Don’t we all agree that “Easter” is NOT to be celebrated only once per year? If you carry on your reflection and celebration of gospel events beyond this weekend in your groups and families, then this Easter blog will provide a few helpful resources for you.
Celebrating the Easter Season—Ideas for All Ages
(Derived from the Focus on the Family article by the same name)
“According to author Kim Wier, co-director of Engaging Women Ministries, Easter was never intended to be just one day. “For most families, including Christians, God gets an hour on Sunday, and we get the rest of the day to hunt eggs and feast on sweets.”
“The shame isn’t that we are celebrating Easter Day; it is that we are missing Easter Season.
How about your family? Ready for some cake? Try these faith-filled activities that go beyond Sunday morning as you usher in this Easter season.
Help your little ones stuff hollow plastic eggs with one chocolate heart, because Jesus came to give us a new heart toward God. Then allow your little one to hand them out to friends, neighbors, or people you meet during the day. You might include a note inside with the passage from John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus
Hold a neighborhood egg hunt, but award the large basket filled with candy for whoever finds the one empty egg, representing the empty tomb. When the child finds the empty egg he or she must call out, “He is not here he has risen, just as he said.” Be sure to conclude the hunt with an Easter story on the lawn. I’d recommend The Parable of the Lily, by Liz Curtis Higgs.
Sometimes the greatest joy is in the giving. Visit a nearby hospital or retirement home and greet one of the residents with a fresh Easter lily. You may want to attach a card with some encouraging words about the hope we have in our risen Lord.
Children this age might enjoy a surprise field trip for a sunrise service at the park or a nearby lake. Be sure to bring a Bible, hymnbook or maybe even a guitar for a worshipful early morning celebration.
Since there are many new visitors attending church for the Easter service, make a point to greet and invite someone to lunch afterwards. Then remember to make plans to sit together next Sunday at church.
The Story of Easter by Sand Animation
Brief Easter Facts
The Date of Easter
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be introduced here. The “full moon” in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical “vernal equinox” is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.
When was Yeshua (Jesus) executed?
Passover was the most important feast of the Jewish calendar, celebrated at the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. (The Equinox typically occurs onMarch 20, 21or 22 according to our present calendar.)
The Synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) stated that Jesus’ last supper was a Seder – a Passover celebration at the start of 15th Nisan, just after sundown. (Jewish days begin at sundown and continue until the next sundown). Jesus was executed later that day.
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.
The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit toAmerica. It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War.
The Easter Egg
As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians.
From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.
A Recommended Easter Bible Study List, from Mark Driscoll
“The following list of Old and New Testament Scriptures regarding resurrection is by no means exhaustive but is offered in hope of helping preachers and teachers [small group leaders] find a section of Scripture in which to root their Easter sermon[/lessons/meditations]:”
* Genesis 22:13 and Hebrews 11:19 show how the story of Isaac is a type of the resurrection.
* 2 Samuel 7:7–16 contains the Davidic Covenant, which promises that Jesus will rule over an everlasting kingdom, and Romans 1:3–4 shows the fulfillment as God the Father anointed God the Son as Davidic king at his resurrection.
* Psalm 16:10 promises that Jesus would not be abandoned in the grave.
* Isaiah 26:19 promises that the dead will rise.
* Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is the entire prophetic promise of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection, with the resurrection emphasized in 53:10–12.
* Ezekiel 37:1–10 gives an illustration of the resurrection of the dead.
* Daniel 12:2 is one of the clearest Old Testament Scriptures on the bodily resurrection of believers and unbelievers.
* Hosea 13:14 speaks of resurrection victory over death and is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.
* Jonah 1:17 and 2:10 and Matthew 12:40 speak of Jonah’s three days in the fish as a type of Jesus’ resurrection after three days in the grave.
* Matthew 9:18–26 records Jesus resuscitating a young girl from death (unlike resurrection, in which the risen never dies again, resuscitation is followed by a second physical death). This passage could be used to show how one day Jesus will also cause believers to rise from death, despite mockery from the world as Jesus experienced at that event.
