From 1997 to 2011, our family lived in Jordan and got to spend many of our holidays there. I love the focus that our Christian Arab brothers and sisters have on the holiday we call Easter. They call it “Eid Ilqiyaameh”(عِيدُ القِيَامَة), which translated means “Resurrection Holiday”. On that day, they greet each other with the phrase, “Al Maseeh qaam, haqan qaam” (المسيح قام! حقا قام) which means “the Messiah is risen, He is risen indeed”.
I love the memories I have from when I was a child of getting an Easter basket filled with chocolate and jelly beans from the Easter bunny, decorating eggs, and going on Easter egg hunts. But I sometimes find these things distract me from the real reason we celebrate. I suppose that, for a child, these memories are more palatable than being asked to focus on a brutal and horrific crucifixion and an empty grave.
The Easter bunny wasn’t part of my children’s Easter tradition but I did make them Easter baskets and we did decorate Easter eggs. I also shared with them each year the complete story of the resurrection using a set of “resurrection eggs”. This idea was first introduced to me by a dear friend in Jordan, Melissa Manning. She had put together her own set of resurrection eggs using 12 plastic eggs and 11 different “props” to tell the Story.**
There are only 11 props and 12 eggs because the 12th egg is empty to represent the empty tomb. My kids loved hearing the Story told this way every year. I also used it to share the Story with Arab children we were friends with. I left my set of eggs in Jordan with a family with small children when we moved back to the States. I hope that some day I will get to share the Story again this way with my grandchildren. I’ll probably end up just buying a pre-made set off the internet to save time and effort (Family Life makes a really nice one).
You might ask me, “Angie, why are you making a big deal about this?” Why is the cross and resurrection the crux of Easter and our faith? I think Paul says it best:
Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it, unless of course you never really believed it in the first place. I passed on to you right from the first what had been told to me, that Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said he would, and that he was buried, and that three days afterwards he arose from the grave just as the prophets foretold…the fact is that Christ did actually rise from the dead and has become the first of millions who will come back to life again someday. Death came into the world because of what one man (Adam) did, and it is because of what this other man (Christ) has done that now there is the resurrection from the dead. Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, being members of his sinful race, and wherever there is sin, death results. But all who are related to Christ will rise again. Each, however, in his own turn: Christ rose first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will become alive again. After that the end will come when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having put down all enemies of every kind…So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 20-24, 58
It’s all good to have family Easter traditions that we do each year and can pass down to our kids and grandchildren, but let us be reminded of the real reason we are celebrating in the first place. Let us live all year long in celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death and the new life He offers freely to us. He is risen, indeed!
**There are variations to these props but the most common set usually contains:
- a small leaf to represent a palm branch at Jesus’ triumphal entry
- 3 silver coins to represent the 30 pieces of silver that Judas Iscariot received to betray
- a thimble or piece of bread to represent a cup or bread at the Last Supper
- a piece of leather or thick fabric to represent the soldier’s whipping Jesus
- a thorn or tiny crown to represent the crown of thorns
- 2 nails to represent the nails and the cross
- a die (from a pair of dice) to represent the soldier’s casting lots for Jesus’ clothes
- a toothpick with one end broken off to represent the spear piercing Jesus’ side
- a sponge to represent what they used to try to give Jesus a drink
- a piece of fabric to represent Jesus’ burial wrap in clean linen cloth
- a rock to represent the stone rolled in front of the tomb
- the last egg is empty, symbolizing the empty tomb