At Lent worship our kids point to the wooden tree cross up front and the sharp crown of thorns. They look at the bulletin that has a picture of Jesus on the cross and my 2-year-old points out, "Jesus hurt. He die on cross." To look at a toddler and talk to them about death isn't always comfortable or easy. They may see death in an ant they flatten or the family pet who passes away... but talking about death of people and ourself is more difficult.
Young children are full of energy and we hope a future. Yet life is fragile... and they are under the same curse as you and I.
Once while talking with a Pastor about bringing children to funerals he asked me, "What does it mean if a child does not know about death?"
I answered, "That they don't know about heaven?"
I was corrected, "That's part of it, but if a child does not know about death then they do not know that Jesus died for their sins."
I took in a quick breath as I realized the depth of that statement. The conversation about whether or not a child should go to a funeral had gone to a whole new level...
As adults, sometimes we like to avoid uncomfortable or solemn topics with children. Simple questions about life and death may lead to a waterfall of more questions that we may not know the answers to ourselves. BUT the message of Christ's love, death, and resurrection is imperative for them to hear.
Now, I'm not saying that a child has to fully grasp the meaning of sin, heaven, hell, and eternity in order to believe in Jesus as their Savior.
I trust God's Word when it says through the Holy Spirit and hearing God's Word comes faith and wisdom.
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15
Wait - wait - let's slow that down a bit:
...from infancy (wow!).... you have known the Holy Scriptures... which are able to make you wise... for salvation... through faith.. in Christ Jesus.
Praise God! This encourages me to be faithful to do what God has commanded: to share the gospel with children! infants! and trust that the Holy Spirit is the one working in their hearts the gift of faith.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Death is not the end. Jesus died but he did not stay dead and neither will we! I love that when the topic of death comes around I can point my children back to Jesus - back to life! Without Jesus what hope do we have?
Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all;but the life he lives, he lives to God. Romans 6:3-10
I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! Revelation 1:18
Activity to talk about Jesus' death (and life again!)
- Take old crayons and grate them
- Talk about how the crayon gratings are an image of the world's sin.
- Melt the grated crayons between wax paper with an iron on low heat.
- When the colors mix they can turn into ugly colors. Talk about how sin is ugly.
- Cut cross shapes out of construction paper with a cross window to glue the wax paper creation behind.
- Talk about how Jesus applied the sins of the world on himself and paid for sin by dying the cross.
- You can also make two extra crosses to resemble the men who were crucified next to Jesus.
- Talk about how one of them believed in Jesus and was taken to be with Jesus in heaven.
- On Easter morning take a white cross with the child's picture or name and replace the black crosses on the window.
- Talk about how when God looks at us he sees us as pure and holy because of what Jesus did!
- I Corinthians 1:30, "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."