Image by Abstract-thoughts.com
Read the Passion story in your favorite children's bible. It is important to share Jesus' Passion with children in a way that is developmentally appropriate in content, vocabulary, and length. It's important to be honest with children, but it's not necessary to include every detail when they are young. Jesus' Passion is so complex and mysterious. Children will glean additional knowledge and wisdom about Easter as they mature.
The following verses are the approximate places to read about the Passion in each of the four gospels.
John 12-13, 18-21
Find pictures like the ones above to depict the important events leading to the cross and resurrection. These are the events I would choose (from):
1. Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem
2. The Last Supper*
3. Jesus washes his disciples feet*
4. Jesus predicts Peter's denial
5. Jesus prays at Gethsemane
6. Jesus is arrested*
7. Jesus is judged before the sanhedrin
8. Peter disowns Jesus
9. Jesus is judged before Pilate and condemned by the crowd*, Barabbas is freed
10. The soldiers mock Jesus
11. Jesus is crucified on the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross*
13. Jesus is buried*
14. Jesus rises from the dead*
15. The great commission
It is such a complex, mysterious, really important chain of events. So much of Jesus' Passion I am just now beginning to comprehend. Do not be alarmed or frustrated if/when your child does not understand!
Depending on the developmental level of your child, you may feel it is appropriate to describe/study/gather pictures for each of these fifteen events. For many children, however, this will be way too much. This is perfectly okay and normal! You can still share the entire story with them as you read, but for additional study you may wish to downsize the amount of content. If you choose to go with the biggies, I would stick with the events marked with *.
Seven events. Now that seems more manageable even for me!
After reading the story, lay out the pictures in order. Picture walk with your children (discuss what you see). This will help with their understanding and recall. Talk about what happened at the beginning, middle and end. They may take note only of the Last Supper, Jesus' death on the cross, and Jesus' resurrection from the dead. This is a fantastic way to begin!
Together, write simple sentences to describe the pictures. Encourage your child to match the sentence to the picture. Note that this is called a caption.
Reread the part of Jesus' Passion where he washes his disciples feet. This can be found in John 13: 1-17.
Teach your child that Jesus was showing the disciples how to be humble, also called humility. Humility (in biblical terms, as opposed to how we normally use the word) is not the same as being humiliated or embarrassed.
Humility is not thinking less of ourselves.
Humility is thinking of ourselves less often.
(Note: I did not come up with this eloquent description. I have simply heard it before and wish I knew its author.)
Image by Worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com
Washing feet was a dirty job that servants did. Jesus washed his disciples feet to put them first. He did it so they would learn to put others before themselves.
Re-enact Holy Thursday by allowing your child to wash the feet of the other members of your family.
It's hard for children (and adults, too) to understand why we call the Friday before Easter "Good" Friday. What is good about Jesus dying on the cross? The good part about Jesus dying on the cross is that he takes our sins away and gives us new vibrant life in him!!
Make the cross real. Use some scrap wood or some branches to build a simple cross. You just need two pieces nailed together where they intersect. It doesn't need to stand up; it can just lay on the ground.
Do your children know about sin? Tell them about how sin hurts our hearts. It makes us feel bad inside. We know we did something wrong that hurt someone. Sin is so bad for us because, at the time that we are sinning, we are not showing love to God, whom we should love above all things.
On small pieces of paper, write or draw your confessions of sin. In what ways have you and the children in your care fallen short, messed up, put God somewhere besides first?
Using finishing nails, nail the confession papers to the cross. Tell your children that we confess our sins to Jesus. Instead of the carrying around our sins in our hearts, Jesus takes them for us. Then he makes us better, healthy again!
Wondering what to do with Saturday? Try making New Life Cakes to eat on Easter Sunday!