I have always reminded myself that Christmas is about the birth of the Savior, not about Santa Claus and the presents. Easter is about the suffering, death, and resurrection of that Savior, not about the Easter Bunny and the jellybeans. While I enjoyed those other things and let my children enjoy them as well, I made very certain that my focus and theirs was rightly centered on the Savior and the cross. All the other traditions were simply man-made. They were fun but never the true reason for the celebration.
But something happened in the middle of Holy Week two years ago that caused me to see things a bit differently. For me now, Easter will always be about the jellybeans! The reason came to me on a busy day and from the most unlikely of sources. When I should have been much more focused on the significance of Holy Week, I was absorbed in life’s details—“caught up in the thick of things.” Near the end of the day, I had driven my granddaughter home from her music lesson. Rushing into the house, I said a quick hello to my son and grandson, and a quick goodbye to my granddaughter. Before I could exit, my grandson stopped me. “Hey Pop, wait! I have something for you.”
He dug deep into his preschool backpack looking for my “something.” As he fumbled around in there, I could see all his little treasures coming up and then dropping back down into the bag. I almost said, “Ok Buddy, you can give it to me next time because Poppy has to go.” But somehow I just felt I should be patient and wait. Ever since that day, I’ve thanked God for enabling me to be patient with this little guy. Finally he said, “Oh, here it is, Pop.” Out of his backpack came his small hand and in it was an orange jellybean. Before I could comment he said, “And wait, take this too.”
He began digging again, but this time nothing in the world could have moved me away from that little guy. His first gift had stopped me dead in my tracks, for I knew exactly why I received that jellybean. Then out came the second thing—a green jellybean. “Give this one to Nana; it’s for her.”
To grasp the significance of this cute little episode, you need to know that orange is my favorite color and green is my wife’s favorite color. More importantly, this little boy just loves jellybeans. What kind of love and caring does it take for a four-year-old to lay aside two pieces of his favorite thing because he knew his grandparents would appreciate them?
This sweet little boy innocently captured the truth and focus of Holy Week, making it so real and “in my face.” He taught me once again the staggering truth of this week and the meaning of the cross: God gave his only Son, his favorite thing, for the benefit of others.
It was the innocent love of a child, not the flawed wisdom of an adult, that snapped me back to the powerful truth. My grandson centered me on the very thing, the only thing, I should be centered on in Holy Week. He connected the dots for me, leading me away from the noise of my life and back to the most important thing.
Placing those two jellybeans ever so carefully in my jacket pocket and walking to my truck, the depth of this little boy’s love overwhelmed me. It pointed me to the love of Christ poured out for us, for me.
I will never eat those jellybeans. I saved them in a special box with a copy of this essay. I will revisit them often. I will speak of them to others.
When my grandson tells me one of his “little boy” ideas, he always concludes, “How about that, Pop? That’s a good deal, right?” Well, Matthew boy, you blessed me that day with your love, and you showed me the cross when I really needed to see it. Yes, my boy, that is definitely a good deal! I love you, Buddy!
For me, Easter will always be about the jellybeans.
Jim Bossert serves as an elder of Bethany Lutheran Brethren Church in Staten Island, New York.