The Backdrop to Easter

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Visit Barbara's website: Ever Thine Home.

Leslie Basham: When you understand the Jewish festival of Passover, it gives new resonates to what happened on Good Friday. Here’s Barbara Rainey.

Barbara Rainey: As Jesus was being led to the hill carrying His cross, the fathers of families were bringing their lambs into the city of Jerusalem to take them to the temple. As He was nailed to the cross, the lambs were being taken into the temple. As the lambs were being slaughtered in the temple, Jesus was hanging on the cross, and He was dying.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Wonder of His Name, for Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, today we’re continuing a conversation with Barbara Rainey that we started yesterday. We’ll go over the next couple of days talking about how to celebrate Easter, preparing our hearts to observe Passion Week, and then to make a big deal about Resurrection Day.

So, Barbara, thanks for joining us again here on Revive Our Hearts.

Barbara: It’s a delight to be here and do this with you.

Nancy: Barbara and Dennis Rainey are the co-founders of FamilyLife. They’ve been an integral part of Revive Our Hearts since its very beginning. In fact, Barbara, it was your husband who called me years ago. I could show you where I was sitting in my little quiet-time chair at home in my study when I got this call from Dennis who basically said that they were burdened as a ministry to develop a women’s program with a woman Bible teacher and that the staff had been thinking that they should talk to me about this.

I actually loved the idea. I said to him, “That’s a great idea. In fact, I’d been looking for someone to do that, but I think you’ve got the wrong person.”

Barbara: It’s somebody else.

Nancy: Somebody else. It’s not me, Lord.

But over the next eighteen months, as we talked and prayed with your team and our team, what unfolded was what is now seventeen years into Revive Our Hearts.

Barbara: Oh, I can’t believe it’s been seventeen years.

Nancy: Yes. And FamilyLife was the, what do you call it, the doula.

Barbara: The midwife.

Nancy: The midwife that helped birth Revive Our Hearts, and we’re so grateful. We recorded for our first eight years, actually, here in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the FamilyLife studios. So when I came in to this studio today, it brought back a lot of memories.

So thank you from our hearts to you and the FamilyLife family.

Barbara: It’s been a great privilege. It’s really been a fun run.

Nancy: We’ve enjoyed so many times having you here on Revive Our Hearts. We’ve talked about your book on the empty nest. We’ve talked about how you help families to make Thanksgiving a special holiday. We’ve talked about Christmas. And now we’re talking about making Easter special—Easter already is special.

Barbara: It is.

Nancy: We don’t make it special, but as a mom of six now grown kids and lots of grandkids, you’ve had a burden to help other families, and even people that don’t have families, know how to celebrate these holidays, how to make them holy days, and really express to ourselves and those around us how important these special days are.

Barbara: Well, I think, as I look at my own children who are now grown and have their own kids, it reminds me of what it was like when I was in their shoes and wanted to make Easter more meaningful but didn’t know what to do.

The culture doesn’t help us because kids are usually in school. A lot of them are even in school on Good Friday. There’s no break. We used to have spring break the week before Easter in a lot of school districts. Sometimes that’s the case, but not always, so it doesn’t have the cultural help.

We don’t have the free time like we do at Christmas to be able to think about what to do. So it’s harder for our families today to be able to figure out how to make Easter meaningful. How do I elevate this with my family? What do I do, because what’s in the stores has nothing to do with Jesus? So it’s a real uphill climb to help families make something meaningful out of Easter.

Nancy: But it’s such an important part of passing our faith on to the next generation.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Nancy: Scripture talks about telling our children and their children and generations to come about the redemptive works of God on our behalf. And if there’s no resurrection, then we have no Christian faith.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: It’s really important, and the world is trying to convince our children that there is no such thing as the supernatural or the resurrection, that this is just mythical. And we need for ourselves and our children to be reminded that this really happened.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: In fact, the resurrection is the most attested fact in human history. If you go and study it, you can see that that is true. But we not only want them to know in their heads that Easter is true, that Jesus really did rise from the dead. We want them to feel with their hearts the passion, the beauty, the wonder, the magnificence of a crucified Savior being raised from the dead on the third day.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: That ought to give us all goose bumps.

Barbara: Yes, it should.

Nancy: But we get so used to it that we just kind of gloss over it. And you’re saying, “Let’s stop, ponder it, and celebrate it.”

Barbara: Well, and I think we have to take the time to look at it. We have to take the time to talk about it and read about it so that we can turn our minds. We can’t turn our minds without being focused. So we have to have some tools, some resources, something to help us actually accomplish that with our family.

