How Does One Explain the Crucifixion of Jesus to Young Children?

Recently, there has been a tremendous upsurge in views of this article from 2017. Since Easter is coming up, I have decided to reblog it here.

Jesus Without Baggage

Recently, a reader asked an excellent question. This is our discussion, but I have not used their real name. Joe wrote:

I’ve talked with you in the past. The other day, my 3 year old son and I were talking about Easter and how Jesus died on the cross. He asked “why did Jesus die?” Even though I don’t believe this, I said “He died for our sins”. He answered, “that’s not fair”, which I thought was cute.

In the past, I just said that “Jesus died for us”. I think that leaves it open so others can develop their own beliefs. I’ve read your post regarding Atonement theory and the Ransom theory, which I don’t believe those theories either.

I haven’t quite understood the Christus Victor Theory. But what do I say when my son asks “why did Jesus die on the cross?” I want him…

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6 Responses to How Does One Explain the Crucifixion of Jesus to Young Children?

  1. It’s a really difficult subject, for sure. With my children, I try to emphasis that Jesus both lived and died to show us that God loves us. He died because people are hateful and killed him, but he rose again and we can know that we will rise and be with God, too.

    Brad Jersak, one of my favorite writers/theologians, wrote a kids’ book called “Jesus Showed Us!”, and it is amazing. It should be read by adults, too, honestly. I plan to read that to my kids Easter morning. I’ve linked it on Amazon below.

    https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Showed-Us-Bradley-Jersak/dp/1927512069/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=1XDE4XNIU9OV0&keywords=brad+jersak+childrens+books&qid=1554825584&s=gateway&sprefix=brad+jersak+%2Caps%2C278&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

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  2. ropebender says:

    Just so you know, nearly every historian (Christian or not) agrees that the crucifixion of the actual person who was Jesus was and is a historical fact. You can research this yourself, so I won’t provide resources here.
    Of course they are not all in agreement with the theological ramifications of who he was, and what Christians believe about the importance and significance of the event. The “empty toumb” also has been the subject of wide ranging views and discussions. I am fairly traditional in my views, so the biblical account is quite satisfactory to me. I see that your view is different in many ways, so your answer to your son is made complex on many levels. I see that you don’t want to bias your son in either direction, which is very fair of you.
    I might suggest you say something to the effect that:
    Christians (most of them) believe that Jesus taught people that they lived thier lives below the standards of love and caring for our fellow humans, and the other animals, and even the earth we live on. He tried to show people by the way he lived his life, that loving all of God’s creation is something that we should all try our best to live up to.
    In the process of talking to people and teaching them, he had to point out some of the ways religious leaders of the time were not living in a way they were teaching others to live. This made them upset, and mad, and they wanted to get even.
    Jesus could have avoided thier anger, and the punishment they wanted to give him if he would stop pointing out thier failures. But he felt it would be wrong not to speak up and tell the truth. To him, speaking out against wrong things was more important than his life. This is the lesson he came to teach the world, and it is the reason we celebrate his life at this time of year.

    Most Christians believe many other things about what happened on that weekend, and when you have more questions we can discuss it further. Every person who has questions about Jesus needs to search for the answers that satisfy their own mind. No one has all the answers, we are all searching. And I’m glad you are asking such great questions!

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Bender, I like what you are saying but it might be a bit much for a three year old. There is always more time for discussion as a child becomes older and asks more questions, and I think your direction is a good one.

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  3. Chas says:

    Tim, have just commented on the original post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sojourner says:

    I replied with the following on the original post about a week ago:

    Tim, it’s been awhile since I’ve read anything on this blog. I like this subject and find myself pondering it more and more on my journey of casting off such baggage as the following: God the father is angry as heck at all of us who have sinned and is ready to appease his anger by damning us all to hell fire where we will experience the pain of our flesh burning for eternity. The so called good news is that there is one other way for father God’s burning anger against us to be appeased. That way is to present to this angry God the blood of a perfect, sinless human sacrifice. In comes Jesus, God’s son becomes a human with flesh and blood with no sin to be the sacrifice to appease his Father’s anger. This being done on the cross when Jesus gave himself to be crucified leaves us with the choice to believe it or not. Some say if we believe it, we will be spared the eternal suffering of hell fire and get to live with Jesus and his angry father forever. Others add a bit of baggage or rules we need to keep as well as believing in order to be spared from the wrath of God. Some more baggage that I am getting rid of is the idea that very few of all the people whoever lived on this earth from the beginning of time will be spared from the flames of eternal damnation. Here endeth my baggage description.
    I’ll tell you that many scripture verses from the Bible came to my mind as I wrote the above. They are the verses I used to use when I went from house to house teaching this so called “truth.”
    At this present time in my journey I endeavor to not use proof texts to either support what I do believe or put down what I don’t believe. Just as you described the question as to whether God is a he or she as a mystery, I believe the purpose for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and what it accomplished is full of mystery as well. The truth for me is that God is love and desires to be in a loving relationship with all people from all of time. The crucifixion of Jesus was a necessary part of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) entering into that relationship with us in the midst of our messy, sinful lives. So, much more could be said but I’ll end with that thought for now. Thanks again Tim for this JWB blog.
    One other thing. I, like you Tim, would definitely speak to my children differently about why Jesus was crucified or had to be crucified and what it actually accomplished if I could do so over again. In that conversation, depending on their age, I would have to admit to my having a lot of questions. For a 3 year old, expecting that a parent would have opportunity to expound on the subject at a later time, saying he died for us seems sufficient.

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