order them, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request the Resurrection Eggs or the resources from Barbara Rainey.
Again, 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number to call. That’s 1-800-358-6329; or you can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button in the upper left-hand corner that says, “Go Deeper.”
You know, our mission, here at FamilyLife, is to “effectively develop godly families.” Somebody asked me recently: “How do you define a godly family? How can you tell if your family is a godly family?” I thought, “That’s a great question!” I said to him, “I think when the fruit of the Holy Spirit is present in your family—when there’s love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and gentleness, and faithfulness, and self-control—that sounds like a pretty good family to me. When that’s happening in your home, that’s an indication that God’s Spirit is at work in the lives of everybody in your family.”
Our mission is to try to equip you to live godly lives at home—as husbands and wives / as moms and dads.
We appreciate those of you who share that mission and who are partners with us, here at FamilyLife. You want to see us reach even more people with this kind of practical, biblical help for marriages and families. We’re grateful for your partnership. In fact, if you can make a donation, this month, to help support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you three prayer cards that you can use to pray for your family members. There’s a card for a wife to pray for her husband, a card for the husband to pray for his wife, and a card for both of you to use together to pray for your children.
We’ll send these prayer cards to you as our thank-you gift when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month. You can support us, online, at: FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care,” to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone and ask for the prayer card bundle when you do that.
Or you can mail a check to Family Life Today if you’d like to support us that way. Our mailing address is Post Office Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
However you choose to get in touch with us, let me just say: “Thank you for your support of the ministry. We really do appreciate you!”
And we hope you can join us again tomorrow when we’re going to hear more from Barbara Rainey about how we can make the celebration of Easter all that God wants for it to be in our families. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and 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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