Your kids will probably ask you that question someday. Are you ready to answer? There isn’t a child or, quite frankly, an adult who finds that question simple to understand or answer. Surely God could have come up with a better way to save our souls than to kill his child. Good dads don’t let bad things happen to their kids. So why do we call God “good?”
Easter lessons can be confusing to kids. In many ways, the story of the crucifixion goes against what we teach our kids about God. If God is loving, how could he let Jesus suffer and die? If God let Jesus die, will he let us be hurt as well? Why did God make “blood” part of forgiving our sins?
Tim Sanford has written some great Bible studies that might help you teach the Easter story to your children. But, here are some quick answers to the questions above. Chances are, one of your kids will come home with one or two this week!
The first thing every parent must teach a child is that God can be trusted, even though He is difficult to understand.
1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. It is important for kids to know and believe that God cannot do anything that is unloving, because God is love. He judges sin and sinners for the same reasons you discipline your kids. You want them to live with “right choices” so that they can be blessed and rewarded for those choices. We get the most upset with our kids when they do something that could have brought them harm, or even killed them. Our strongest disciplines are given when our kids run into the road, play with matches, or choose to abuse drugs. We become angry with anyone who tries to convince our kids to harm or endanger themselves. That is why God brought judgment on the enemies of his people. God did what was necessary to teach his children to make right choices and to protect them from things that would bring them harm. Sometimes the only way to teach a child to avoid a wrong behavior is to allow them to experience the consequences that accompany their choice. God is love and is not capable of error. Whatever God does or allows is his loving perfection, even though sometimes we can’t understand that truth.
If God is loving, how could he let Jesus suffer and die?
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The “Word” is Jesus. The man Jesus, that was born in a stable and died on a cross was God. When Jesus died on the cross -- God gave himself. Later John would explain that saying, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God did what was necessary so that we could be with him in heaven, for all eternity. God didn’t “watch” while someone else suffered, he was the One who suffered.
If God let Jesus die, will he allow us to be hurt as well?
The only truthful answer to that question is “yes.” God will allow his people to be mistreated by others sometimes. God’s people will get diseases and die sometimes. All people will get older and die one day. God let Jesus suffer and die, while on earth, but God raised him from the dead. For God, our “life” is not defined by the days we spend on earth. Our life is defined by the time we will spend in eternity. God knew which life mattered most, and wanted us to share his priority. It is important to teach our kids that God cares about their life on earth but their eternal life is the life that matters most.
Why did God make “blood” part of forgiving our sins?
This is one of the most difficult lessons for a child to understand. The truth does not cause them to understand or love God more. Killing is wrong. Pain and suffering is cruel. Blood is the last thing children would associate with “forgiveness.” In the Old Testament a person would have to bring an unblemished, perfect lamb to the temple. The priest would take the lamb and lay it on the altar. Then the person would place his own hand on the lamb’s head. The priest would then cut the lamb’s throat and everyone around would watch the blood drain down. The sights, sounds and smells were intended by God to teach people that all sin carried a huge price that needed to be paid. Why is sin costly? Because sin separates us from God. We need to teach our kids that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The easiest way I have found to explain that verse is to go back to the Garden of Eden. The Garden was the life that God wanted his people to have. There was no sickness in the Garden. There was nothing to fear, no hunger, no thirst, no struggles. The only thing God needed for Adam and Eve to do was to avoid eating the fruit that would bring them harm. But Adam and Eve listened to Satan and disobeyed God. They made the choice that meant they couldn’t live with God in the Garden anymore.
The part of the story that many kids don’t understand is the blood sacrifice that God made for Adam and Eve. God loved his entire creation, but he loved Adam and Eve most. When Adam and Eve sinned, they felt embarrassed and wanted to hide from God. God “clothed them” in the skins that would “cover them” so they wouldn’t want to hide. Though God made the first blood sacrifice when he took the lives of the animals in order to provide the clothing, or “covering”, for Adam and Eve’s sins. God wanted Adam and Eve to know they were forgiven and loved, and choose to walk with him again. God had to “cover” their sins just like He has to cover our sins, in order for us to be with him in heaven. God made the first sacrifice and, later, God made the final sacrifice. Jesus would become the last time blood would need to be spilt for sins. Why did God make “blood” part of forgiving sins? God wanted people to understand that sin carries a high price because sin is what separates us from his holy presence. God made the sacrifices necessary but possible, because God wants to spend eternity with all of us. And God wants us to walk with us on earth with his blessings, until one day we live eternally with him in heaven. Sin separates us from God and he wanted us to know that the blood of Jesus was the price that covers our sins.
Our kids will struggle to know and understand God. So do we. That may be the best way to teach your children the Easter story. Allow them to see your faith, even when you don’t completely understand. Allow them to see you grieve your sin, because that sin separated you from having the closeness with God you wished for. Allow them to see you walk with God, and live with heaven as your priority. The best Easter lesson is your tear-stained face, your struggle with the facts, and your acceptance of Christ’s loving sacrifice for your sins. Your child’s path to God is easier if he or she can follow in your footsteps and find the path to heaven that Easter provides.