Teaching children about Good Friday isn’t easy, especially if you’re talking with younger children. How do you explain why Jesus had to die? That Jesus knew ahead of Good Friday that he would die? And the true meaning of the cross as Jesus’ sacrifice for our ultimate salvation?
The culmination of Easter on Sunday is great joy and celebration, but it is preceded by death. And not just any death – a very ugly, brutal, seemingly senseless death of an innocent person. It can be intimidating for us as parents to approach this subject with our children, but as one of the most important foundations of our faith, the crucifixion on Good Friday is something we need to make real for them. Ever since I was a child, I have always wanted Good Friday to be gloomy, cloudy, rainy. I understood from a young age the great sorrow accompanying the death of Jesus because my parents included me in the story. We weren’t bombarded with gruesome images, but we felt the weight of the people’s decision to have Jesus crucified and the fact He went to the cross for all of us. The Cross is a topic our children should know well and not hear about only on Good Friday, but this day was set apart for a reason – an opportunity for remembrance.
It is healthy and necessary for us and our children to really grasp the great sacrifice both God and Jesus made through the crucifixion.
To explain this to your children, the word crucify means “to attach to a cross.” It was an awful, painful way to die. You can look up these Bible verses with your children for more explanation: Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19; Acts 2:23; Philippians 2:8. Teaching our children about Good Friday involves the reading of the Passion of Jesus as found in John 18 and 19. We spend the days leading up to Good Friday reading about Him being anointed, washing the disciples’ feet, the Last Supper, and His betrayal by Judas. Good Friday is the day we focus on His suffering. Each child will handle what happened to Jesus differently, but this is where you as a parent have the discretion in what you share and how you discuss it. I want to encourage you today to not shy away from the Cross or shelter your children from the crucifixion. Instead, try some of the following…
- Ask your children to tell you in their own words what happened to Jesus on Good Friday. Hearing what their minds are thinking will help you understand what you may need to explain better or how you can relate the story to them in a different manner, if necessary.
- Let them know it is okay to focus on the feelings of sadness, gratitude, and repentance that come along with Good Friday and help them process these feelings. Talk to your children openly about how Good Friday makes you feel. I find myself immensely sad, but also immeasurably grateful. My children have seen me cry as we talk about our Savior’s death. Let them know it is fine to feel strong feelings and let them know you are there to listen.
- Have some planned quiet or worship time-based around the Cross. For older children, provide a journaling prompt that they can write or draw about based around the Cross. For younger children, choose songs that remind them of God’s great love for us. There are so many beautiful hymns that could be a part of this time as well. Plan some reflective time that suits your family’s ages and needs.
- Emphasize Jesus’ words to the criminal next to Him who put his faith in Jesus before his last breath: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) While there is a great sadness to be felt on Good Friday, Jesus also gives a glimpse of what is to come – of heaven and eternal life with Him.
If your kids are interested in learning more about Heaven, and when they will see Jesus there, then two great books to read any time of the year (not just at Easter) are Heaven is For Real for Little Ones and Heaven is For Real for Kids. These books are a wonderful telling of Colton Burpo’s story of seeing Heaven, coming back, and being able to share what he saw with his family and now all of us. I love how these books address Heaven and salvation in an age-appropriate manner and open up the discussion about how we get to Heaven. Especially on Good Friday, this line from Heaven is For Real for Little Ones gives a great perspective:
A long time ago, He had to die on the cross. But now Jesus is alive! Jesus died on the cross so we can see His Dad in heaven.
It is important to me that our children feel the contrast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, because, without the darkness, the light won’t shine as bright. God’s great love for us went on full display at the Cross. Experience that love with your children this year.
Erin Mohring: Lover of Jesus, family, home. Wife, mommy, writer, runner. Erin finds joy in her life as a Jesus-follower, doctor’s wife, mama to three handsome guys, writer at Home with the Boys, and co-founder of Raising Boys Media. Connect: Website Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest