Why We Celebrate Easter
About the Guest
Jesus is the reason we celebrate Easter, but do our friends and neighbors know that by the way we celebrate? Barbara Rainey encourages Christians to find ways to make their Easter celebrations special.
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
Jesus is the reason we celebrate Easter, but do our friends and neighbors know that by the way we celebrate? Barbara Rainey encourages Christians to find ways to make their Easter celebrations special.
Why We Celebrate Easter
Bob: The resurrection of Jesus is a reminder that God can bring life where there is death. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: All kinds of things often feel dead to us in our world or in our lives—it may be your marriage is feeling dead / it may be that a relationship is damaged—but if God can raise Jesus from the dead, then the things that feel dead to us in our lives, that means that that’s not too hard for God. The cross proves that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Easter is the holiday that ought not be relegated to one day a year. Resurrection is something we should remember and celebrate all year long. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. The countdown is on—Easter is just around the corner. We’ve been trying this week to alert moms and dads to the opportunity—
Dennis: No, no; it’s not an alert, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: It is—
Dennis: It is imploring, exhorting, challenging, compelling moms and dads, husbands and wives, singles—
Barbara: —grandmas and grandpas too.
Dennis: Yes—grandmas and grandpas—to really get out—get it all out and celebrate the message of Easter.
Bob: Your wife Barbara has been with us all week. Welcome back, Barbara.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: This is a season, where, if you are a mom or a dad, you have an opportunity to take advantage of the season and do some discipling with your children.
Barbara: Yes; it’s a great opportunity to talk to your kids about why we’re Christians:
“Why do we believe this?” and “What’s the most important thing about our faith?” That most important element of our faith is what Jesus accomplished at Easter.
Bob: If your kids are out of the home or are grown up, you still have an opportunity with the neighbors, or the mailman, or whoever comes to your door—
Barbara: —or friends; yes.
Bob: —you have opportunities to declare your faith, publicly, during the Easter season. You created a banner a couple of years ago to hang on the door at Easter time; right?
Barbara: Yes; because if you think about it—at Christmas, we all put up wreaths, we string lights, we do all kinds of things to decorate our homes at Christmas; but there’s very little that we can do that’s actually about Christ at Easter time. So we created this banner. It’s double-sided—one side is sort of burlap brown, and it has a lamb on it and it says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
It’s designed so that you put that side out during Lent or in the days leading up to Easter; and then, on Easter morning, you flip it over. The reverse side is white, and it has a gold crown and a cross; and it says, “He is risen.”
Dennis: I think it is fun for families to be able to take that banner, as you celebrate the anticipation of Easter, and then, on Resurrection Sunday, to flip it over and declare to your neighbors, and friends, and people who drive by your home, “He is risen.”
Barbara: Well, and not only for that day, but to leave it up for weeks. It can stay up until June, for that matter. I mean, the idea is that Easter should change our lives. So if we just have it up for Easter Sunday, then we’re saying to the world, “It only matters on Easter Sunday.”
Bob: So you’re not going to put the decorations away on the Monday after Easter? You’re not going to put the candles back in a box?
Barbara: No; no.
Dennis: We don’t for Christmas. How long does your Christmas tree stay up?
Bob: A few days. I mean, you try to—
Dennis: Past the first of the year?
Bob: Not at our house; no. [Laughter]
So, I guess the question is—because this really is a declaration that is not about a day—but it’s about every day: “How do you make Easter a part of the consciousness of a family throughout the year?”
Barbara: Well, I have four specific ways that I think we can begin to do that. The first one is—I think we need to remember that the resurrection proves that nothing is impossible with God. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Luke 1:37, when Gabriel came to visit Mary. She said, “How can this be?” and Gabriel said back to her, “Nothing is impossible with God.” The cross proves that.
So when Jesus came alive—when He came out of the tomb / when He was resurrected—He did something that nobody had ever done before. So, if God can raise Jesus from the dead / if He can come alive, then the things that feel dead to us in our lives—
—it may be your marriage is feeling dead; it may be that a relationship is damaged; it may be that your child is struggling—or all kinds of things often feel dead to us in our world or in our lives. That means that that’s not too hard for God to restore that area of your marriage, or that relationship with a prodigal child, or whatever. It may take longer than you’d like—it usually does take longer than we’d like—but the cross / the resurrection remind us that nothing is impossible with God.