Which is why I’ve been trying to create things to help families celebrate Easter. We mentioned yesterday what I’ve started with Ever Thine Home, and that’s why we’ve got an Easter banner, and why we’ve got placemats that say, “He Is Risen.” We’ve got all kinds of things because, as compared to Christmas where there are more things than anybody could ever use, there’s so little at Easter and very little, if anything, about Christ and about the cross and about the crucifixion.

It’s an uphill climb for us as believers, but I really believe God wants us to do this because it’s our witness.

Nancy: Yes.

Barbara: We can’t talk about Christ without the cross. Our conversation would be meaningless if Christ hadn’t died and purchased our salvation. So we have to celebrate this pinnacle event of our faith for our conversations to have meaning when we talk to people who don’t know Him.

Nancy: And starting with evangelizing our own families.

Barbara: Exactly.

Nancy: Making sure our children and grandchildren really get what this is about, which we don’t assume that they do because they’re not getting it certainly out in the culture.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: Thank you for what you’ve done to help us with this.

If you want to see more of the resources that Barbara and her team have developed, go to There’s a link there that will take you to Ever Thine Home, and you can see those different resources there.

But this week on Revive Our Hearts, we’re offering what I think is one of the key resources to help our understanding of Easter, and that is a set of Easter cards. You call them “Oh Taste and See.” You want to see and taste that the Lord is good as He manifests Himself there at Easter.

These are eight cards. They’re beautiful. They have beautiful line drawings that are classic on one side of these cards. On the other side, each takes an element of the Easter story and unpacks it for us from a bit more of a biblical and historical standpoint.

So we’re going to talk through these today and tomorrow to give people a taste of what they can expect when they get these cards. We’re offering them as a set to any of our listeners who would like to make a donation to help the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. This is our way of saying “thank you.”

When you make a donation of any amount, we’ll send you these cards. There’s a wrapper that explains how you can use them. You can use them all of Passion Week. You can use them all on Easter Sunday. Be creative with them. But we’d like to send you a set of those when you make a donation by calling Revive Our Hearts at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us online at

Now, Barbara, let’s just start into the first several of these cards. They hearken back to some of the Old Testament clues that pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus when He came to this earth.

So the first card talks about Jesus as the Light of the world. And the Old Testament Jews who went to the temple for their annual pilgrimages such as Passover, they were familiar with this concept of light.

Barbara: They were familiar with that concept of light. And one of the reasons they were was because there were these two enormous gold candelabras in the temple.

Nancy: You say enormous—we’re talking, what, seventy feet high?

Barbara: Seventy feet high.

Nancy: These were huge!

Barbara: Yes. They were enormous. We think of a candelabra that can sit on top of a table, if we even know what one is.

Nancy: Right.

Barbara: But these were in what’s called the court of the women, these giant candelabra. And it’s said in some old writings that when the candelabra were lit, they were so bright that the light spilled outside of the temple and into the surrounding neighborhoods all around the temple.

I think for us to appreciate, not just Jesus’ words, and not just what He did, but everything that He communicated to us. It helps us to understand and appreciate it if we can go back to the time in which He lived and the setting in which He spoke these words.

So, for instance, in this particular card, it talks about how Jesus went into the temple. He was very familiar with the temple. And those candelabra were symbolic of God being the Light of the world. And Jesus, then, stood there and said, “I am the Light of the world.”

He tied Himself verbally and visually to something the Jewish people understood because they were very familiar with these candelabra. So when He said that, He was connecting Himself to their tradition that had been for several thousand years, and He was saying to them, “I am the Light of the world. I am God. And in Me you will find light.”

It was not just a nice statement that He made—and I think we hear it, and we think, Oh, that’s really nice. That’s really sweet. But it’s got layers and layers and layers of meaning. And the more we look at those layers of meaning, then we say, “Oh, now I see.”

Nancy: When He said that, it would have brought to the minds of these Jewish believers who knew the Old Testament well, the prophecy of Isaiah that said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (see Isa. 9:2). And Jesus is saying, “I am that light. I am God who spoke and said, ‘Let there be light.’”

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: Jesus is proclaiming Himself to be God, the very God, light come into the darkness. When the Jews would celebrate as a family the Passover meal, the lighting of the candle was a significant part of that observance.

Barbara: Yes. And that lighting of the candle was symbolic of God being the Light of the world, and that God is the one who brought light. It says in Genesis, “God said, ‘Let there be light’” (Gen. 1:3 NIV). There wasn’t light in the darkness, and He said, “Let there be light.”

In the Passover meal—and I think it’s really wonderful that this is the way it’s always been in the Passover meal—but the mother of the house is the one who has the privilege of lighting that candle on the Passover table. It’s because the Jewish tradition said that the light of the world came through the woman. And, in fact, it’s true, because Mary gave birth to Jesus who was the Light of the world.

Nancy: Right.

