How to explain Jesus’ sacrifice to your children.
Contributed by Larry Keefauver
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan|
At Easter, my young children ask questions about why Jesus had to die. How do I explain that? ~ Stressed-out Mom
That’s a tremendous question. Now, the age level of your child sets the stage for how much they can understand of the crucifixion story. The terrible and bloody details of crucifixion can upset a preschool (ages 3 to 5) child causing fear and even nightmares, keeping them awake at night. A graphic dramatic presentation at church or on television will not be the best way to communicate God’s love for your child at this age.
I would encourage you to use a children’s story Bible with pictures and a story board appropriate for your children’s ages. Instead of emphasizing that Jesus was crucified for their sins, simply say, “Jesus died because He loved you and me.” Proceed to focus on a truth like John 3:16, “God so loved you [use the child’s name] that He gave His only Son to you and me.”
The familiar song for children, “Jesus Loves Me,” is a soft and gentle way to focus on His love instead of the details of crucifixion. This is the age of fantasy and the depth of your answer is less important than the tone. You are not focusing on the child’s sins and guilt; rather, your focus is on God’s love for your child.
Now, older children who are more into the age of questioning (ages 6 to 9), can handle more explanation of Jesus dying to save us. The details of crucifixion are still difficult, so focus on the story of Jesus’ life and the truth that Jesus came to show us the Father’s love. Sin separates us from God, but Jesus came to bring us back into a close relationship with God. Put the crucifixion into the context of the whole story of Jesus’ life including the triumphal entry, last supper, Garden of Gethsemane, betrayal, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Again, a children’s Bible with pictures will be helpful. Have them read the story and discuss their questions with you.
Also, remember that having your children actively involved in your church’s Children’s Ministry or Sunday School will be a great support. They continually teach and explain on the level of your child’s understanding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One way, as a pastor and parent, I explained Jesus dying for us to show us He loved us, was to talk about how much I love my children as a father. I explained that if my son and I were on a walk and he ran out into the street in front of a car, I would jump into the street pushing him out of the way even if it meant the car would hit and kill me. I would die to save my child whom I love. That simple illustration always seemed to focus not on dying but on showing love and giving my life to save someone I love just like God did.
As always for young children, parents should focus on the love of God and His forgiveness. In my preschool daughter’s Bible, we bookmarked John 3:16 and highlighted it. We wrote her name right above the word “world” so it read, “God so loved Amy, that He gave His only begotten Son; so that when Amy believes in Him, she will not die but have eternal life.” Amy is in her 30s now and still remembers that Bible with her name written in it.
Focus on God’s love for your child!