I feel weird about showing up on Easter Sunday without having ever grieved the unfairness, the pain, the beautiful life and the awful death that Jesus endured. Without recounting his voluntary, beautiful, raw, bitter, and torturous last days and moments, I have a difficult time fully celebrating the joy and promise and hope of Easter, the resurrection.
I want my boys to know that Easter is not just about the happy frilly pastel colored Sunday service complete with egg hunting and Easter baskets. I want them to be aware of the reason, the pain, the loss, and the brokenness surrounding Jesus’s death. I want them to know why His resurrection changed the world. His hope. He lives.
After a crazy, busy week and solo Thursday night parenting, I knew I needed to improvise and stay home from Maundy Thursday service with our three young boys. I wanted to include and teach them about what Jesus’s death meant. I wanted them to have a visual, hands-on, concrete understanding. Teaching them the “why’s” the best I could meant more to me than going to Maundy Thursday service. I created an activity to help them understand.
I decided that popcorn kernels, toothpicks, macaroni noodles and marbles would represent the hurt, the brokenness, sickness, our shortcomings, “sins” or mess-ups, etc.
Our vacuum would represent Jesus.
At dinner, we prayed, then talked about Jesus’s life, the ways he cared for and showed love to others, why he died, how he died, and what that meant. I told them about the experiment we would do to show the power of Jesus’s love for us. One of the boys said, “isn’t that going to break the vacuum?” I hoped not. I didn’t do a practice run either. I let them each choose one of the three items: popcorn kernels representing the things that “get stuck in our teeth” or heart or mind and distract us from loving others and God, toothpicks represented physical and emotional hurt we cause others and the pain we experience from diseases, illness, death, etc. and macaroni noodles, well, they were all I could find as a third item. Three boys. I didn’t know how many marbles the vacuum could successfully suck up, if any. I gave a marble to each of my boys and myself. The marble represented the biggest, heaviest thing we struggle with. I should have taken all of the marbles for me.
We threw all of the items into a box representing the world and all of us in it. Each time they dropped an item in, we would share what it could represent. “Pushing somebody..” “Calling someone a name…” I wish I could remember all the things my older boys said. It was truly amazing.
Then, came the time to turn the vacuum on representing Jesus. One of my boys held it and began sucking up all of the popcorn kernels, macaroni noodles, up went the marbles and lastly, those rascally toothpicks which needed a little rearranging and then they disappeared too. The box was empty. Jesus also known as our hand-me down vacuum, had done his job. He cleaned up a mess that really wasn’t his to begin with. It was his box but not his mess.
My boys went back to playing with their cardboard box forts. I vacuumed the rug, to make sure it still worked.
It’s hard and painful to think about Jesus’s last days. The knowledge and power that he had, the stress, the exhaustion, the extreme emotional and physical pain he endured. The horrible mistreatment and details surrounding his torturous death. I think of all those who loved him there and the pain they must have felt and the pain he witnessed in their eyes and faces. I think about his mother, and nearly lose it, being a mother to these three beautiful boys. I know she had to be held up and carried by those who loved her. It’s all just excruciatingly heartbreaking and awful.
As a society, we tend to avoid the hurt of this world, when possible. Yet, that’s not what Jesus did. He submerged himself into the communities of isolated, the diseased, the broken, the mistreated, the wrongfully accused, the orphaned, the widowed, the outcasts, the poor, the selfish, the rich, and the grieving. He engaged with and loved people in a way that they had never been loved before. And he did it because he knew they needed and welcomed and sought out his love. They craved something they had never known. And he had an endless supply to give to those willing to receive it. And he still does.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment, love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”-John 13:34