As the writer of curriculum for preschoolers, I spend much of my time developing ideas to help adults share the Bible with children. In writing interactive stories and creating fun crafts, it is my goal for children to understand who God is and what God desires for them.
At Easter the focus turns to the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. We use ideas like Resurrection Rolls and the Wordless Book Cake to lead children through the Passion Week. With just a little effort, children can repeat the who, what, and when of the Easter story.
But at some point, the facts of the Easter story must lead children to the ask the questions of why.
Why did Jesus come to earth?
Author and Bible teacher Ray Vander Laan says that Jesus came to the earth in human form to “be God’s Word – His truth, His instruction, His will – in human flesh.” Children can learn about God through the miracles and teaching that Jesus did during His ministry. In these stories they learn God’s character and purpose, and how to love God and love others.
Why did Jesus have to die?
There is a belief in modern society that parents need to build children up and increase their self-esteem so that they do not ever feel badly about themselves. But the truth of the Gospel is that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23), deserve the punishment of death (Romans 6:23), and need a Savior (Matthew 1:21). God loved us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to rescue us from our sins and to pay the penalty of death we all deserve. Romans 5:8 states, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Helping children understand the reason for the Easter story requires opening their eyes to the condition of their hearts. There is freedom in knowing that you will never be good enough to earn the work Jesus did on the cross, but salvation comes in acknowledging our need and surrendering our will.
Is the resurrection important?
The answer to this question is found in I Corinthians 15:17 (NLT). “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.” When Jesus was resurrected, He demonstrated that death has no power over Him (Romans 6:9) and the punishment for sins was paid.
Forgiveness of sins brought about by the resurrection allows our children to have a personal relationship with God. They no longer have to live in shame or guilt. They can live in hope.
Hearing over and over the stories of Jesus will teach our children how to live. But even with their best efforts, our children will fall short of Jesus’ example. A moment of sin is an opportunity to share with them that forgiveness is available because Jesus died in our place and was buried and resurrected to conquer sin. And when we take the time to explain this, the Easter story will be transformed from a list of facts to the hope of salvation.