So, the week after Easter, all of us are going to face some things that are challenging. Are we going to give in to despair and discouragement; or are we going to remember the cross and say: “Jesus rose from the dead. He’s conquered death, and I believe that God can conquer this situation in my life,” or “…this circumstance in my life”?
Dennis: I, wish all of our listeners knew a former dentist, who works here at FamilyLife—his name is Tim Bell.
Tim gave a devotional to all of the managers, and directors, and vice presidents, here at FamilyLife, a number of months ago in honor of his mother, who had recently passed away. He brought a chalkboard that had been a chalkboard that she had written verses on her entire life and had hung them up for the kids to see.
She would remind Tim—he said: “When I was a boy, she’d point out the verse and say, ‘Son, are you going to believe that?’” She would gently encourage him to read the verse, hear the promise of God, and to trust God and believe what you’re talking about, Barbara, that nothing is impossible with God. One of the things you’re challenging people to do is get a chalkboard and write this phrase: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
Barbara: And that’s a really easy thing to do for most families today, because chalkboards are everywhere. Every house probably has, at least, one or more than one.
My encouragement is to get that chalkboard or maybe you have a whiteboard—it doesn’t really matter—but just write that phrase somewhere that you can see it during the week—so that when you or someone in your family feels like life is impossible, because we all feel that way—we can remember that, because of the cross, nothing is too hard and nothing is impossible.
Bob: I think it’s important, tied to this, to keep in mind that this is one of the things that distinguishes what we believe from every other world religion; because every other religious leader died, and was buried, and we know where the tomb is. Jesus is alive. The claim that we make that He did, indeed, defeat death and that He is still alive—you stop and think about it—that’s an audacious claim; but if true—and we believe it is true, and we believe there’s evidence for the truth of it—that changes everything.
Dennis: And if He is who He claimed to be—and by the way, He is—then we must kneel before Him. We must surrender our wills to Him and ask Him how we can become Easter people the other 364 days.
Bob: So, keep in mind that nothing is impossible with God; and remember that, throughout the year, Easter is the evidence of that. What’s another way that we can continue to be Easter people, as Dennis called it?
Barbara: Well, one of the things that I find so interesting in the four Gospel accounts of Easter Sunday is the response of the different disciples. It illustrates that faith, or believing, is a choice. It’s really interesting—in all four Gospels, that the first people who went to the tomb on Easter morning were women. What’s fascinating to me is that these women believed—they believed that Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead.
The angel said it, they saw the tomb was empty, and they believed. They chose to believe that this was true.
Then they were commanded to go tell the disciples. It says, “When the disciples heard that He was alive, as Mary had said, they refused to believe it.” Later, in that same Gospel, when Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples, it said, “He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed the reports.”
I just think that’s so telling about our hearts and who we are—that the choice is ours. We can be like the women who went to the tomb, and we can readily believe that what God said is true; or we can be like some of the disciples—and it wasn’t all of them—but some of them, who refused to believe. As we look at God’s Word, and as we remember the Easter story, are we going to remember it by faith? Are we going to remember and believe that Jesus is who He says He is and that He does what He claims to do?—
—because He promised them / He told them He was going to come back alive, but they didn’t believe it.
Dennis: I love how the story’s told by John in Chapter 20. He said the first disciple that came to the tomb saw; then Peter ran past him, looked in, and saw. And then he kind of doubled back—and it says of the first disciple, “He saw and believed.”
Well, here’s the question: “Have you been near Christianity and seen and heard about Jesus? Have you looked, and seen, and then contemplated; but still haven’t thrown your hat in the ring yourself? Or have you looked, have you seen Jesus, and then have you believed?—have you committed yourself?—have you surrendered yourself?”
Here’s the challenge: “Why go another day, playing church / playing religion, being near Christ, but not—as Barbara was talking about and as we’re all exhorted by the Scriptures—
—believing and surrendering to Christ, and getting on with life as God designed it, and being forgiven by Almighty God and being His child?” I’m telling you—it’s an adventure unlike any other on the planet.
Bob: I think this is an important point you’re making here and something that gets lost in our day. You hear about the claim of the resurrection and people say, “Well, that’s something you just have to believe by faith.” What they mean by that is, “You believe that with an absence of evidence.” Well, that’s not what we’re suggesting. We’re suggesting that it’s, not in the absence of evidence—it’s because the evidence points in that direction.
