Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of six devotions intended to help children prepare for Easter. It’s slightly adapted from CTA’s theme for spring, Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate!
Familiarize yourself with today’s devotion. Bookmark John 15:13–14; you will read it to your group later in the devotion. Attach the red circle piece of your Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate activity magnet to a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan. Place the metal pan and your Bible inside a bag.
Think about how to distribute the Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate magnet pieces to each child in the group. If your group is large, you may want to ask a volunteer or two for help.
(Warmly greet the children and invite them to sit down in front of you. Nearby, place the bag of items you prepared ahead of time. Invite listeners to tell what they know about a “countdown.” After several children have spoken, summarize:)
In a countdown, we count backwards, marking time until something very exciting happens. A rocket blasting off, for example.
Soon, we will celebrate something much more exciting and wonderful than even a rocket launch. We will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection! Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, all our sins are forgiven. Because of what Jesus did for us, God will be our friend forever.
Today, we will begin the countdown to our Resurrection Day celebration. We will begin counting down at the number six. Each time we meet we will continue the countdown: six, five, four, three, two, one—Resurrection Day!
(Invite everyone to join you as you count down together. You may want to practice a few times: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1—Jesus lives! Let’s celebrate!)
Getting to the Heart
Since we began with the number six in our countdown today, I would like us to think about six friends or groups of friends Jesus loved when he was here on earth.
First, the disciples. The disciples were ordinary people, people a lot like us. Jesus’ disciple friends sometimes disappointed him.
They sometimes disobeyed God. They sinned. But Jesus kept on forgiving and loving them. Jesus kept on teaching them. And the disciples kept on sharing God’s love and forgiveness with others.
Second, Jesus was a friend of children. You might remember that when children came to see Jesus, his disciples tried to chase the children away! But Jesus said, “No! Let the children come!” Jesus was never too busy for even his littlest friends—the children.
Third, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were also friends of Jesus. Mary and Martha were sisters; Lazarus was their brother. They were very different from one another, but Jesus loved each one of them. Jesus gently taught them, forgave them, and encouraged them to love one another, too.
Fourth, you might be surprised to know about a sinful woman who became Jesus’ friend. The Bible doesn’t even tell us her name, but we know that Jesus met her at a well one day as she came to get water. Jesus knew this woman had sinned—over and over and over again! Jesus told the woman that what she had done was wrong. But he also he assured her that he loved her, and that he forgave her. She got so excited about God’s love and forgiveness that she told her whole town about Jesus!
Fifth, Jesus loved all the people who came to hear him teach about God. Many, many, many people came. One time, Jesus had to stand in a boat and push out into the lake just so that all those people could see him and hear him teach God’s Word.
Let’s see, Jesus’ friends included the disciples; the children; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; the woman at the well; the crowds of people—and one more! That’s YOU! (Point to children and call them by name, if possible. Then show them today’s red puzzle piece with the hearts.)
Jesus loves us, too! Jesus is our friend, too! Listen to what the Bible says. (Read John 15:13–14 from your Bible or below.)
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13–14).
Jesus calls us friends. He even gave up his life for us! Jesus didn’t suffer and die for his own sins. Jesus had no sins; he never sinned at all. No, Jesus died for all the disobedient, unloving things we do! What a Friend!
Jesus didn’t stay dead. On the very first Easter, Resurrection Day, Jesus came alive again. He is with us now and every day—to teach us, to listen to us when we pray, to protect us, to take care of us, to help us get along with others, to forgive us when we sin, and to help us love other people. Jesus does all of this because he loves us so much!
Taking It Home
(Teach the children the following song. Sing the words to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.”)
Jesus is my Friend!
Yes, Jesus is my Friend!
Do you know he loves me so?
His love has no end!
Let’s pray together to thank Jesus, our Friend, for his love:
Dear Jesus, we are so glad you call us friends. Help us live as your happy, forgiven children today and always. Amen.
(Distribute the Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate magnet pieces to the children. Encourage them to put today’s piece on their refrigerator or another magnetic surface at home. Explain that they’ll receive another piece next time.)
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.