A lot of the time, traditions get a bad rap. And I understand why.
When we think of tradition we often think of “old”, outdated, or irrelevant.
We think of ritual and stale and legalism.
We wonder if these traditions have a purpose and if they do, what does it matter to me?
As we approached Easter this year and prayed through how to make it meaningful and purposeful for our kids and a watching, curious world around us, we continued to go back to our Easter traditions.
But I knew that my kids would want to know and need to know why we do what we do. And as we embark on this journey of church planting and sharing Jesus with a world that doesn’t know Him, I knew that others around us might be wondering the same.
I love that in Deuteronomy, after God tells His people to diligently teach His words to their children and reminds them not to forget Him, He assumes that their children, too, will have questions…
“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ …(Deut. 6:20)”
Why do you tell us all of this? Why do we believe what we believe? Why do we do what we do?
“…then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and gives us the land that he swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always…(Deut. 6:21-24).”
These questions elicit a response that gives them context for what they say and do and celebrate. They do it because they have been rescued.
They were slaves under the authority of another. They were in the wrong land.
God brought them out.
He protected and and punished and prevailed for them in unbelievable ways.
He provided a way out through the blood of a lamb.
He brought them out so He could bring them in.
He kept his promises and promised their good.
And why did He do it?
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…(Deut. 7:6-9).”
He didn’t do it because they were anything special or because they earned it. He did it simply because He loved them. Because he chose to love them. Because He keeps His promises and anything less would be contrary to His character. And because rescue was just a glimpse of a greater and more complete rescue that was coming.
And as I prepared for Easter and continued to teach my children why we celebrate, I want and should encourage my children to ask questions…
What is the meaning of this? Why do we do what we do?
And what will I say then?
I love how beautifully Ephesians 2 aligns with the Israelites rescue in Deuteronomy 7 and tells of our rescue…
“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…(vs.1)”
You were slaves. Slaves to sin. Carrying the curse of death.
“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (vs.12).”
You were on the wrong side. You were in the wrong land. You were without hope.
“…following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (vs. 2-3).”
You were under another prince’s authority. You were on the side of the enemy. You were in the wrong family. You were living the wrong way and in the wrong land.
“BUT NOW in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (vs. 13)…and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…(vs. 16-19).”
He provided a way out through the blood of Christ.
He brought us out to bring us near.
He redeemed and reconciled and restored us into the right side and the right family in the right land.
And why did He do it?
“…being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…through faith. And this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God (vs. 4-5, 8).”
He did it because simply because He loves us. Because He chose to be merciful. Not because we deserved it or somehow earned it. Because He kept His promises to rescue us!
What a promise! What a story! I so badly desire that all of our Easter traditions (and everything we do throughout the rest of the year) reflect and enhance the beauty of the gospel. I want to dazzle my kids with the great love with which Christ loved them!
So on the Thursday before Easter, we once again did a Passover/Maudy Thursday Meal as a family.
As I prepared the lamb earlier that day, cutting the flesh and adding the spices, my stomach turned and tears filled my eyes as I felt the weight of my sin and the price that was paid for my freedom.
Like Jesus washed the feet of his disciples that night during The Last Supper, I watched my little boys wash each other’s feet.
We ate the bitter herbs and salt water and remembered Israel’s tears during their bondage in Egypt and remembered the bondage of our sin.
We broke the bread and drank the cup and remembered Jesus’ sacrifice for our rescue.
On Good Friday Adam took the boys for a walk to find rocks to put into their Easter baskets. It was a dreary day. A reminder of the darkness of that day so many years ago.
They talked about how sin had made their hearts like stone and only God could make them into hearts of flesh.
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 11:19
As they picked up their stones, Adam drew their attention to the building and construction behind them. The building was empty. It was broken. It was a mess. Just like our hearts before we put our faith in and believe on Jesus.
But soon, the building would be made new. It would become a apartments – places for people to dwell. Jesus came to make our hearts new. To make our hearts the place where He dwells.
Their baskets were heavy now – filled with a weight that they couldn’t carry on their own – that they needed their father to carry for them.
They talked about the weight of our sin. About how Jesus took the full weight of our sin and sickness and sorrow, the full weight of God’s wrath upon Himself on the cross.
When they got home, we talked about sin. Their own sin. And wrote some of those sins on the rocks.
Then we read about that dark Friday, when God’s rescue plan became reality…
We blew out the candle symbolizing the death of the Light of the World.
On Saturday we made resurrection rolls together.
On Easter Sunday morning, the boys came downstairs to find the candle lit again and the red cloth replaced with a white one.
“…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…”
– Isaiah 1:18
We read about God’s wonderful surprise that Easter morning…
And we took off the cloth to reveal the rocks were taken away and gifts of grace were left in their place. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we’ve been given LIFE.
After celebrating with our church family that Resurrection Sunday, we drove to the shore for the afternoon. Watching the waves and feeling the sun on our faces felt like a little piece of heaven.
These traditions have become so very rich for us…and make us yearn for eternity.
Oh, how I long for our faith to become sight! When we can be with the One who paid the ultimate price just to be with us. What a day that will be.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…”
– Ephesians 1:3-7