Barbara: Even that little, small detail helps us understand that nothing with God is accidental. There’s meaning in everything that He chose to do because it’s all on purpose, and it’s all intended to communicate with us so that we can know Him. He wants us to know Him, so He shows us in all kinds of different ways how we can.

Nancy: And what a sweet picture that is of how women, moms, grandmoms, can be ones who help shine the light of Christ into their family by bringing these kinds of celebrations to the forefront of the family.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: Let’s talk about the second card in this set of eight, which is “Hidden Bread.” What’s that about?

Barbara: Well, this is a fun one, and I think children would have enjoyed this one because this is the story of the Passover meal. The Passover meal is still celebrated this way today. So if you went and experienced a Passover meal, a Seder dinner with Jewish friends or in your local Jewish temple, they will still do this same thing.

They will take the bread, and the father, after he says the blessing, will break the bread into three pieces. He takes the middle piece, and he wraps it in a napkin. He gets up from the table, and he goes and hides it.

It’s interesting; it’s the middle portion, which is symbolic of who Jesus is, because He’s the second member of the Trinity.

Nancy: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Barbara: So the middle piece of bread is symbolic of Jesus. It’s wrapped in a napkin, which is symbol of Jesus being wrapped in the linen cloths when He was buried, and the father takes it and hides it.

Then later on during the meal, the children get to go find it. Whoever finds it brings it to the father, and the father gives him some coins to buy it back from, which is also a symbol that took place in Easter.

Nancy: Redemption.

Barbara: Yes. I love this story. I love reading it. I think, for children, it’s engaging enough that children can hear it and pick up on the excitement of what the Passover feast used to be like and how every detail of the Passover feast, the Passover dinner, that Jews for centuries have been celebrating together year after year after year point to Jesus. 

When you read this together as a family, you begin to see how all of that wove together, leading to Jesus. When Jesus had the Passover meal with His disciples before He went to the cross . . .

Nancy: He broke the bread—that’s a picture. He said, “This is my body, which is broken for you” (1 Cor. 11:24 KJV).

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we remember the body of Jesus broken for us.

Barbara: That’s right, yes.

Nancy: So this is significant. In fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means the house of bread and praise.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: So all of this, the manna in the wilderness, the bread that God provided for His people, the bread that comes down from heaven, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life.” Once again declaring Himself to be God, to be the promised Messiah, and to be the one who feeds and sustains our souls. This is all part of the story we tell and commemorate, above all times, during Passion Week and at Easter.

Barbara: That’s why I think families will enjoy this because I think, again, as I’ve said, we want to make Easter special. We want to elevate it and do something that’s beyond the ordinary, but we don’t know how. So this is a very easy way for you to do this with your family or with friends or with whoever you might gather with at Easter.

Just to read these short—very, very short—little stories about what Jesus accomplished for us . . . And I hope it will do for you what it’s done for me, which is bring me to worship.

Nancy: Yes.

Barbara: When I read what He did, the intricate details that were portrayed for me, I just am in awe of what God did.

Nancy: Yes.

Barbara: I think that’s the experience God wants us to have on Resurrection Day, to be in awe of what He did for us.

Nancy: Those who follow behind us—our children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors—they’re not going to be more in awe of Jesus than we are.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: So the first thing is to get our own hearts stirred. Then in the telling of the story, our hearts are further stirred by who He is and what He has done for us.

Well, let’s look in the time we have remaining, just at a couple of these—we won’t go into detail on them—but the “Cup of Redemption.” This is another one of these eight cards, and, again, that ties to the Passover that the Jews celebrated for thousands of years before the coming of Christ.

Barbara: Yes. During the Passover meal there were always four cups of wine that they shared around the table. And interestingly, during the Passover feast that Jesus had with His disciples before He went to the cross, they passed the cup around. Jesus said, “I will not drink of this until I drink of it again in My Father’s house.” And so even that is a symbol of it.

And, of course, then He said, “This is My blood that is spilled for you.” And then He talked about drinking His blood. It’s a picture of how we have to take in Him. We take Jesus into our lives. He feeds us, and His blood cleanses us.

And so, understanding about that is really pivotal for understanding Easter. I think the whole blood aspect is what makes people shy away from Easter. Everybody loves babies, and Christmas is about a newborn baby.

Nancy: Right.

Barbara: But people don’t know what to do about blood. We don’t like it. The sight of it makes a lot of us cringe, turns people’s stomachs. And Easter is about blood. That’s a real hard concept for us to know even what to do with.

But for a believer, once you understand the meaning and the blood that Christ shed for us and the redemption that it purchased for us, then we can celebrate it. We can celebrate what Christ did for us by shedding His blood on the cross. Yes, it was gory; yes, it was horrible, but He did it out of love for us. When we can understand that, again that brings us to worship and to awe for what He did. And . . . it changes our lives.

