The Willis household was a Christian household. Every year at Easter time, our family didn’t only celebrate the cross at church, but took Easter seriously at the home as well. As I ponder the upcoming reality of having Easter without physically going to church either on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, I feel fortunate I had a family who celebrated Easter not only with their local church, but also as a family. I feel equipped to celebrate Easter at home this year and I want to share with you how the Willis household did it.
The night before Jesus died, he gathered around his disciples for a last supper. A final passover. In Old Testament times, the passover was a time for the nation of Israel to remember when God delivered them from slavery out of the land of Egypt. But when Jesus has his final meal, he uses the elements of passover and he reinterprets it for his disciples and us. Where before, it was remembering when God saved the nation of Israel, Jesus uses communion to illustrate how in only a few hours, he would save all the peoples of all the nations.
This is all found in Luke 22:14-20. And every Thursday as a family, my parents would call us children down, break out the grape juice, sourdough bread, and candles, to take a moment and as a family, read this passage. To have a moment of closeness as a family, much like Jesus did with his closest friends.
I always treasured reading this passage and listening to my father explain the purpose of the grape juice and bread. As much as I love taking communion at church, a special place in my heart exists for taking communion with my family. It was always a solum time, a rare moment in the Willis household where my older brother sat quietly and I dialed down the sarcastic comments. To hear from my parents, not just my pastor, the importance of reflecting and remembering what Jesus did, and then seeing them do live that, started every Easter for me. It was a time to listen and remember, with a mood set by the candles to enforce this.
Then, as kids, my parents would have us read the final words of Jesus. These words are a bit scattered, taken from the different gospels, but they go something like this:
- “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
- “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
- “Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
- “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34)
- “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
- When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;” and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit. (John 19:30)
- Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
This list is easy to find. You can google it or just pass a phone around with this blog entry loaded up if you want. But Jesus’s words highlight the reason for Him dying on the cross, starting with forgiveness and ending with His focus on following God the Father.
Some Aprils, I would be completely unaware of the time of year and would get called down that Thursday night without a clue as to what was going on. If you’ve never considered doing this as a family, I’m sure your kids would be quite surprised. Our relationship with Jesus is personal. And with this quarantine, this whole Easter celebration is going to be maybe too personal for us. Regardless, this Easter is going to be different than any we’ve ever experienced. Yet, that does not mean its canceled. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to be remembering Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection. Good Friday is tomorrow, which makes tonight the night Jesus had His final meal. Take some time tonight to reflect on that, to have communion either with your family or with just you and God. But as Jesus says in Luke 22:19, we are called to “Do this in remembrance of me (Jesus!)”