Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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. Place a bookmark in your Bible at 2 Corinthians 5:15.
Place today’s green magnet piece of your Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate activity magnet on a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan. Put the assembled three previous pieces on the other side of the pan. Place the metal pan and your Bible inside a bag.
Have extra Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate magnet pieces with you to give to children who have not yet received them.
Warmly greet the children and invite everyone to sit near you. Nearby, place the items you prepared ahead of time. Remind your listeners that you are counting down the weeks until Resurrection Sunday—the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. Invite everyone to join in as you count down together: 3, 2, 1—Jesus lives! Let’s celebrate!
Last time we talked about the number four. Today, I want us to think about the number three. That number comes up several times in the account of Jesus’ dying and rising again.
Getting to the Heart
Three powerful men were Jesus’ judges. One of these men was named Caiaphas. He was the High Priest and Jesus’ first judge. Caiaphas hated Jesus. He was jealous because so many people came to hear Jesus teach about God’s love and forgiveness. The second judge was named Herod. He was the ruler in a territory called Galilee. He didn’t believe in Jesus either, but he had heard rumors about Jesus’ miracles. He wanted to see Jesus do a miracle—kind of like a magic show. When Jesus wouldn’t do that, Herod sent Jesus away. Jesus’ third judge was Pilate, the Roman ruler in the region. He knew Jesus had done nothing wrong, but he was afraid the people would riot. He sentenced Jesus to die on a cross.
Jesus had done only good, kind things for people, but his enemies were determined to destroy him. They got false witnesses to lie about Jesus. After the Temple Guard had Jesus in custody, they made fun of him. When Jesus was turned over to the Roman soldiers, they beat him and put a crown of thorns on his head. Then they made him carry his cross to the hill outside the city where he was to die.
Three crosses stood on the hill where Jesus died. (Call attention to the three crosses on the green magnet piece.) On a hill called Calvary, the Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross. Two criminals were crucified that day with Jesus. These two men deserved to die for their crimes, but Jesus never thought, said, or did anything wrong. He did not deserve to die. He could have told God’s angel army to destroy all his enemies. He could have come down from the cross any time he wanted to. But he didn’t. He stayed on the cross, because he loved us. He was dying in our place.
Three letters tell why Jesus died. Those letters are Y-O-U! Two crosses on Calvary belonged to criminals. The third cross—the middle cross, Jesus’ cross—belonged to me. It belonged to you. (Point to the YOU on the green magnet piece.) You and I sin every day. We disobey our teachers and parents. We fail to show love to friends and family members. We say mean, hurtful things to other people. We curse. We think selfish thoughts and act in selfish ways. The Bible calls this, sin. All of us sin.
But here is what the Bible says. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:15.) Jesus loved you and me so very much that he took the punishment we deserved. Jesus died on our cross so that we wouldn’t have to be punished for our sins. Jesus died in our place.
But Jesus didn’t stay dead. Jesus conquered death! In just three short days, Jesus came alive again! Now Jesus lives forever. Jesus loves us forever. Jesus forgives us, and he gives us new life now and forever.
Taking It Home
Teach the following echo song using the tune, Frère Jacques. Sing the first few words and encourage your listeners to echo them, singing your words back to you:
Jesus died. (Jesus died.)
On the cross. (On the cross.)
Now we are forgiven (Now we are forgiven)
And we’re saved! (And we’re saved!)
Can you fold your hands and pray in your hearts as I pray aloud?
Dear Jesus, you must really love us a lot! Thank you for suffering and dying for us. We praise you for your power over sin and death. Please help us share the good news of your Resurrection with others. Amen.
Distribute the Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate! Activity Magnet pieces to the children who have not previously received them as you hand everyone today’s green magnet piece.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2014 CTA, Inc.