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Easter: The Big Picture

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The resurrection was the ultimate validation of who Jesus claimed to be — the Messiah himself.

Easter and the Big Picture

Kids need to understand more about the resurrection than Sunday school basics, given the challenges they’ll face in today’s world.

When I think back to Easter as a child, I remember all the Sunday school classes—coloring cross pictures, making empty tomb crafts, eating Easter-themed snacks and singing celebratory songs. There is no doubt we all learned the central story of how Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead three days later. Indeed, the events of that week are crucial to our faith. As the apostle Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14)!

Despite the fact that the resurrection is foundational to Christianity, kids often have an underdeveloped “Sunday school” understanding of how Easter fits into the bigger picture of their faith. They may know that on Easter we celebrate that Jesus was raised from the dead, but they may not be able to articulate why it really matters, or why there’s good reason to believe it happened. This limited understanding leaves them unprepared for the faith challenges they’ll face in today’s world. In some cases, those challenges will even come from people who say they are Christian but reject the resurrection as a real event.

To better equip kids for these challenges—and ultimately deepen their faith—we can teach them how the resurrection fits into its wider biblical context. That bigger picture helps give our kids a confident faith when they’re surrounded by a culture that sees their beliefs as ridiculous.

Backstory: Creation and the Fall

In Genesis 1, we read that God created everything and that it was “very good.” The first humans, Adam and Eve, experienced perfect fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden. God told them they could enjoy everything in the Garden except for fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they ate from it, they would die. Eve was eventually tempted by the evil one and ate fruit from the tree, and then Adam ate from it as well. With their disobedience, sin entered the world for the first time—an event known as the fall. The rest of Scripture is the story of God’s plan to redeem humankind from its slavery to sin and ultimately restore creation.

It’s important to help kids understand how the fall resulted in the broader problem of sin for all of humanity. This understanding makes Easter personal, and not just a solution for a distant event in history. Kids should understand that:

Sin means the breaking of God’s moral law (1 John 3:4).

All people have this law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14–15) and are guilty of breaking it (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:10, 23)—not just Adam and Eve!

When we sin, we rebel against God, and our sins relationally separate us from him (Isa. 59:2).

God’s punishment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

The implication of these facts is that humanity is in a grim situation—every one of us is condemned. This is the bad news that we must comprehend in order to truly appreciate the good news of Easter. That said, this is also where misunderstandings start to take place. Skeptics often ask, “Why wouldn’t God simply forgive us?” The key to this answer is in understanding that God is both perfectly loving and perfectly just. To help kids see why this matters so much, imagine with them that there’s a judge in your city who regularly lets murderers go free without penalty because of his “love” for them. What would happen? There would be a public outcry at the injustice; we instinctively understand that love without justice is not love at all. God must punish sin to remain consistent within his perfectly loving and just nature.

This is the theological backdrop that brings us to the next key Easter event: Jesus’s life and death.

Jesus’s Life and Death

There’s an important difference between the imaginary judge who sets criminals free and God: God is both the judge and the offended party. That means he’s in the unique position to both set the penalty and absolve humans of their guilt as he sees fit within his just character—and he lovingly decided to make provision for our forgiveness. For hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God promised the Jewish people that a Messiah was coming—a savior of the world who would be “pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:4-6). Jesus fulfilled dozens of Old Testament messianic prophecies, demonstrating that he was this promised Messiah who would take away the sins of the world. Payment for sin was required by God’s justness, but God made that payment himself through Jesus’s death on the cross in our place.

Skeptics often claim that if this were true, it would mean we have a bloodthirsty God who seeks human sacrifice. But this is a misunderstanding on multiple levels. To show kids the biblical problems with such claims, it’s helpful to teach them “three Ps” of his death:

Jesus’s death was planned: Jesus predicted his violent death and resurrection multiple times; he said he must suffer and die (Luke 9:22). This shows Jesus didn’t just happen to end up in the wrong hands. He knew this was part of a plan.

Jesus’s death was purposeful: Jesus didn’t only know that he would die, but also why he would die. He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). A ransom is a payment to release someone from something. Jesus came to release us from sin by paying for our debt.

