Maundy Thursday/Passover
The name "Maundy" comes from the Latin words "it is commanded." This is in remembrance of the "new" commandment given by Jesus in John 13:34-35 as He was celebrating His last Passover with His disciples. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (NIV).

Many churches have special services on Maundy Thursday.

It has also become popular for congregations to hold a Seder Service and meal remembering Passover and the Last Supper. I would strongly recommend celebrating the Passover in your home with your family on Thursday evening, or several families might join together sharing cooking responsibilities. We no longer live under the Law. Therefore, if Thursday night has too many conflicts choose another night to enter into this meaningful experience. All of the directions for the meal, including recipes and the service, may be found in [the book] Celebrate the Feasts, pp. 49-53.

After your celebration of Passover, before going to sleep, read Matthew 26:36-46. Focus for a few minutes on how Jesus must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. His friends had fallen asleep. Perhaps you are tired and a bit sleepy after your big meal. Jesus knew what He would face, and as the disciples slept He must have felt deserted and very much alone. Try to remember a time when you felt lonely. Write down your feelings to be shared at your Good Friday breakfast. Perhaps you will be able to put them into words as a poem or prayer.

Good Friday and Holy Saturday
From the beginning, Friday was always the day of preparation for the all-important Sabbath. It is natural then that what Jesus did on Friday prepared everything for us to be able to enjoy a permanent Sabbath rest.

In English-speaking countries this day is called Good Friday. ... It is called “good” because of the great benefit provided as a result of what took place. It is the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross. ...

Keep the drapes or curtains closed all day. Remove flowers from living areas. Be reminded that the “light of the world” went out for three days. Cover the table where you eat with a black cloth. Remember your table is an altar. To that add a crown-of-thorns plant as a centerpiece (available at a florist or nursery). Every year the plant that grows wild in Israel blooms on Good Friday with tiny red blossoms like drops of blood.

One year while hiking with the children, we came upon a piece of driftwood in the form of a rugged cross. We place it beside the plant, with a railroad spike beside it (found on another adventure). You may supply your own artifacts. Along with the cutlery, place a nail at each person’s place to remind everyone of their part in the crucifixion. Gather the family for breakfast. ...

The words Jesus spoke from the cross have been remembered. They are significant. Words like, “I thirst,” let us know He was fully human and really suffering, identifying with us. We are amazed to know that He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He also cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus must have experienced what life is like apart from God. His last words express complete trust, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my Spirit!” He bowed His head and breathed His last ...

Pretend you are there. Jesus has just died and His body has been carried away and buried in a friend’s tomb. The tomb has been sealed. Roman soldiers are posted as guards. A news reporter has arrived and is interviewing people, trying to get their reactions.

Place a 3 x 5 card at each person’s place at the table, assigning characters to each family member. Try to imagine how these people would have reacted to the news that Jesus is dead. Share your feelings.

1. a “religious” person

2. a passerby

3. Pilate

4. a disciple

5. Mary

Crucifixion is a horrible thing. We can’t fully appreciate the darkness of the day and how His loved ones must have felt because we know the end of the story. We see the cross surrounded by the glory of the Resurrection. That is why we are able to call this day Good Friday.

We like to sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

Talk about your feelings.

People are naturally curious about death. We often remember and quote the last words a person spoke before he/she died.

Take some time to reflect on the last words of Jesus. Have each family member read one, commenting on what it means to you.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, NIV).

“He said to his mother, `Dear woman, here is your son,’; and to the disciple, `Here is your mother’” (John 19:26-27, NIV).

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NIV).

“I am thirsty” (John 19:28, NIV).

“It is finished” (John 19:30, NIV).

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46, NIV).

During the day reflect on special scripture passages such as:

Isaiah 12 and 52:13-53

Psalm 31

Hebrews 4:14-16 and 5:7-9

John 18:1-19 and 42

Luke 23:33-49

Mark 15:15-39

If it is available and convenient, consider attending a Good Friday evening Tenebrae service. This service dates back to the eighth century. The word “tenebrae” means “shadows” in Latin. It is a time to remember the suffering and death of Jesus. Candles are extinguished one-by-one throughout the service as a sign of The Light slipping into darkness. Traditionally everyone leaves the sanctuary in silence.

Holy Saturday
Leave everything in black. This is a quiet day of waiting …

During the day read:

Matthew 12:39-41

Matthew 27:62-66

John 20:9

This is a good time to meditate on “trust.”

Is there an area in your life where you need to trust God? Even though you know He keeps His promises, are there places where you are still not really trusting Him? …

Resurrection Day
Wake up early, while it is still dark. Light white candles in safe places. With the words: “Hallelujah, Christ is Risen!” wake up each family member. …

Resources for Celebrating Resurrection Day

Go outside together: to a hill or mountain, to a river or park, to your own patio or yard.

Find a sunrise service to attend, or join with several other families – perhaps families with children the ages of your children – and plan one yourselves.

Watch the sun rise and be reminded of God’s SON; and let Him come alive in your heart!

John 11:25-26 says, “I am the resurrection, and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (NASB).

If you sang “Were You There?” on Good Friday, you might want to sing the last verse today: “Were you there when He rose up from the grave?” Sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” Play a recording of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah or some favorite contemporary praise tapes.

Read John 20:1-18.

We like to gather with friends for a potluck breakfast in someone’s home after our sunrise service.

Then, go to the church of your choice!

Worship the Risen Lord! With joy!

After church gather your family around the table and enjoy a meal together. Baskets with white-chocolate lambs, simple gifts (Christian books, tapes, coloring books), and decorated cross cookies help to make the day special.

An Egg Hunt is a fun and memorable way to “tell the story.” Hide the twelve plastic eggs [that you’ve prepared earlier with material about the true Easter story] … Have the children search for them. When all twelve have been found, assemble in order and open. In each one will be a visual aid and accompanying verse. Look up the verses together and retell the story!

Excerpted by permission from Celebrating the Christian Year, copyright 1994 by Martha G. Zimmerman. All rights reserved. Published by Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minn., www.bethanyhouse.com, 1-800-328-6109.

Martha Zimmerman is the author of Celebrate the Feasts and Should I Keep My Baby? She and her husband John have three grown children and make their home in Vancouver, Canada.

How do you observe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday in your family? How do you celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday? Why is it important to you to mark these holy days through activities you can share as a family? Visit Crosswalk’s forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.