It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like … Easter
About the Guest
Do you desire more for your Easter celebration? Barbara Rainey talks about some of her newest resources that will help families understand and appreciate the Easter story better. Barbara reminds listeners that, whether you're welcoming guests at the door with an Easter banner proclaiming "He is risen" or inviting friends and family members to engage in more memorable conversations about some of the claims made by Jesus, you can go deeper into this holiday than you ever imagined.
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 reminds listeners that you can go deeper into this holiday than you ever imagined.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like … Easter
Bob: In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that, when Jesus cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His Spirit, at that moment, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: It’s one of those little pieces in the story of Easter that, every time I read it, I get chills because it says, at the moment that Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple was torn, from top to bottom. Now, think about a curtain that is four to six inches thick and sixty to ninety inches tall—and all of a sudden, there is this thunderous sound; and the curtain is being torn in two—and it was the moment that Christ breathed His last.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. There are a lot of little details in the story of Jesus’s death, and burial, and resurrection; and all of them are important.
We’ll talk more today about how we can dig deeper into the biblical account of the greatest moment in all of human history. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Just found myself, this week, kind of thinking [Singing], “It’s beginning to look a lot like Easter.” I guess—haven’t you wanted to sing a few Easter carols? [Laughter]
Barbara: Why don’t you write us a song that would kind of capture that?
Bob: We have some songs—
Dennis: You’ve written all kinds of songs—Legacy Partner songs.
Bob: I have written those, but I think—
Dennis: Yes, by the way, I just want to give a shout out to Legacy Partners. Thanks for standing with us. This is an important ministry to you and your family, but it’s also an important ministry to our nation. I think our nation needs all the help it can get when it comes to marriages and families.
Bob: We are focused this week on the coming celebration of Easter. It’s just right around the corner—trying to help families get in the Easter mood and not just wait until the week before and go:
“Oh, yes, Easter is coming up. I guess we should do something about it,” but be in the mindset here, weeks in front of the holiday.
Barbara: Well, we’re very intentional about Christmas. We spend lots of time making our lists and just countless things that we do to be intentional at Christmas. I think we need to capture some of that intentionality and use it toward Easter. My hope is that we can help you and your family find some ways to be intentional this year so that Easter for you and your family, this year, is much more meaningful than it ever has been in the past.
Dennis: Millions of our listeners know that’s the voice of my wife, Barbara. There are probably two that didn’t recognize it.
Bob: Two people who are going, “Who’s she?” [Laughter]
Dennis: But she’s back, again, today on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Sweetheart.
Barbara: Thank you.
Dennis: Earlier, Bob kind of came into the studio and he remarked about what you see on the table. It really is the result of close to three years of work that you’ve been at—
—trying to bring great teachings of the Scripture to people’s homes, around the major Christian holidays that we celebrate—to help families prepare both their home and their hearts for the reason for the season.
Barbara: I know there is so much more to the Easter story—in fact, to all of the stories in the Bible—than we know and appreciate. One of the things that I am hoping to do is to help families understand more of the story. I think, because we’re so familiar with it, we think it’s kind of old hat, or it’s boring, or “Oh, I know this story.” And yet, there is so much more to it than we know. I think it helps elevate our celebration when we know more about what happened on the cross and all of the events that surrounded the first Easter.
Bob: Over the years, you’ve designed decorative elements that can be used in the home, whether it’s a banner you can put on your front door that says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” a chain garland that can hold cards that talk about the “I Am” statements from John: “I am the Door,” “I am the Good Shepherd,”
“I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Light of the World.”
This year, one of the new things you’ve developed is what you are referring to as conversation cards. Explain what these are.
Barbara: Well, I think that all of us—women especially—when we go to the trouble to set a really nice table, we’re hoping that we can have a meaningful meal. We go to that trouble because we are hoping that we can capture something that will be memorable—something that will kind of hang with us. That’s why we do traditions. That’s why we repeat recipes and all of that. It’s a way of binding us together, as a family, and it knits our hearts together.
One of the things that I wanted to do was help families, help couples, help moms and dads initiate meaningful conversation around your Easter brunch, or your Easter lunch, or Easter dinner because—we can set a beautiful table but, then, if we sit and talk about sports, or we talk about homework, or we—the kids break into a fight, we lost it.
We lost that element that we were trying to create.
So, sometimes, we all need prompts / we need reminders. We need some kind of a little nudge to help us have a meaningful conversation or to help us talk about things that really matter because we want to—we just don’t know how to get there.
Bob: A few years ago, you created napkin ties that had a question on them—
Bob: —that folks can—you called it Untie Your Story.
Bob: So, you would take one of these napkin ties and untie the silverware.
Dennis: I’ve got one here.
Bob: I’ve got one too.