Jesus’s death was personal: Jesus wasn’t forced to die but rather personally chose to lay down his own life (John 10:11-15).

The fact that Jesus’s death was planned, purposeful, and personal shows he wasn’t a helpless victim sacrificed by God. Jesus, being fully God himself, gave his own life as part of a rescue plan for humanity.

Jesus’s Resurrection

If I told you my coffee mug walked around my computer on its own this morning, you would rightly question the truth of that claim, even if you believe God exists and can choose to miraculously move mugs. Many skeptics, however, would say that the claim of a resurrection is no different than a claim of a walking coffee mug—they’re both unreasonable beliefs without evidence. But it’s important to understand that the resurrection is an entirely different kind of miracle claim for two reasons.

First, it’s a miracle claim with significant historical evidence. Although a discussion of this evidence is beyond what can be covered here, it’s important to know that the vast majority of scholars who study the resurrection—including non-Christians—agree that Jesus’s disciples 1) claimed the risen Jesus appeared to them and 2) were transformed from fearful individuals who abandoned him at his execution into bold proclaimers of the resurrection. The historical evidence shows that they were willing to suffer and die to proclaim the message they agreed was true: Jesus had risen from the dead.

Second, whereas a walking coffee mug would be a miraculous event with no apparent purpose, the resurrection would be a miraculous event in a theological context where we might even expect God to act. This is where our background understanding—beginning with creation and the fall—becomes so important for grasping the significance of Easter. With that context in mind, kids should understand that:

Jesus’s resurrection validated his claims to divinity. No mere human can choose to be resurrected. Only someone who is truly God, and therefore has power over death, can do that. The resurrection was the ultimate validation of who Jesus claimed to be—the Messiah himself.

Jesus’s resurrection confirmed we are no longer in our sins. Acts 17:30-31 says that the resurrection is “proof” that God has “set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.” Those who trust in Jesus’s sacrifice as payment for their sins will be found righteous on that day (Romans 8:1).

Jesus’s resurrection assures us that we, too, will be raised from the dead. Jesus’s resurrection is God’s “pledge” that we will be raised from death to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Our lost fellowship with God will finally be restored.

Given these points, it’s evident why Paul said that our faith is useless if Jesus has not been raised. We would be putting the trust for our eternal life in someone who was neither able to conquer death himself nor able to validate his claims to divinity in the ways he said he would. We would still be waiting for the promised Messiah to take away the sins of the world! But because Jesus was raised from the dead, we can place our faith in him as Lord and Savior with the full confidence that we will inherit eternal life, having been made righteous by his sacrifice on the cross. The truth of Easter changes everything.

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Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 2

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

As a spouse, you have three roles to play—a friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. You’ll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.

Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Cherishing Your Spouse Every Day

Do you love your spouse, or do you truly cherish them? Gary Thomas encourages couples to make a daily effort to go beyond the ‘duty’ of love, and combat the natural inclination to drift apart, by choosing to see the best in their spouse.

Mr. Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas is an international speaker and best-selling, award-winning author whose books include Married SexSacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting. He has also written numerous articles for several prominent national magazines. Gary and his wife, Lisa, reside in Texas and have three children. You can learn more about Gary by visiting his website, www.garythomas.com.

cherish front cover

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

“Most marriages survive by gritting teeth and holding on. But marriages can and will not only survive but thrive when husbands and wives learn to cherish one another.” Those are the powerful words of bestselling author Gary Thomas in his newest book–Cherish. And in a world desperate for marriage redemption, it is needed now more than ever. Thomas shows that although there are a countless number of marriages consisting of two people just going through the motions, there are real ways this pattern can be reversed: when husbands and wives learn to cherish one another in proven, loving, and everyday actions and words.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

You can confidently and lovingly share your faith—you just need to learn some new tactics to do so! In this Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, apologist Greg Koukl outlines the “Columbo” tactic of asking questions, the “self-defeating argument” tactic to find holes in your opponent’s arguments, and other specific methods for engaging in faith-building conversations with others. Greg pulls from his over 30 years of experience debating atheists and agnostics to help you share your faith with grace and truth.

Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 1

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.