Growing up in church I learned a lot about what the Bible teaches. I learned many different Bible stories about all the different characters that are portrayed in the pages of the scriptures. I remember for Easter we would sometimes celebrate Easter by attending a sunrise service, or with special food prepared by my mother. My personal favorite was her Easter bread. Yum!
My parents would allow us to participate in the egg hunts every once and a while. I remember one year we were visiting a church and I actually won the chocolate bunny! It was a nice treat for me. For our regular Easter traditions though, my parents did not approve of the egg hunts, and baskets of candy. I grew up believing that Easter was more than those sweet trappings. I never really missed the extra sweet treats.
Since getting married and having children of my own I have a deep desire for my children to have a deeper understanding of what Easter really means. I don’t know that hunting for candy-filled plastic eggs is a bad thing, but I don’t want my children focused on the getting of more stuff. So many of the holidays seem to be occasions for getting more stuff. Perhaps we need to look back to the history of our celebrations and seek out a better way to celebrate Easter. After all Easter is about the biggest gift ever given. Why do we need anything else?
I am not Catholic. I did not grow up learning about all the traditions around Holy Week. Even so, I have been doing a little bit of research about it and I am beginning to consider ways to include some of these traditions into my family’s celebration.
Sunday was Palm Sunday. A day we celebrate when Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey. The very people who were celebrating him that day would soon be screaming for his death. What a powerful seven days!
Let’s look at some of the things Jesus was doing in the days before he died.
Right after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, Matthew tells us that he cleansed the Temple. This is the second time that Jesus’ anger was aroused over the practice of buying and selling in the Temple.
“Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and stalls of those selling doves. He said, ‘The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.!” The blind and the lame came to him and he healed them there in the Temple.” Matthew 21:12-14 [NLT]
I love this passage.
Jesus is expressing his anger over the sin that is happening in the Temple. Yet once his work of cleansing is done, He simply picks up his work of healing and teaching right there in the Temple. Demonstrating to us all what the Temple is to be used for; A place to meet with God.
Just a few verses down we see,
“The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the little children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But they were indignant and asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?’ “Yes” Jesus replied. “haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise’”. Matthew 21:15-16 [NLT]
As Jesus is healing in the Temple the children become so amazed at what he is doing, and perhaps remembering the song they sang just the day before, they begin to sing again, praising Him.
I want to be like the little children. Whose faith is so fresh, and so innocent that they simply can’t contain their excitement about what they see happening around them in the city. I don’t want to be like the leading priests and teachers of the law whose hearts had grown so hard that they complained because what Jesus was doing was upsetting the status quo.
I am so much like the religious leaders. I like things in my life to be a certain way. I crave order and organization. Much of my life is not orderly, but rather chaotic. I pray that my heart will be softened and changed so that I will be able to easily slide into praise rather than complain because of the messiness of life around me.
As we are walking our way through this Holy Week I pray that my heart will be sensitive to your leading and conviction. I pray that you will prepare me for Easter Sunday in a way that will bring repentance, renewal, and remembrance of all that you have done for me. I am so thankful that you have paid a price for me that I could never pay myself. I thank you dear Jesus for all you have done.