Several years ago I spoke at a MOPs group just before Easter. My presentation was focused on how to celebrate the Easter story with young children.
After I finished speaking, a mom approached me and said that she didn’t want to talk to her kids about Jesus’ death. It was too gruesome and would scare her children.
I remember being a bit bewildered by this woman’s conviction. Jesus’ death on the cross had been a part of my life since before I could even remember. I was never scared by it as a child. In fact, as a kid I was fascinated by it! I remember looking at the pictures in my children’s storybook Bible and wondering at the nails in Jesus’ hands and feeling my heart be compassionately stirred by the many boo-boos that covered Jesus’ body.
I couldn’t believe that someone would endure so much because of love for me!
That sweet mama’s words broke my heart. I can’t imagine not sharing the Gospel with my kiddos. It’s everything to me and I want it to be everything to them.
But there are aspects of the Gospel that can be pretty heavy and maybe you have found yourself wondering how to tell your young toddler about what Jesus did without freaking them out.
So here are a few things to consider as you share the Easter story with your babies…
Start When They Are Young
It is good to introduce concepts like death to children when they are really young because they don’t have a category or awareness of it yet. This gives you the opportunity to help shape their responses to it. Will you nervously turn to the Bible page of Jesus on the cross or will you tenderly touch His wounds and marvel at His love?
The conversation about Jesus can begin as soon as your baby is in your tummy! Begin telling them that Jesus loves them. While you are changing their diaper say, “Jesus died for you because He loves you.”
We don’t do anything for our kids by withholding from them the realities of life. Sooner or later our children will encounter death (hello, dead pet goldfish). We could quickly run out and replace it with a new goldfish, or we could let our kids walk through death under our gentle, wise leadership.
Keep It Simple
There’s no need to tell a toddler that Jesus was beaten to the point that he was unrecognizable. They don’t need to know about the railroad spike-sized nails that were pounded through his wrists. You don’t need to sit a 2-year-old in front of the Passion movie.
The Gospel is this – We have sin and sin separates us from God. Jesus had to die and then rise again so that our sins could be taken away and we could be with God again. Those boo-boos are a sign of His love for us. BOOM.
Death AND Life
Whenever you talk about the death of Christ with your kids (or death at all), do so in light of the resurrection.
I have been reading about Adam and Eve to my preschool class and when we get to the last page of that story in our little children’s Bible, there is an illustration of Adam and Eve crying. My students love to get preoccupied by Adam and Eve’s tears. But I always make sure to point their hearts to the truth that God did not leave us sad and crying in our sin.
He had a plan to send Jesus to fix it all.
Do you ever think about the Passover? Every Israelite family had to spend 4 entire days hanging out with an adorable, perfect little lamb (Exodus 12). Can you imagine what the children must have felt when that lamb had to be sacrificed? Heartbroken, no doubt!! But they learned that the blood from that precious, perfect lamb is what SAVED them from the destruction of the angel of death that took the lives of all the Egyptian firstborn males.
Death brought life.
A few years ago, an amazing man that taught at the school and church where my husband and I work got cancer and after some time, was ready to go to heaven. Mr. B. and I took the boys with us down to his house to sing some worship songs over him. There were lots of grandkids running around while we sang. I remember Happy Baby toddling into the room mid-song and asking for a banana. It was an afternoon of sorrow and sadness, but because we knew where this good man was going, there was a peace and a joy there, too.
When Dr. Ingram passed away a few days later, Happy Buddy said to me, “I’m happy that Dr. Ingram is with Jesus now.”
Death is never fun. It’s sad and painful.
But because of what Jesus did, it cannot scare us.
So speak with confidence about His death to your babies. Start the conversation right away, keep it simple, celebrate life. And remember that what you are sharing is not called scary news –
But rather GOOD news.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NLT)