I think it’s important for folks to know this is not a claim that is made with no evidence behind it. We had an opportunity, earlier this year, to see the movie, The Case for Christ, where Lee Strobel, the journalist, went about to disprove the resurrection and came to the conclusion that the evidence actually supports that Jesus was raised from the dead.
As you implore people to surrender to Christ, it’s not a blind leap against the evidence; it’s actually because the evidence supports this, and it requires a response on your part.
Dennis: It actually takes more faith to believe that Jesus isn’t who He claimed to be, and that the tomb isn’t empty; because it is, and He’s alive. If He is alive and He can come into your life and transform you, then Barbara’s third point about how to be Easter people the other 364 days of the year comes into play.
Barbara: Well, the third thought that I have to share is that I think we need to be okay with Jesus turning our world upside down. If you think for a minute about what—not the disciples thought / not the women who went to the tomb—but the religious leaders: “What did they think about this whole sequence of events that happened?”
The religious leaders of that day were probably absolutely panicked. They’d experienced all the same things—they’d seen the sun go dark; they’d experienced the earthquake; many of them were in the Temple when the curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom / the Holy of Holies was open for the first time ever. I’m sure they were bewildered to know what to do about that.
Just that part of the experience was enough to upset their world; and then, two days later, they started hearing rumors that Jesus is alive. They’re thinking: “We thought we killed Him! We thought we did away with Him. We thought we had this all under control.” I think that’s such a good picture of our lives. I think we don’t know what to do when Jesus turns upside down our world—and He does / He often does that—because He wants us to know the truth, and He wants us to know Him as He is. Sometimes, He has to turn our world upside down to do that.
Dennis: I remember when I encountered Christ as a college student, and I was kind of on the fence. I remember counting the cost: “If I do this, this is going to cost me! I mean, I’m going to have to deny myself, because that’s what a follower of Christ and a disciple of Christ is called to do. It’s not a matter of living for yourself, it’s a matter of living for another—living for the King of kings and Lord of lords.” I literally remember battling through that nausea and surrendering.
I look back now, some 50 years later—I can tell you that the adventure of following Christ—the adventure of knowing, even in my imperfections, that I’m somehow stumbling along this journey of faith; and He’s at work in me and through me—I can’t imagine doing life any other way, whether it’s a marriage, a family / as imperfect as it is, or my vocation.
Why would you want to live a life outside of what Christ came to do and be a true Easter person?
Bob: And yet, we have to acknowledge that what it is that the Bible claims—that Jesus was actually dead and came alive again. We say the evidence supports that, but that’s still hard to believe.
Bob: We still have moments of doubt. How do we deal with that?
Barbara: Well, another one of my favorite stories in the days after the resurrection is the story of Thomas. We all know Thomas by the descriptor that goes with his name almost every time it’s used, and that is “doubting Thomas.” The story of Thomas is that Jesus appeared on that Sunday to the women and to some of the other disciples. At one point, He appeared to the disciples as a group; but for some reason Thomas wasn’t there.
He’d been hearing all these reports— “Jesus is alive!”—from different people, but he didn’t believe them. He probably kept hearing them and finally had heard enough; because he said, “I will not believe unless I can put my finger in the nail prints and I can put my hand in His side.” It’s like he’d heard this and heard this, and he just couldn’t take it anymore. He drew a line in the sand; and he said: “I don’t want to hear this anymore. I’m not going to believe unless…” because he doubted. He just couldn’t believe that it was true.
But what I love so much about that story is that I think we all identify with Thomas. We all have our moments of doubt. We all hear things about Jesus; and we go: “I don’t know if that can be true. I don’t know if I can believe that.”
What Jesus does is—eight days later, the following Sunday after Easter, they’re all together—the disciples are—and this time, Thomas is with them. By then, all of them had seen Him and had believed; and Thomas was the only one who hadn’t.
Jesus appeared in the middle of the room—He didn’t walk in through the door / He just appeared. John records this story, and I love this story: “And He said, ‘Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands, and put your hand here and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’” And Thomas immediately answered, “My Lord and my God.”
I think Thomas’s story is so good for us, because I think we all do that at different times in our lives—we draw a line in the sand: we do that in our marriages; we draw a line in the sand with our kids; political leaders draw lines in the sand and say, “If you cross this line, this is what’s going to happen.” We do that with God too—we draw lines with Him—we say, “I’m not going to believe unless I see this,” or “I’m not going to obey unless…” Thomas teaches us that Jesus isn’t put off by that—He loves us anyway—and He knows that our hearts are frail / He knows that our faith is weak.
