As God was delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt he instituted the Passover meal. This feast was a true, historical celebration and truly worked to preserve the children of Israel from God's judgment on that fateful night. But it was also supposed to stand as an annual, memorial feast that would be celebrated every year from then on. Why repeat this feast every year? The Scriptures tell us:
...you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, "What do you mean by this service?" you shall say, "It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses."
- Exodus 25-27 (ESV)
A significant part of this festival was the education of children. The annual celebration would serve as a way to entice and lead the children of God's people into fellowship with the God who delivered them. It was not just a time to perform a ritual. It was a time to tell a most important story.
As the people of God today we have a much better Passover story - the story of how God delivered us from Satan, sin, and death through the cross of Christ. "Passion Week" or "Holy Week" is a wonderful time to slow down as a family, eat ritual meals, and tell the stories of our great deliverance. Here are some ideas for your family corresponding to important days this week:
When it is: Sunday March 20
What it's about: On this day we remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is about the kingship of Jesus. Jesus is the divine king, he is the present king, he is the future king, and he is the rejected king.
Story to Tell: This story can be found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, and John 12:12-19. This is a great story to tell children or grandchildren. Draw out details of the disciple's excitement, the excitement of the people of Jerusalem, and the rising tension with the religious leaders. Draw out details of Jesus riding the baby donkey and palm branches and garments being laid out to make a path for him into the city. You could even extend the story through to the cleansing of the temple to add more drama and excitement.
Song to Sing: Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
When it is: March 21 - March 23
What it's about: Though we have no formal holiday between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday, Jesus was certainly busy during this time. He was in Jerusalem celebrating the feast of unleavened bread and preparing for Passover. He was also teaching daily in the temple. It's during this time that Jesus had some of his most dramatic conflicts with religious authorities.
Story to Tell: Matthew 21-22 is full of great stories and parables to tell children that have to do with this time. The story of the fig tree (Matt 21:18-22), and the three "house divided" parables (Matt 21:28-22:14) all focus on the changing administration of the kingdom of God. God's people Israel had not been faithful and so God had resolved to transfer kingdom stewardship from Israel to all nations. All of these parables are rife with engaging imagery that is perfect for catching children's attention.
Song to Sing: Hosanna
When it is: Thursday, March 24
What it's about: "Maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum which means "mandate". It refers to the great commandment that Jesus issued to his disciples in John 13:34-35. Maundy Thursday remembers the evening when Jesus and his disciples celebrated the last supper, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, and Jesus was arrested.
Story to tell: The story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet after instituting the Lord's Supper would be a great story to tell. It's found in John 13. You can even make it sensory and interactive by engaging in an actual feet washing ceremony with your children or grandchildren. One of the main points of the story is that we have a humble king who gets his hands dirty to serve his people. Jesus engaged in the most menial labor imaginable - dying on the cross for our sins. So we, too, ought to love one another just like Jesus has loved us.
Song to Sing: Jesus Loves Me This I Know
Don't forget to join us for our Maundy Thursday service on the 24th at 6:30pm!
When it is: Friday, March 25
What it's about: Good Friday remembers Jesus' early morning trial before Pilate, the mocking he endured from Herod and the Roman guards, the rejection he faced from the fickle crowds, the condemnation that he was issued, his crucifixion, and his death.
Story to tell: All of these events are detailed in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18:28-19:42. There are so many good stories to tell. You can try to tell a longer story of everything that happened to Jesus on this day or you can pick one little story to focus on. The little stories that make up the bigger crucifixion story are usually stories of Jesus' encounter with one other figure. You can focus on Jesus and the crowd, Jesus and Barabbas, Jesus and the criminal on the cross, Jesus and his mother, Jesus and Pilate, or Jesus and Herod.
Song to sing: Nothing But the Blood of Jesus
When it is: Sunday, March 27
What it's about: This is the most important day in history and the most important Christian holiday. Easter Sunday is about the glorious resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is about God's acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is about Jesus' triumph over the enemies of Satan, sin, and death. And it is about our own resurrection and regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Story to tell: There are so many great resurrection stories found in the Gospels. You can find them in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. You could tell the story of Jesus appearing first to women, the stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples, the story of Jesus appearing on the road to Emmaus, or the story of Jesus appearing to Peter on the shore of the lake of Galilee.
Song to sing: New Again
By all means read Scripture, tell the story, and sing together on Easter Sunday. But also have a party. Go without certain delicacies and luxuries this week so that you can splurge on this day. Let your food be a feast. Pop open the champaign. On this day we remember that the New Heavens and New Earth have already begun to appear in the resurrection of Jesus.