When my two oldest boys were much younger, they had a heated discussion in the back seat of our car about Absalom’s brother. They couldn’t understand why Jesus ‘paid for him’, and what that meant. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about, so I pulled over and asked them.
‘You know Mum, why did Jesus die for Absalom’s brother?’
‘You know—David’s son Absalom? He had a brother, and Jesus died for him: he came not to be served, but to serve and give his life for Ransom and many others.’
It took me a few minutes, until I realised they were referring to the word ... ransom! Jesus gave his life as a ‘ransom’ for many. In their confused thinking, they thought it was a name, and concluded he must be Absalom’s brother!
Kids pick up funny, mashed-up understandings of so many words and ideas from the Bible. I love hearing my kids piecing their understanding together, as they come to know and love God more and more.
Why the big fuss about Sunday?
When I was a child, my family celebrated Easter away at a conference each year. I was very confused about why everyone made such a big deal about Sunday. Good Friday—now that was a day I could understand. I understood that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I understood the black sky, the earthquake, that some curtain in some temple ripped in two. But why did the Christians around me make such a big fuss about the Sunday? Jesus rose from the dead. I didn’t think much about it. I believed it. It seemed obvious to me, because how could God’s Son stay dead? The adults around me at the conference seemed so excited every year on the Sunday, and greeted each other with a new warmth and joy. And I did not understand why.
Perhaps it’s because of my childhood confusion, or perhaps because, in God’s timing and kindness, I slowly pieced together my understanding of the resurrection of Jesus over my teenage years, that I wanted my children to celebrate ‘Resurrection Day’ more than we celebrated Christmas. I wanted my children to know the excitement and joy I feel every year on the day I specifically remember that my Saviour rose from the dead.
When our first four boys were born, one year after another, my husband and I began to formulate what our Resurrection Day party would look like, and what it would involve. The planning was a much-loved part of the process. What would a Resurrection Day party look like? We had a blank slate in front of us, and many ideas filling our heads. We knew we wanted to celebrate with other people, other families, other Christian friends, as well as our children. We wanted the resurrection of Jesus to be our focus, our delight, our joy.
Party or ‘religious festival’?
And so, we began a family tradition of throwing a ‘Jesus Is Alive’ party. For our family, it starts with waking each other up by singing about the resurrection at the top of our voices until everyone joins in. Then it involves a present each, usually a Christian book, Bible readings around the room, sometimes singing, sometimes a scavenger hunt to uncover the special verse of the day, much laughter, a feast, and a reminder that Jesus is alive! It has involved hospitality, and laughter and joy, meeting new people and rejoicing with dear old friends. It has changed over the years, morphed into a celebration for older kids, and some years have been quieter than others. In our family, though, it is a highlight in our annual calendar because we have so much joy about Jesus being alive.
In 2016, however, we couldn’t have our usual celebration. I was in hospital with one of those boys who had once struggled to understand that ‘ransom’ was a word, not a name. He was undergoing chemotherapy and nobody around us celebrated the hope that my son and I were desperately clinging to—the hope of resurrection. This was the only year in my life that I have been surrounded by non-Christians on Easter Day. It felt so different. He and I quietly read the account of the death and resurrection of our Lord from John’s Gospel and we prayed together. It was special in its own way—his last Easter with me—but it was nothing like I’d ever anticipated or experienced.
Later our oncologist apologised for scheduling the chemotherapy during our ‘important religious festival’. We hadn’t said anything to her about it, nor would we have. I think she must have remembered we were Christians. An important religious festival? That gave me pause.
I would not describe the Easter weekend as a ‘religious festival’, although there is usually great celebrating within our household, and we do go to church in the morning. Although the day itself isit is so dear to my heart, I could celebrate Resurrection Day every day of the year, because Jesus didn’t just rise on that Easter morning. He is still alive today! I guess I can see why other people might consider it a ‘religious festival’, but it’s so much bigger than that!
So I told our oncologist that we’d celebrated a few days before the chemotherapy and that, although it was a special weekend for us, we celebrate the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection every day. We don’t have our ‘Jesus Is Alive’ party daily, nor do we awaken our household every morning with various renditions of ‘Low in the grave he lay’ or ‘Christ is risen’, but we live every day with the knowledge and joy that, because he lives, we too have the certain hope of eternal life.
Celebrating through grief
In 2017, we did not have our annual ‘Jesus Is Alive’ party. It was too hard. We were filled with grief and so tired. We cried. We thanked God that we knew that we would see Nathan again because of Jesus. We survived another day without our boy.
By the next year, though, we were ready to throw ourselves back into celebrating. It’s not that we’d finished grieving. I’m not sure we will finish grieving till we see Jesus and Nathan face-to-face again. It’s just that with the death of our beloved son, we hold even more firmly to the resurrection of the beloved Son. Resurrection Day has an even bigger meaning for us now, and we have an even deeper understanding of how precious is the blood of the Lamb, and how astounding is the truth that he is risen.
Ruth Barry was raised in a loving Christian home and has always known Jesus as her King. She's married to Andrew and they have six children, five living with them, and one now safe in the arms of Jesus.
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