By Alyssa Jones
This year, make sure your kids remember Easter for more than pastel colors or baskets of treats. The significance of Easter is so much greater than hollow bunnies. Jesus is so much greater! Before you prepare your kids’ hearts for Easter, spend time preparing your own heart by considering why we celebrate Easter.
Why do we celebrate Easter?
Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are essential to the Christian faith. If we teach Jesus as a respected teacher and miracle-worker who claimed to be the Messiah and who was crucified on the cross—but who was not resurrected—then we are teaching the Jesus of Judaism. If we teach Jesus as a wise teacher and prophet who ascended into heaven—but who was not crucified—then we are teaching the Jesus of Islam.
Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that this is the most important truth: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (emphasis mine).
Review the events of Passion Week (Holy Week). Begin with Jesus’ triumphal entry, which we remember on Palm Sunday. Read Matthew 21:1-17. People welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem as their King. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death on the cross (read Matthew 27), and on Easter we celebrate His victory over sin and death. Read Matthew 28. Jesus’ death and resurrection paid the penalty for sins and provided the promise of new life. Jesus appeared to His disciples and to more than 500 witnesses. (See 1 Cor. 15:6.) Jesus appeared to many people as proof that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and He is still alive today.
We do not worship a dead Savior. Jesus is alive! There is hope for sinners. Jesus’ resurrection gives believers the promise of new life. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). That is why we celebrate Easter.
Celebrating Easter with Kids
On Palm Sunday 2014, my husband and I welcomed our first born—a son. At a week old, we took him to our church’s Easter service and he slept through the whole thing. In the years since, we’ve welcomed two more children and told them frequently about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
As we look forward to celebrating another Easter, I’m excited to tell them the greatest news. This story doesn’t get old: Jesus died on the cross and is alive! I’ll repeat it again and again, until it sinks in. And even then, I’ll say it some more. Your kids may already be familiar with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection too. In the weeks leading up to Easter, share the story in a variety of ways. Read it from the Bible. Tell it in your own words. Invite kids to retell the story in their own words. Draw or paint pictures. Whether you are sharing the story of Easter for the first time or the twentieth time, keep these things in mind:
1. Don’t assume the gospel.
This one may seem obvious, but don’t assume your children will connect the dots that these events in history are the center of a bigger picture. At every age, remind kids that Jesus was killed and this was part of God’s plan all along. Use the parts of The Gospel: God’s Plan for Me to walk step-by-step through the gospel story.
2. Ask questions.
Asking questions not only engages quieter kids, it challenges everyone to think more deeply about a familiar story. You might ask a question one day, and then another during a retelling of the story on a different day. Especially with older kids, prompt them to consider questions such as these:
- Why did the people want to kill Jesus?
- What did Jesus’ death do for us?
- Why is the resurrection important?
- Where is Jesus today?
Read from the Bible and ask questions.
- Read Matthew 27:33-56. Ask: Why do you think God planned for His Son to die on the cross? How does this story make you feel?
- Read Matthew 28:1-17. Ask: If you were one of Jesus’ disciples, would you have believed that Jesus had risen from the dead? Why or why not?
- Assist your child in looking up and reading the following Scriptures: Matthew 28:6. Mark 16:6; Luke 24:12; John 20:3-7. Ask: What can we know is true from each of these passages?
3. Apply the story.
Jesus’ death and resurrection has changed everything! Lead your kids to live in light of the gospel. Consider these prompts to guide discussion.
- How does Jesus’ resurrection give us hope?
- What reasons do we have to be joyful?
- What reasons do we have to forgive others?
Explain that Jesus died on the cross for each of us so we would not die because of our sin. But Jesus did not stay dead. Jesus rose from the dead, and He is alive today! Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all. When we trust in Jesus, we are forgiven and can have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus.
Celebrate our risen Savior by singing your favorite worship song. Pray and thank God for sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. Thank Him for raising Jesus from the dead!
The true message of Easter can get jumbled in the games, activities, and events associated with this celebration. As you teach that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, emphasize why this is good news. Jesus came to die to bring people to God. (1 Pet. 3:18) In Him, we have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Now that’s a reason to celebrate.
Alyssa Jones worships and serves with her husband at Refuge Franklin, a church plant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They have three children.