A deeper appreciation for the full Easter package

I’ve observed over 60 Easter seasons in my life, and my appreciation for this most important event in the Christian calendar has grown over the years.

As a young child, I was excited about Easter because it meant a new outfit, complete with a hat and patent leather shoes. If I was lucky, growing up in Northern Maine, I got to wear it without a snowsuit.

The Easter Bunny didn’t play any role in my childhood and there were no Easter egg hunts or presents. When I was in grade school I do remember poking a hole in the bottom of eggs, blowing out the insides, dying them pastel colors, and eating scrambled eggs for breakfast for what seemed like an eternity.

I had a stretch in my life when I didn’t attend church regularly. I was not even a Christmas and Easter Christian but lost in the world of not needing any spiritual discipline or guidance to live my life. That didn’t work out too well but I’ll save those details for my future memoir.

Anyway, now I attend a United Methodist Church and next week is Holy week. I procrastinated about giving something up for lent this year and alas I’ve missed that stained glass window of opportunity. Note to self: Next year, give up procrastination.

Holy Week 

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and we wave palm branches celebrating Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem. But wait, wouldn’t a real king ride a horse and not a donkey? Yes, if the king was intent on war but this king rides a symbol of peace because he’s not like the others.

On Maundy Thursday when you approach a fellow parishioner bearing a basin of water, kneel to wash their feet, and let them wash yours it’s a bit more intimate than the usual handshake. I can relate to Peter who shouted, “No! You will never wash my feet!” And I would have added, “And I don’t want to wash yours either!”

I barely recover from the foot washing trauma when Good Friday dawns. It doesn’t seem very good though since we strip the sanctuary and put a black robe and crown of thorns on the rough-hewn cross we hammer into place for this bleak occasion. A prayer vigil provides companionship to this ghastly scene.

The lights went out. Jesus died. The temple curtain tore in half.

Why do we have to experience Good Friday during this celebratory time? Why do we have to relive the agony?

The first Easter

The answer came to me when I thought about those who lived through the original crucifixion. Sure Jesus had been dropping hints to his followers about his impending death. But he also told them the punch line: he would rise from the dead on the third day.

But think how you would feel if you watched the person you thought was the savior of humanity humiliated, beaten, and brutally murdered. Would your faith be strong enough to believe he was coming back? Or would think you he was an imposter? Maybe you put all your fishes and loaves in the wrong basket. Maybe all that quality wine from the wedding made you vulnerable to a smooth talking guy who seemed divine but now he was just another dead guy.

If they had truly believed he was coming back wouldn’t they have set the hourglass for three days and sat around planning the welcome home party? Would they have doubted Mary Magdalene and the other Mary’s proclamation that they had seen the risen Christ?

The full Easter package

These questions chilled my soul as I contemplated a life without hope and gave me a deeper understanding of how important it is to observe the entire Easter package. Without celebrating a king riding on a donkey, foot washing that teaches us servanthood, and the desolation of Good Friday, the joy on Easter morning would be as hollow as the chocolate Easter bunny that never fails to disappoint.

Photo by Pixabay

How do you think you would have reacted as a follower of Jesus waiting for him to rise? Would you think you had made a big mistake? Whatever your beliefs, don’t you think it was cool Jesus revealed himself first to two women?


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46 thoughts on “A deeper appreciation for the full Easter package

  1. Interesting thoughts. I’m not religious, but I do find it fascinating to learn about. A few years ago, we had a TV drama shown over here for Easter called The Passion, for what one would think were obvious reasons. Apparently not. We were discussing it at work, and one woman I worked with announced ‘I don’t know how they weren’t sued!’ Huh? What?? Who? ‘You know, for copyright?’ she says. Again: huh? What?? ‘Cos they just copied that Mel Gibson film – stole the title and everything.’ Oh yeah. She thought The Passion is just a Mel Gibson film. She thought he came up with the idea, and the name and, you know, copyrighted it. (Mind you, she also didn’t know the difference between Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe, and once asked me if I knew how many continents there are and was truly astounded to find out that I did (how could one person possibly know SEVEN continents at once?!), so yeah…)

    • You know, the sad thing about your coworkers’ ignorance is she may represent a large portion of people who know nothing about religion, Christian or otherwise. Even people who profess to be Christians know nothing about the faith as is evidenced by some of the bonehead actions taken in the name of Christianity. If you are going to claim a belief, it is always a good idea to explore what it means.

  2. Deep, deep thoughts. I enjoyed reading this. We learn so much as children in Sunday school but to look on the bible experiences as an adult makes you think in so many different directions. Thank you for sharing!

  3. It’s Good Friday. Raised as a Catholic, though not practicing now for 45 years, I have sweet memories of all the childhood years in observance. Seeing and smelling lilies in the store today took me back to the glorious Easter Sunday services. I’m glad I have the beautiful memories shared with my mom and dad and siblings. I love the larger celebration of spring and the sense of rebirth! May Easter time bring great peace of heart!

  4. I grew up in a strict Catholic household and The Nuns kept a close eye on my every day, so I had a full understanding of what Easter was. I still feel weird working on Good Friday. Of course, I’ll probably rebel and write another blog post about how Jesus was the first celebrity zombie and The Nuns will come after me. Happy Easter!

    • I’ve just come back from a Good Friday service and certainly wish I’d had the day off like they do across the pond. I’m exhausted! But I never tire of hearing the stories and singing the songs. Tonight something registered I don’t remember hearing before. When Jesus was resurrected there was a multitude of resurrections. Stones were rolled away from all kinds of tombs and people emerged from their graves. So while Jesus was the most famous, there was a whole crowd of zombies!