And yet, He comes to Thomas; and He invites Thomas to see the reality of who He is. When Thomas does, he believes.
Dennis: It’s interesting—the rest of the story, after Thomas says, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus said to him: “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed,”—that’s us!
Barbara: That is us. I love that verse.
Dennis: So the question is: “Have you believed? We know you haven’t seen, but have you believed?” Because, as Bob said earlier, the evidence demands a verdict.
Bob: One of the things we talk often about at our church is the need to re-believe the gospel every day; because we can declare our belief one day and, the next day, be wavering. It’s a decision that we make once; but it’s a decision we continue to make. Following that initial statement of belief, we have to continue to re-believe the gospel, day in and day out.
Bob: I’d just encourage listeners—if you’ve never read a book like Evidence that Demands a Verdict or the book, The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel—that movie is coming out here in another week or two—it’s his story. It’d be a great movie to take listeners to. In fact, we’re going to talk to the screenwriter of that movie on FamilyLife Today next week—so you can tune in for that. I’d encourage you to consider the historical evidence for the reality of the resurrection, because it will bolster your faith. The historical evidence for the reality of the resurrection—you’ll find it is a compelling case that is made for the reality of the fact that Jesus died, and then conquered death, and was resurrected.
Let me also encourage listeners, who have not reviewed the resources that you’ve created, Barbara, to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and look at the home decorations and the discipleship tools you’ve put together for the Easter season, and for that matter, for year round. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and take a look at what Barbara has been working on in her Ever Thine Home® collection. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Barbara: I have one final idea that I ran across last year when I was doing my surveys after Easter. This is a story of the way Easter is practiced in Romania and other countries in eastern Europe—and that is that, on Easter morning, they begin on that day to say, in greeting to one another, “Christ is risen,” and then respond, “Christ is risen indeed.” But what makes what they do different than what we do, here in the West, is that they say that, in greeting to one another, throughout the entire 40 days after Easter, until Ascension Day. That’s another very easy, practical way that we can keep the resurrection alive.
Because, if we come to work the week after Easter, and we greet one another by saying, “Christ is risen,” it’s like: “That’s right! He is! He’s risen. He’s still risen.” It helps us to not forget the miracle of what Christ did.
Dennis: And you think about it—we take 40 days to prepare for the Easter celebration on Resurrection Sunday. It only makes sense that we take 40 days to celebrate the reality that He is, indeed, alive. Bob, Barbara shared with me earlier today—she said, “I don’t think most followers of Christ even know about Ascension Day. They don’t know about the day when Christ was caught up in the clouds, but He promised He’s coming back.”
Dennis: He is coming back.
Bob: And that reality should guide everything about our marriage, about our family, everything we do / every decision we make—the fact that Jesus is alive and that He is coming back.
And in fact, it’s Peter who said, “Given the fact that the world is going to end, and that Jesus will reign, the question is: ‘How, then, will you live your life [paraphrase of
2 Peter, Chapter 3]?’”
Here, at FamilyLife, our goal is to help families live their lives in light of eternity / to help marriages be lived out with the gospel at the center of them. We want to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. We appreciate those of you who partner with us so that the message you hear on FamilyLife Today can be heard by more and more people every year. Every dollar you donate to this ministry is invested in expanding the reach of this ministry so that new people can hear the good news of the gospel. We appreciate those of you who do partner with us, as Legacy Partners, giving each month to help support this ministry, or those of you who will, from time to time, make a donation.
In fact, if you can help with a donation today, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a set of “Resurrection Eggs” designed to help parents and grandparents share the Easter story with preschool and school-aged children.
You can request a set of “Resurrection Eggs” when you make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Finally, be in prayer this weekend, if you would, for the couples who are going to be joining us at Weekend to Remember® getaways all across the country. I’m going to be in Branson, Missouri, for the Weekend to Remember there; but we have weekend getaways happening in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Charlotte, North Carolina; just outside Dallas in Frisco, Texas; in Bellevue, Washington, just outside Seattle; and in Ventura, California. Pray for the couples, who will be attending these getaways this weekend.
If it’s been awhile since your marriage has had a tune-up, plan to join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information on when one of our getaways is coming to a city near you.
And with that, we’re going to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and then join us on Monday. We’re going to talk about what marriage is like when a husband is a controller. Hope you can tune in for that conversation.
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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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