From an early age, I knew there was something special about Easter. Once my eyes were opened to it, the reason for Easter became bigger in my life each and every year. The same is true today as I become increasingly grateful for the work of the cross.
I was blessed as a child to learn about the death and resurrection of Christ, but the theological framework of that teaching was lacking. Now, as a parent of two, I want to be sure that I help my children see the love of the Lamb in the reality of the cross.
Years ago, I asked three different Christian scholars in separate interviews how to best teach children about Easter. Their responses were originally published as a feature story in the March 2009 AFA Journal.
Their responses were also uncoordinated but their consensus the same: Use the Word of God to communicate the truth of the Resurrection; rely on the Holy Spirit to work in the child’s heart, and celebrate every Lord’s day as if it were Resurrection Sunday.
This is the first of a three-part series in which Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., Burk Parsons, and Rev. James L. Harvey III offer, in their own words, sound ways to help you make an eternal investment in your children this Easter and throughout their lives.
The series begins with advice from Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. Dr. Sproul is the father of eight and teaches at Reformation Bible College in Florida. He is also a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He says it is important to teach the Resurrection as a historical event and not to spare children painful realities in the Word. He explains in detail below:
I encourage anybody in the position of authority over a child, or anybody else, to emphasize the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The child needs to know: a) people die and b) Jesus is the only man ever to die once, come back to life and not die again.
I would encourage them to be very careful to affirm this as a historical reality, not as a story, no matter how old the child is. The child who finds out that there’s no Santa Claus, then asks about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, finally says, “What about Jesus?” We have a tendency to teach our children fairy tales as if they’re real and real stories as if they’re fairy tales.
When dealing with children, always assume more rather than less. Their capacity is far greater than we know, and God the Holy Spirit is at work in ways far more powerfully than we know. So one of the simplest things we can do is to teach and to read them the Bible.
I’m frustrated by the apparent evangelical mind that says you can’t give children the Bible; you have to give them some safe version of it. We need not to be so timid with our children that we hide from them the historic and painful realities in Scripture. As long as we remember Jesus wins, then let’s tell them the realities of what’s going on in the Bible.
[But in terms of Easter], when we play up the physical anguish of crucifixion, I think we do a profound disservice to the suffering of Jesus. There is no question that it was horrible. The suffering of Jesus certainly included that physical kind of suffering, but we have to remember that the wrath of God the Father was poured out on Him.
We have so muted and hidden from children and adults the reality of the wrath of God that we can’t make sense of the cross. So we have to see the wrath of God the Father poured out on the Son for us, or we’re not going to understand the gospel.
RESOURCES FOR TEACHING CHILDREN:
Here are two children’s books written by R.C. Sproul, the father of R.C. Sproul Jr., that help explain the Gospel to children at Easter as well as every day of the year. Both are available in various formats at http://www.ligonier.org/store/ or by calling (800) 435-4343.