    • I’ll have to check that book out, Carol. Jesus was a total radical. He turned the world upside down during his life time and if people follow his teachings has the same effect 2000 years later.

    • Very true. Growing older give us a the freedom to let go of the small stuff, though with my shallow nature I hang on to as much as I can. All in the name of staying forever young. Happy Easter to you and your family too Jodie!

  5. We can really only appreciate revealing Himself first to women in the context of the time. Think of any country today where men are lauded and women are treated abysmally and have no rights, and imagine His statement in that context.

    I think it is important to view the message through that lens, because we are still not living it – regardless of our beliefs – as long as girls are thought of as “less than” boys in any context, even in seemingly meaningless taunts like, “Don’t throw like a girl.” Great post. I hope you will share how it was received when you read it in Church.

    Happy Easter!
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  6. Such a thought provoking post Molly. You raise some interesting questions while capturing the essence of Easter. Wishing you happy holidays. 🙂

    • P.S. I’m not sure how I would have reacted had I been there on that first Easter Sunday; but, I would have loved to have been there to see Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God in person on that day. How wonderful it will be when we meet Him face to face. Being a woman, I think it’s awesome that Jesus first appeared to the woman after His resurrection.

      • Thank you for this uplifting comment, Bette. Indeed it would have been fantastic to be there that first Easter Day, but the first Good Friday and the ensuing dark Saturday would have sucked. Just to show how Jesus turns conventional thinking upside down he chose to appear to two women first. I love that about him, don’t you?

    • I’m so excited to meet you Bette! And we share the same last name, too. I live in the Bangor area so we must be pretty close. I look forward to getting to know you better. Have followed your site.

  7. Such a holy time Molly. For me Easter means new beginnings. We can always start over our life can’t we. I’ve shared your post on Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond Facebook page. Happy Easter.

    • Thank you so much Sue. It is a time for new beginnings and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to start over at anytime but especially at Easter. Happy Easter to you, too my friend from down under!

  8. Very moving post Molly and I think that as we get older we find a state of belief that we are comfortable with. Both of us came from a fairly intensive religious childhood and have moved away from organised religion. That is not to say that we do not appreciate the spiritual side of our lives. Easter for me is a time of remembrance for my father who died on Good Friday 21 years ago and whilst I know that he will not rise again, it is a comfort to remember each year that he is now in a peaceful and pain free place. I will put the link to the post in the Daily Blogger tomorrow. thanks Sally

  9. Molly, that was marvelous!! I’m not going to be doing baskets or anything with my grandbabies, exactly because I want them to learn the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday! It’s not about the bunny!!
    Thank you so much, for bringing your viewpoint to this eternal truth.

    • Thank you Melinda. I debated not doing baskets but I caved and I will do them. It won’t be like Christmas though as far as presents go. And I’m grateful their parents take them to church so they do know the true meaning of Easter.

  10. Alas, I am once again missing Easter Sunday at church this year. I’m a regular member of my church, but I didn’t join the church choir this year for Easter. I will most likely be at the delta on Easter weekend getting our windsurf campsite ready for the season. Your message is perfect for our post-modern generation. I don’t think Christ’s followers at the time of his life, crucifixion, and resurrection had yet thought of “Easter” in those terms. It wasn’t until Christ’s Ascension, then the Holy Spirit’s descent onto believers, did this get the ball rolling for the Christian faith to take hold. And I thank God for that 🙂

  11. Well Done, Molly, You point out that the road to the Resurrection remains, well — shallow, without “reliving the agony” and “observation of the entire Easter package”. Awesome that you will be sharing with your church. Thank you.:)

    • Thank you Sharon. I never thought about the road to Resurrection being shallow but you are absolutely correct! And even though I usually celebrate all things shallow, I have to go deeper on this one. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment.

  12. You’ve captured the true meaning of Easter in a way few others have. Agree it would be a wonderful sermon. Often at Easter it seems there is an over focus on shame and blame for those who crucified Jesus with a misguided message of martyrdom. You instead have captured the metaphor Holy Week has for us. When we strive to live a spiritual life and seek to serve others, when hard times befall us, we have less fear knowing we will be sustained through it and in time can “rise above it.”
    After all, as we were taken to church to learn about faith and Jesus didn’t we also learn to survive those Easters dressed in itchy petticoats and lampshade hats fearing we’d scuff our new white patent leather shoes!

    • Thank you so much Amy. And you have beautifully summarized the message I had hoped to convey. I love the image of us scratching with those petticoats and wearing lampshade hats. I think I had a pair of white gloves too, that stayed white about 5 minutes! Happy Easter to you and yours.

  13. Molly,
    There are so many thought-provoking moments in this post, among them: “…this king rides a symbol of peace, because he’s not like the others.” And, of course, “…Jesus revealed himself first to two women!” I also loved this line: “Note to self; Next year, give up procrastination.” Wow, I hope my minister can give as great an Easter sermon as you have given here. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much Sharon. I will be reading the essay in church this Sunday so I suppose it will be delivered as sort of a sermon. I’ve had such a deepening of my understanding of Easter as I’ve grown in my faith and I’m so appreciative of your comment.

  14. I love the reflection, Molly – the laugh I got over ‘giving up procrastination’, and the moment of deep thought of wondering how strong would my faith be in the same situation. Great post!

    • Thank you Sheri. It is easy to think that the people who were actually living through the first Easter would have more faith as they had seen things first hand but in fact they did not. That was an epiphany for me and gave me a deeper appreciation for the darkness of Good Friday and the following three days of waiting. I want to skip that part, don’t you?

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