Dennis: Mine says: “Being grateful is not always easy. What makes it so difficult at times?”
Bob: Mine says, “Describe one of your favorite teachers, as a child, and what made him or her remarkable.” The idea is just: “Here is a question that takes the conversation beyond the mundane—
Bob: —into something that’s a little more meaningful.”
Bob: But now, the conversation cards take it even a step farther; right?
Barbara: That’s right because the conversation cards—there are eight of them that come in a package, and there are two ways you can do them. I designed them so that you would put one on each plate. You may have more than eight people so you can share—however you want to do it—but the idea is to read these around the table and talk about some of these lesser-known stories about the first Easter to help us spark conversation.
But they are also designed to help us worship more for what Christ did for us on the cross because, again, I think we can become complacent and we can become dull to the story. So, when you hear more about what really happened, it opens your eyes and there is more of a sense of wonder and awe.
Bob: Each of these cards is, basically, a 60-second devotional.
Barbara: Very quick.
Bob: You can read what’s on the card, and then, there may be a discussion question or something that you can follow up on it with. But, again, it’s the idea to have something spiritually significant—
—that’s a part of your Easter meal.
Dennis: This is where I think a lot of us fail. In fact, we don’t know how to bridge from good food and from talk of the weather and the latest thing that’s happened with your sports team that’s going well or not going so well. We don’t know how to get to the real message of Easter. What Barbara has done—you used the word, “prompt.” It’s really a prompt—it will engage each person as they read it.
Like this first one is “Light of the World.” And I’ll just read it here—this is how it happened.
While Jesus lived on earth, a grand and glorious Temple stood in the center of Jerusalem as the heart of the Jewish city life. Within the Court of Women, stood four sumptuously-gilded candelabra, over 70 feet in height.
In the evenings, during feast times, a lamp-lighting ceremony reminded the people that God, Himself, created light and separated it from darkness, just as His presence did for them.
Illuminating even the neighborhood courtyards around the Temple, the lamps were also burning reminders of God’s guidance of His people by a nightly pillar of fire ensuring protection from enemies and lighting their path.
Twice Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the World—once in the temple to a curious audience of disciples and Pharisees and, a short time later, on the south steps of the Temple, just before miraculously giving the light of sight to a man born blind. Both announcements were signs of His deity. His bold revelation, “I am the Light of the World,” alluded to, again, in Isaiah’s prophecy about Him: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.”
During every Passover mal, the honor of a candle-lighting belongs to the mother of the house, honoring all women, for it was through Mary that God chose to give us the light of the nations—
And at the bottom of the card, Barbara has: “If you are reading these stories at your Resurrection Day meal, the women or the mother of the family can light the candles now.” That’d be a great moment in a family to honor women for having given birth to our Savior, and at the same time, honor your mom in the process.
Barbara: A part of what I like about these stories is that it ties what we know about the resurrection, and the cross, and Good Friday, and all of those things that we celebrate at Easter—but these cards tie all of those events back to the Jewish traditions and the Jewish feasts that Jesus, Himself, celebrated when He was on earth because there are links, there are parallels, and there are connections—
—between what God instituted for the nation of Israel, that they actually went through / that Jesus actually participated in—and what we celebrate today.
Bob: And I think it’s helpful for folks to realize that Jesus didn’t just stand up and, in no context, say, “I’m the Light of the World,” where everybody is like, “Where did that come from?” No, He stood up in the midst of the Temple, where these lights were being lit, giving light to the neighborhoods, as you describe on the card. It was there He said, “Hey, I’m the Light of the World.” Everybody kind of like—looking at Him, going, “In the midst of all this flaming light, you’re saying ‘You’re the Light of the World’?” It was a revolutionary statement He was making—not just some kind of esoteric human philosophy that He was offering—again, with no context.
Barbara: It was also fulfillment of prophecy, too, because, as you read that, there is the verse in Isaiah that said, “A light will come;” and He’s saying, “I’m the Light”—
Barbara: —“I’m the Light of the World that God promised.”
It was a way of Him saying to the people, who had been looking for the Messiah to come—“I am He.”
Bob: Now, if you were having your brother, and his wife, and their kids over for Easter dinner—and they go to church on Easter, and they go to church on Christmas, and that’s about it—and they come in and see crosses on your table and conversation cards about Jesus is the Light of the World, would you put all of that out if you were having nominal folks come over? Or would you—how would you handle that—do you think?
Barbara: It would really depend on who it was—and in your family, you sort of know. You might not want to read them all. You might want to read them all ahead of time and pick out one that you would read, sort of as a little introduction to the meal, but have them all out so that everybody—Uncle George, who hasn’t darkened the door of a church in 10 years—but he still has one and he can pick it up and he can look at it—so that it exposes them but in a smaller dose.
