I was sixteen when The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson was released, and I’ve never since wept in a movie theatre like I did when my youth group went to see it.
The realities of the cross are often too difficult to bear. Good Friday is only good on this side of the resurrection. To stand below the cross the day Jesus was crucified and look up into the Savior’s face was to experience the darkest day in all of history. The only innocent One took on a criminal’s death in our place. He took on the excruciating death I deserved so that I might be made right with God.
Before we walked into a global pandemic, those of us who live in a modern society with high life expectancies and access to quality healthy rarely thought or talked about death, which is both a gift and a distraction.
Our children may grow into adulthood without experiencing the loss of a loved one which is a great kindness of the Lord, but it also can make it more difficult for parents to discuss the cross or to know what details to include or leave out as they tell the story of Jesus’ death to their children. In the same way that I am shielding my young children from seeing the extent of the COVID-19 crisis, we often shield our children from the gruesome facts of the cross.
Yet, in this crisis we find ourselves in—where Good Friday probably looks like isolating at home, a church service online, and a reading of the crucifixion story with your family—there’s no better time to help your children understand the love of God for them in that He would send His Son to suffer and die on a cross for sin.
In our family, we have explained often that we can’t hug our friends in our neighborhood because we don’t want to accidentally make them sick if we somehow have been infected with the coronavirus. Our kids know that all of their favorite outings are closed because many people have been very sick, and some have even died because of this virus. Death is not something that they fully understand at 3 and 4, but it doesn’t keep us from talking about it.
Of course, we don’t explain details or try to frighten them, and it’s important to consider the maturity of your child in how and what you share, but this Holy Week brings with it many opportunities to share with our kids the hope that we have in Christ.
There’s no one size fits all for what is age-appropriate to share with your children about the cross, but don’t avoid it just because trying to find the right words for little ears can be challenging. Below are four questions you can ask your kids to engage them in a conversation about what Jesus has done for them, no matter their ages.
1. What are some ways that we know God loves us?
Allow kids to list all the many ways they can identify. If they need some help, you can guide them to talk about how God created them, is providing for them in so many ways, and of course, how He sent Jesus to pay for our sin on the cross so that we might be able to spend our lives, both on earth and into eternity, in God’s presence.
2. What is sin? Why does God take sin so seriously?
Sin is rebellion against God—it’s when we do, think, or say something that God has instructed us not to do, think, or say in His Word or when we don’t do, think, or say what God instructs us to. Sin is serious because God is holy and rebellion against Him requires punishment because He is perfectly just.
God isn’t only just though; He is love and He has always been a God who pursues our hearts. He wants us to obey because we love Him. Romans 3:23 tells us that sin requires death, but Romans 6:23 reveals that Jesus has offered us eternal life through His work on the cross.
3. What did Jesus do for us?
Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live. He was completely sinless. He was the better Adam—the God-Man who perfectly obeyed His Father. He taught us what God is like through His life, and in His death, He made a way for us to have access to God through Him as our Mediator. He paid for our sin on the cross and rose again as a picture of what is to come for all who put their trust in Him!
4. How can we respond to what Jesus has done for us?
The right response to Jesus laying down His life for us—those who were once far from God but who have been brought near by Jesus’ blood on the cross—is surrender and worship. We can confess our sin and surrender our lives and seek to obey and follow Jesus and His ways.
He shows us how to live in the way He loves God and loves others and He promises to be with us, send the Holy Spirit to be within us to help and guide us, and to prepare a place for us to dwell with Him for all of eternity! His death secures our forgiveness, and His resurrection our promise that we too will be resurrected when He returns!
Without Good Friday, there is no Easter—without the crucifixion of our Savior, there is no resurrection. Without an understanding of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we will have a short-sighted view of the implications of the resurrection. What an opportunity we have this year to spend extended time in our homes talking about what makes Good Friday so good!
For more help in explaining Good Friday to your kids, check out this post.