* Matthew 11:1–6 records that, as evidence of his divinity for John the Baptizer, Jesus appealed to the fact that he could raise the dead.
* Matthew 12:38–40; Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33–34; and John 2:18–22 all reveal Jesus prophesying his resurrection in advance.
* Matthew 22:23; Luke 20:27; and Acts 23:8 all report that the Sadducees denied the resurrection in arguments with Jesus.
* Matthew 28:9 and John 20:17, 20–28 all report that Jesus rose physically from death, not just spiritually.
* Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all close with large sections reporting the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, and any of them, or portions from them, could make a good Easter sermon.
* Luke 14:12–14 is a parable Jesus told about the repayment that will come to the just at the resurrection.
* John 5:19–29 records Jesus teaching that we will stand before him for final judgment and rise for eternal life or eternal death.
* John 11:1–44 records the death of Lazarus and Jesus resuscitating him from death. Jesus also declares himself to be the resurrection and the life who can also raise us from death.
* Twelve of the twenty-eight chapters in the book of Acts report that the continual refrain of the preaching in the early church was that Jesus had risen from death, and all or some of these sermon snippets could make a good Easter sermon.
* Acts 9 reports the dramatic conversion of Saul—who had overseen the murder of the early church deacon Stephen—when he was confronted with the risen Jesus.
* Acts 17:32, 23:6, and 24:11–15 report how belief in the resurrection can result in mockery and persecution.
* Romans 4:25 connects Jesus’ resurrection and our justification.
* Romans 6:5 says that we are united with Jesus by his resurrection.
* Romans 8:1–11 speaks of the new power we have, through the Holy Spirit, to say no to sin and yes to God because of Jesus’ resurrection.
* Romans 8:11 and 2 Corinthians 5:15 say that believers have the same power as Jesus did for his resurrection through God the Holy Spirit.
* Romans 10:5–13 speaks of how to be saved through Jesus’ resurrection.
* Romans 14:8–12 describes how Jesus is Lord of the dead and the living because he was dead and is now alive.
* 1 Corinthians 15 is arguably the most comprehensive treatment of resurrection in all of Scripture. While one sermon on the entire chapter would likely be impossible, there are innumerable options that could be emphasized in an Easter sermon.
* 2 Corinthians 5:1–10 teaches about the state between death and resurrection as well as the kind of body we will have after resurrection.
* In Galatians 1:1–2, Paul declares that the resurrected Jesus Christ gave Paul his apostolic authority.
* Ephesians 2:1–10 explains how we are dead in sin but made alive in Christ through his resurrection.
* In Philippians 3:1–11, Paul teaches that the resurrection is infinitely better than religion.
* Colossians 1:15–20 speaks of the preeminence of the risen Jesus over every created thing.
* Colossians 2:6–15 and 3:1 say that we have been raised with Christ.
* 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10 encourages Christians to wait patiently for the second coming of the risen Jesus.
* 1 Thessalonians 4:16 teaches us that at the second coming of Jesus Christ, the dead in Christ will rise like him to be with him.
* 2 Timothy 2:1–13 reveals Paul using the resurrection of Jesus Christ as motivation for a life of faithful ministry in the midst of suffering and trial.
* 2 Timothy 2:17–18 actually names false teachers who denied the resurrection, and Paul declares them to be heretics for doing so.
* Hebrews 6:1–2 lists the doctrine of the resurrection among the most elemental and essential of Christian truths to learn.
* Hebrews 13:20–21 reminds us that the same God who raised Jesus from death is faithful to keep his promises to his people as well.
* 1 Peter 1:3–9 speaks of the inheritance that Jesus has purchased for us through his resurrection and how our suffering in this life reminds us of him until we rise in his kingdom.
* 1 Peter 3:21–22 and Romans 6:5 explain how the Christian act of baptism shows us the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, which cleanses us from sin.
* 1 John 3:2 says that a Christian’s resurrection body will be like Jesus’ risen body.
* Revelation 1:17–18 reveals Jesus as the Alpha and Omega who was dead and is now alive.