Editor’s note: Today’s devotion is slightly adapted from a family devotion packet that accompanies the A Love That Never Dies family activity kit. CTA has written six FREE, reproducible Easter devotions just like this one. You can send them home for families to use in their personal devotions, use them in your Sunday school, or make them part of your Easter outreach event.
Gather these materials: a sheet of dried sponge (from a local craft store), a scissors that will cut the sponge, and a glass or small bowl of water. Cut a small cross from the sponge, one that will fit inside the glass or bowl during your presentation. Optional: Cut a dried-sponge cross to send home with each child.
I’m so glad you are here today! I want to tell you about a sad and wonderful night. It’s the night Jesus prayed in the garden, just a few hours before he died.
That night, Jesus ate one last supper with his disciples. Do you know what happened there in the Upper Room during that meal? (Let volunteers respond: Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he taught them more about his love and the work of the Holy Spirit, he ate the Passover with his friends for the last time and gave us “The Lord’s Supper”; accept answers drawn from the Bible.)
When supper ended, Jesus invited his friends to come along with him to the garden to pray. Jesus often prayed in the garden called “Gethsemane.” As Jesus and his friends walked to Gethsemane, they sang a psalm of praise to God. Then Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to come with him deeper into the garden to pray. The other disciples stayed closer to the entrance. Jesus knelt down by himself, a short distance from Peter, James, and John.
Here’s where the sad part of the story starts. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed. Jesus knew what was going to happen to him. He knew how painful it would be to bear the punishment for all our sins—your sins and my sins. So Jesus asked his Father to give him the strength to die for us. Listen to what Jesus prayed. (Read Matthew 26:39 from your Bible.) Jesus knew how hard it would be, but still, he wanted to save us. He wanted to obey his heavenly Father.
Just as Jesus finished praying, soldiers sent by Jesus’ enemies came to arrest him. They carried swords, and some had brought torches to light their way through the dark garden. How frightening it must have been! It was so frightening that all of Jesus’ friends ran away. They left Jesus completely alone.
Have you ever felt lonely? Like the first time you went for a sleepover at a friend’s house? Or the first year you went to summer camp? That is an empty, scary feeling, isn’t it?
But Jesus was much, much lonelier than that! In fact, you and I will never be that lonely. We will never have to feel that kind of aching emptiness because Jesus suffered it for us that night.
Yes, there will be times when our friends won’t pick us for their team. There will times when we’re not invited to someone’s birthday party, even when we really, really want to go. There will be times when we feel afraid because our parents are angry and are fighting with one another.
(Hold up the dry cross.) But in those lonely times, we can remember that Jesus loves us so much, he gave his life for us. This is the wonderful part of this story. Jesus is our Best Friend Forever! When we know and trust Jesus, we will never, ever be alone! Not ever!
(Dip the cross in the water.) Just as the water fills and swells this sponge, Jesus fills us with his love and strength. Jesus will always, always be our best friend and our wonderful counselor. When you feel frightened or alone, you can remember Jesus stays with you. He is always right beside you. He is with you to help you in every joy and every trouble. His presence calms our fears and gives us peace. It’s a peace that lasts, no matter what.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, we will never know how empty and lonely you felt in Gethsemane—and we are so, so glad about that! Thank you for being our Forever Friend, the one who never, ever leaves us. When we are sad, worried, or in trouble, remind us that you will always care for us, always help us. In your name we pray, dear Jesus. Amen.
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