Nancy: Again, it ties the Old Testament, or the Old Covenant, with the New Testament. You can get bored to tears in the book of Leviticus, until you get to the New Testament and you realize all those slain sacrifices, all that spilled blood, all those sheep and goats and bulls being killed as sacrifices were all pointing to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God who would spill His life blood because the life is in the blood, the Old Testament tells us. He gave His life for us, died for us, so that we could be given His eternal life. There’s no forgiveness of sins, the Scripture tells us—Old and New Testaments—apart from the shedding of blood.

So drinking that cup of the covenant, that cup of redemption was a sign, a powerful sign that today we understand speaks to us of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God, shedding His blood for our sins and how precious and powerful that is.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: Which leaves us to one more card we’ll talk about today that ties in with what we just talked about, and that’s the sacrificing of the lambs that was taking place during the Passover celebration on the very day when Jesus was crucified. You pointed out some really significant historical facts here about those sacrifices. Give us a glimpse into what that means.

Barbara: Well, honestly, just looking at this card and hearing you talk about it, it just gives me chills. I mean, I just felt it running up and down me. I thought, This is absolutely the coolest thing in the world.

I started doing some reading from some old Jewish writers who wrote about what it was like in those days. I was amazed at the parallels with Jesus.

As Jesus was being led to the hill carrying His cross, the fathers of families were bringing their lambs into the city of Jerusalem to take them to the temple.

Nancy: And these were lambs that were raised for the purpose of being sacrificial lambs.

Barbara: To be sacrificed. The lambs are raised in Bethlehem, which is even cooler. Bethlehem is the city because it was very near Jerusalem. On the hills where the shepherds heard the angels announcing Jesus’ birth, that’s what they were doing. They were raising lambs the night Jesus was born for sacrifices.

So those very lambs that came from Bethlehem were being led into the city as Jesus, the Lamb of God, was being led through the city to the hill to be nailed to the cross. As He was nailed to the cross, the lambs were being taken into the temple. And as the lambs were being slaughtered in the temple, Jesus was hanging on the cross, and He was dying.

It’s just such an incredible picture of the timing, because at 9 a.m. in the morning was when He was hammered on the cross, and that’s when the lambs were being slaughtered.

Nancy: Over the next six hours, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of lambs being slaughtered in Jerusalem where Jesus was outside the city, the Lamb of God, hanging on the cross to pay for the sins of the whole world.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: People in Jerusalem that day, most of them never got this.

Barbara: I don’t think the disciples even got it, Nancy.

Nancy: Probably not.

Barbara: I don’t think anybody put two and two together. I don’t think anybody got it because the Jewish people were so tradition bound. They were so soaked in what they’d been doing for thousands of years that they were just going about their business.

Nancy: Expecting a Messiah . . .

Barbara: . . . some day . . .

Nancy: . . . but not realizing that the Messiah was here and was giving His life for their sin.

Barbara: Right.

Nancy: And at 3 o’clock that afternoon, when Jesus breathed His last and gave up His spirit, what was happening then?

Barbara: The soldier came to Jesus, and He pierced His right side, and, as we know, blood and water spilled to the ground. At the same time, the priests in the temple were trying to clean up the blood.

What they would do was they’d take these big pitchers of water, and they would slosh it on the altar, which was dripping with blood. Out the side of the temple flowed water and blood mixed together, which was a perfect picture of the water and the blood coming out of Jesus’ right side.

When I read that the first time, I don’t remember weeping, but I remember just being in awe of the precision that God orchestrated in those details lining up with such perfection that whole day. I just think it, again, brings us to worship when we realize what Jesus accomplished on the cross and how for centuries He had been telling His people through the Passover sacrifice, through the Passover meal, “Look for Jesus. Look for someone who looks like this.”

God was saying, “I’m bringing Someone who’s going to do this so that you don’t have to do it over and over again. Someday Someone will come, and He will be your sacrifice once and for all.”

Leslie: That’s Barbara Rainey. I think a lot of us are going to appreciate Good Friday and Easter in a fresh way because of today’s Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Barbara Rainey about the historical backdrop to the story of the cross. We’d like to help you share the wonder of what Jesus has done.

Barbara had developed a set of eight cards that tell the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. You can read the story on one side and look at illustrations from a vintage Easter book on the other. During your Easter celebration, these cards will help you share the story with your friends and family.

We’d like to send you this set of eight cards when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift this week. Call 1–800–569–5959 and donate any amount. Ask for the Easter cards. Or you can visit to make your donation and order the cards.

When we celebrate Easter, we’re not only marking what Jesus has done for us in the past, we also celebrate our hope for the present and the future. Barbara Rainey will explain why tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth loves to celebrate Jesus with you. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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