Dennis: Yes, and there is some symbolism to this, Bob, that you wouldn’t necessarily have to read.
Explain to them, Barbara—and this is one that you’d read—it’s called “Hidden Bread.” It’s the second one that you would read. Explain how the Passover meal, really, symbolized the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Barbara: Jews celebrated the Passover meal for centuries, and Jews today still celebrate Passover. One of the steps of the Passover meal, for the Jewish people today, is when they take the bread—it’s called matzah—and it’s prepared, and always has been prepared, in sections.
This Jewish matzah bread has three pieces. It’s divided into three pieces; and it’s like: “Why is it divided into three pieces?” And then, each of those pieces has all kinds of little holes marked into it. And a part of the Jewish tradition is—is that the father breaks that bread into the three pieces. He takes the middle one—he wraps it in a linen napkin or a linen cloth and then he hides it.
And the Jewish children, then, all go on a search to find it. The one who finds it brings it to the father, and the father pays him in silver coins for that piece.
There is so much symbolism! There is so much history interwoven with the Jewish tradition of Passover, and what Jews actually practice today, and what we know about the story of Jesus—that you could read some of those pieces with people who may or may not be friendly to your faith. Yet, it’s almost like a history lesson—they might go, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” It might make it more interesting and appealing.
Dennis: Yes, and simply to review with them—say: “For centuries, Jewish families celebrated the dinner. They had this time when they broke that bread—the matzah—in thirds and then hid the one that was wrapped in a napkin.”
It’s like—we think, as followers of Christ, that what God was doing was—
—He was showing us what the resurrection was going to look like—that Jesus was going to be crucified, He was going to be wrapped in linen cloth and buried, and then, on the third day, He rose from the dead. I think it would cause an interesting discussion, even with people who aren’t people of faith—just to cause them to begin to wonder, “Is there really something to this man—this God-man named Jesus Christ?” That’s what you really want to create around the table; isn’t it?
Barbara: I want to create interest / I want to create conversation. I’m hoping that families can talk about some of these lesser-known details because one of the things that I’ve discovered through the years of studying the Bible is that the details matter. God doesn’t overlook the small stuff. So, every detail of the Passover meal, every detail of every feast that He instituted, and every detail of the Temple that was in Israel—all of that pointed to Christ.
We don’t know enough about that, as Gentiles / as people in the Christian church today.
The more we learn about Jewish history and culture, as God instituted it, the more it makes our faith more meaningful. And I think that’s what so many of us are looking for in our families and in our celebration of Easter—is a way to make it more meaningful.
Bob: Each of these conversation cards has artwork on the other side of the card. Do you want to tell us about the artwork?
Barbara: The artwork is exceptionally beautiful, I think. And the story behind that is that I found a book at a garage sale, a number of years ago, and it’s a book that was written by Peter Marshall. It was a sermon he gave on Easter Sunday; and it’s a phenomenal little book. But it was full of these pen-and-ink drawings. The drawings are all about Christ and the resurrection. Each one of them—each of the cards has a beautiful pen-and-ink drawing on it.
Dennis: One of the other stories you tell, that I didn’t know anything about until you did the research on this, was the story of the curtain.
Bob, you may remember, when Christ died on the cross, at that moment, obviously, there was an earthquake. It was dark, and there was something that took place in the Temple that was symbolic of what God had done through His Son, Jesus Christ. Explain what that was, Barbara, and what happened to the curtain in the Temple.
Barbara: Well, the Jewish Temple had a perfectly square room that was at the back of the Temple. It was closed off by this really thick curtain. Nobody knows precisely what it looked like or precisely how big it was, but the research that I did said that the curtain was between 60 and 90 feet tall—that’s really tall—I mean, that’s a really big curtain. None of us have curtains anywhere near that big in our house.
Dennis: And it wasn’t a sheer curtain.
Barbara: And it wasn’t a sheer curtain. It was between four and six inches thick. I would like to know how they even made it—I would like to know how it was woven.
Was it just a whole bunch of curtains that were then tied together? I mean, how do you weave anything that is four to six inches thick and that tall? It’s just impossible to even imagine what it looked like to start off with.
But what is so remarkable—and it’s one of those little pieces in the story of Easter that, every time I read it, I get chills because it says, at the moment that Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple was torn, from top to bottom. Now, think about a curtain that is four to six inches thick—that’s almost more than you can put your hand around—and sixty to ninety feet tall—and it says, in Scripture, it was torn from top to bottom.
Bob: A body builder can do a phone book, but this curtain is thicker than a phone book; right?
Barbara: Yes, and so, you’ve got something—and it’s the hand of God, of course—but you’ve got the hand of God, at the top of that thing, just ripping it in half. If you’ve ever torn a piece of fabric—which probably neither one of you have—but my mother was a seamstress. I learned, early on, that the best way to get a straight line in fabric is to rip it.
