For your kids, Easter may bring a lot of joy and excitement . . . and rightfully so. With Easter egg hunts, new outfits, and the Easter Bunny leaving a basket full of goodies, what’s not to be excited about? But what do your kids truly know about Easter? They might be familiar with the resurrection, but how much do they know about the week leading up to it? Do they know about the agony Jesus went through as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, the pain he felt as friends denied knowing him, the loneliness he felt on the cross, or his cruel death?
Sometimes it’s easy to see Easter through rose-tinted glasses and forget the pain that was felt only days earlier. Think about the devastation the disciples probably felt in the days following Jesus’s death as they asked themselves, Was Jesus lying by telling us that he was the Son of God sent to deliver the world? Were we fools to trust someone who in the end left us without even putting up a fight? Were his teachings false? Did I give up my livelihood to follow a scam artist?
I understand that it’s not easy to share these stories with your children. It’s much easier to just share in the fun parade on Palm Sunday and the beautiful resurrection on Easter. But I would implore you to think of ways that you can tell them about the pain and agony of the days leading up to the resurrection. Talk to them about God’s big plan of sending a Savior, of his sacrifice in sending his son to die for our sins. Speak to them about Jesus’s willingness to give up his life for us. Talk about the joy that came just a few days after Jesus’s deep agony, loneliness, and pain.
Joy is most beautiful in the light of pain. For Jesus came, not to free us from pain, but to produce joy in the midst of it, to provide hope in suffering, and to raise us to new life. Resurrection can’t come without death. Jesus’s resurrection gives us hope in new life.
Below is an activity that you can do with your kids to help teach them about the crucifixion and resurrection.
Supplies Needed: 8 ½” x 11” paper (1 piece per child or 1 piece total, depending on your preference); crayons, markers, or colored pencils; tape
1. Fold a piece of paper into thirds, with the sides facing out. Then lay the paper flat. After you discuss each part of the crucifixion and resurrection story together, draw a scene on each of the three sides.
2. Read the stories from the references provided, allowing older kids to read out loud. Use a children’s Bible or the NIRV translation for easy reading.
3. Below are the main sections:
Jesus Died on the Cross (Matthew 27:32-56)—Remind your kids of God’s big plan. Draw a picture of a cross in the first section. In this section, discuss and write how Jesus probably felt.
Jesus Was Buried (Luke 23:50-55)—As a family, draw a picture of a tomb in the second section. Write how the disciples and the religious leaders probably felt.
Jesus Rose from the Dead! (John 20:1-18)—Say, Do you know what God’s great big plan was? On the third morning—what we celebrate as Easter morning—Jesus rose from the dead. Repeat that with me—Jesus rose from the dead. Work together to draw a picture of Jesus coming out of the tomb in the third section. Talk about the emotions that Jesus, his disciples, and the religious leaders probably felt.
4. Fold the page back into thirds so the pictures face out. Tape the side closed, and stand the page on its edge.
5. On Good Friday, ask your children to share the story of the cross. On each subsequent day, repeat the activity, asking them to share about Jesus’s burial and then his resurrection.
6. Join in a family prayer, thanking Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins.