Yes, it’s really hard to talk about the crucifixion with children. Adults have enough trouble with it. Please don’t skip over the hard parts, though. We do know how the story ends. We call Good Friday ‘good’ because we are an Easter people. Even in the name we give it, we do not look at this day alone for the terrible thing that happened, that Jesus died on the cross. We look all the way to Sunday, when Jesus rose again. We pause on Friday to remember that Jesus, whom we love, died on a dark day when soldiers shamed him, nearly all his friends left his side, and he wasn’t even sure that God was with him. We tell the story of what happened that day because it is vital for our children to hear: Jesus was afraid, he suffered, he died . . . and God turned his fear, his suffering, and his dying into hope, wholeness, and new life.
We tell this story—our Christian story—over and over again because it tells us the truth: not that there is no darkness, but that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Remembering that gives us comfort and makes us bold, helps us encourage others and find goodness in the most difficult of days. We are Easter people because we have been to the cross and the grave and we know the promise God makes to us in Jesus: God’s power and grace can transform anything; God’s love is stronger than the cross, stronger than death itself.
You might bring some sweetness to this bitter day in a traditional way, by baking hot cross buns, a custom that dates to Saxon times. My husband makes this recipe.
Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life. —John 19:30
When Jesus died that day on the cross
all creation together sighed, “This is a great loss.”
Time grew empty and the afternoon dark
as the light of the world had not even a spark.
The women stood by at a distance in tears
wondering what would become of their fears.
Fear not, the angels soon will say.
Jesus’s death has given us the way. Amen.
From Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J. S. Seamans, p. 62.
I continue to learn from the wisdom of others who are in this work of articulating good theology for everyone, especially children and families. My friend Presbyterian minister and author Traci Smith writes compellingly about children and atonement theology here, and in this post she and another friend, author and theologian Laura Alary, have a deep conversation about Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, from which this post is adapted.