Everyone's invited! Talking to children about salvation.
This week in our Lent journey, we have reached the part of the story we know as Good Friday.
Children and young people are accustomed to waiting. They know that one day they will be able to access more of what life has for them. When they are older they can join the swimming club. When they are taller they’ll be able to go on the big rides. When they are cleverer they can go to college. When they’ve left home they’ll be able to make their own decisions. Childhood is in many ways a time of waiting for the good stuff – independence, careers, relationships and all life has for them.
The story of Good Friday rips through all that waiting. It shouts: the best is for you, now, just as you are – young, old, weak, strong, male, female, of any nationality or background! There’s no more waiting – come in, everyone’s invited!
Good Friday is about inclusion at the most profound level. It affects how we live here and now, and it affects our eternity.
This week we are going to be thinking about salvation and how because of Good Friday we can connect with God directly. What great news!
The story of Jesus’s death is recorded in all four gospels. Two of the gospel writers describe an important event that happened at the moment Jesus died: the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This event is recorded as part of Mark’s, Luke's and Matthew’s stories.
You can explore the story in many ways:
- By reading it in Matthew 27:32-56 or Mark 15:16-41; you can also listen to these passages using Bible Gateway’s audio versions
- By reading it from a children’s Bible
- By exploring it through a retelling such as The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross
- There are many video versions available suitable for children such as this one from Saddleback Kids or this clip from the Miracle Maker movie. For adults or older children you can watch it from the Jesus movie (starting at 1:36:22)
I don’t know about you, but when I go to London I love to stand outside Buckingham Palace and watch. Through the high black railings you can see the building clearly, the guards in their sentry boxes marching across, and if you are lucky, the huge gates will unexpectedly swing smoothly open and a lucky VIP swoosh through in a large black car, leaving me outside, wondering what it would be like to be allowed in and meet the queen.
The ancient Israelites knew what it was like to be left on the outside. Inside the tabernacle, and later the temple, was a very special room right at the centre separated from the rest of the temple by a tall, heavy, woven curtain. This room was known as ‘The Holy of Holies’ because it was there that just once a year, one person – the High Priest - could go to meet with God. No-one else could go in. It simply wasn’t possible for an ordinary person to meet with God like that.
But Matthew and Mark record an amazing event that happened at the exact moment Jesus died: the tall, heavy curtain ripped in half from top to bottom, opening up the Holy of Holies to everyone. The writer of the book of Hebrews explains it like this:
So, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death. We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us. It leads through the curtain—Christ’s body. (Hebrews 10:19-20, New Century Version)
It’s as if the big black gates of the palace have swung open for ever, allowing anyone who wants to enter the palace and meet the queen. Because of the death of Jesus anyone who can meet with God and become part of his family. There’s no more waiting. There’s no hierarchy. The way to God is free for all who want it.
Things to think about
- The impact of the death of Jesus has profound implications for us. There are now no restrictions on who can be part of God’s family – our gender, age, nationality, abilities, or experiences are no barrier to accessing God’s love. John 3:16 makes it clear that the only condition of salvation is belief: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- Because we no longer need a mediator, a High Priest, to stand between us and God, we can have a close and connected relationship with God. Chat and catch, one of Parenting for Faith’s key tools, is a great way to empower children to develop connection with God.
- Parents often wonder about how they know if their child is a Christian – particularly if there has never been a ‘conversion’ moment. This is what Rachel Turner says: ‘There is no right answer to this question, as children will be ready when they are ready. Our job is to surround them with the truth and teach them how to access God and his new life for them when they are ready … Remember, becoming a Christian isn’t about praying a prayer. It’s about responding to what Jesus did and to the call of God on our hearts, and wanting to change the way we live in relationship with him. We are all constantly in the process of responding to the gospel and committing and recommitting ourselves to the faith journey, and this is an exciting first step.’ (Parenting Children for a Life of Faith Omnibus). There are some useful articles exploring this question here.
- The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) can be a very helpful way to help children understand what becoming a Christian means. Explore it with your family. Who might you be in the story? Which part of the story do you like? Which part of the story do you have questions about? What does this story tell us about us and God?
- God sent the Holy Spirit to be with Christians, to help them access all that God has for them. Discover the story of Jackie Pullinger, and the difference connection with God made to her ministry and how it helped the addicts she worked with.
- As Jesus died, the first two people to recognise who he was were a thief and a Roman soldier . What does this tell you about who is welcome in God’s kingdom?
- How do you connect with God? How have you noticed other people connect with God? Are there any ways you’d like to try?
- The early church saw dramatic changes in people as they chose to become part of God’s family. Check out the story of Peter – how he went from someone who was so scared he pretended he didn’t know Jesus, to someone who stood up and preached fearlessly to the whole of Jerusalem. What made the difference? Or think about Saul, who became Paul after a personal meeting with Jesus - what happened to change him so dramatically?
- Paul writes this: In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28). What other categories might you want to add to this list?
- No-one is quite sure exactly what happened when Jesus died to make the way possible for us to become Christians. There are a number of theories. This free download from Scripture Union -Top Tips on Explaining the Cross -lists four. Which one do you like and why?
- Jesus the sacrifice (Jesus takes our place)
- Jesus the reconciler (Jesus mends our broken relationship with God)
- Jesus the victor (Jesus defeats evil)
- Jesus the rescuer or redeemer (Jesus pays the price for our sins with his life)