So, you make a snip in the edge of the fabric, you get your hands on either side of that little snip, and you really quickly—you tear it in half. It makes a really loud sound.
And that’s just on a piece of thin fabric, but imagine the sound that probably occurred with a four-inch thick, ninety-feet tall piece of fabric—or whatever it was—being ripped in half. I just imagine that the sound alone was stunning to all the priests and the people who were in there—and they were busy with this business of doing the Passover sacrifices—and all of a sudden, there is this thunderous sound and the curtain is being torn in two. It was the moment that Christ breathed His last.
Bob: And the curtain had separated the people from the Holy of Holies—
Barbara: Exactly, that’s why it was there!
Bob: —the dwelling place of God—
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: —in the Temple. This was the place where they believed God dwelled.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: The priest would go in once a year.
So, here is this dwelling place of God, and the death of Christ tears open that curtain so that we can be in the presence of God—again, because of what Christ has done.
Barbara: Exactly. So, the tearing of the curtain symbolized—for all who saw and understood and for those of us, now, who know—that the way to God was now opened. It was now free access. We can come to Him, as Hebrews said, “…anytime come before the throne of God.” So, it was a visual statement that God made, on behalf of Christ and what He had done, that the way to Him was now open. We didn’t need priests anymore. We don’t need bloody sacrifices because Christ did it all.
Dennis: And if I had been alive during that day—
Barbara: I know! Wouldn’t that be something?
Dennis: —it would have been really remarkable to go back to the Temple and interview the priests, going, “Well, what do you think—
Bob: —“of what happened?”
Dennis: —“what happened?”
Dennis: “Well, the curtain’s ripped! It’s no longer there! It/that separated us from the Holy of Holies!”
Barbara: Well, now, all the people could see into the Holy of Holies. Nobody had seen it before, other than the high priest.
Dennis: Yes. And we all know, today, if you go to Israel, you’re not going to find a Temple. You’re not going to find the Holy of Holies because it’s not there.
Dennis: No, there was One who came to get God into man, and it starts from the top down. He took on flesh—became a human being—lived a perfect life, died the perfect death, even though He bore our sins on His body, and defeated death. And because He defeated death, He can offer you eternal life. Now, that is the greatest story ever told.
Bob: Well, and maybe, because of the work that you’ve done, Barbara, there’ll be some families that’ll have a little richer, deeper understanding of what it is that we celebrate at Easter this year and in the years to come. Easter will be more meaningful than it’s been for families.
Barbara: Well, I hope so because I think that we undervalue what Christ has done for us.
My prayer is that we would grow in our appreciation for the sacrifice and the price that He paid to redeem us. So, that is my prayer.
Dennis: There are two places on the planet where that needs to be taking place: One’s at church / the other is in a family—what better place to communicate the reality of who Jesus Christ is and what He did on our behalf? What a privilege we, as parents/ grandparents, have to introduce our children to the Messiah, the Great High Priest, and the Mediator.
Bob: Well, and everything Barbara has been working on is designed to help make that easier for moms and dads to do, while at the same time, making your home a place that declares the glory of God / the majesty of Christ.
And I want to encourage our listeners—take a look at the resources that Barbara has designed for us, here at FamilyLife, as part of the Ever Thine Home® collection of resources.
Go to the website, EverThineHome.com. Everything that Barbara has designed for Easter is available right there for you to look at. Again, it’s EverThineHome.com. Look for the banner that you can hang on your front door at Easter or for the Savior names—the crosses that can be displayed as a table decoration—the cards we’ve talked about today that you can use at the dinner table—conversation and devotion around your Easter dinner table.
The website, again, is EverThineHome.com; or if you have any questions, you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can answer whatever questions you have or make arrangements to send some of these resources your direction. Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY; and the website is EverThineHome.com.
You know, I know a lot of our listeners, over the years have used one of the resources that FamilyLife developed, years ago, to help celebrate the Easter season.
It’s a tool called Resurrection Eggs®, where you can share the story of Easter with young children in a way that makes it memorable for them. It’s interactive, and kids love it.
We thought, this year, we’d like to make that tool available to anyone who would like a set. All we’re asking is that you help us with a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We’re listener-supported. So, your donation is what helps defray the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. And if you’d like to help support us, we’d be happy to send you a set of Resurrection Eggs.
Simply go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE.” You can make an online donation there and request the Resurrection Eggs. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone and, again, request a set of Resurrection Eggs.
Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’ve got a guy—a friend of ours—who has just been—he’s been pestering us. He wants to come on the radio and talk about Easter. He’s a friend—so, we’re going to let him do it. Tune in tomorrow, and we’ll introduce our guest to you. I hope you can do 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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