Is Easter Too Scary for Children?

Every year, around this time, parents and churches ponder how to communicate the Easter story to children, as something more than dyed eggs. The problem is, of course, that it’s impossible to talk about the resurrection of Jesus without talking about death. And, in the case of Jesus, it’s really hard to talk about death without talking about crucifixion.

Some churches resolve this tension by deeming the cross too violent for kids. They talk instead about Easter meaning that Jesus is our “forever friend.” They say that Jesus “went away for a little while, and his friends were sad,” but that he soon “came back to see them.”

Most Christian churches, thankfully, still speak on Easter of the cross and the resurrection, but in many places this is, well, precisely because it’s Easter. The story seems particularly strange to the children in such places because “Jesus is my forever friend” is the standard fare the rest of the year.

We need to understand that this temptation isn’t just related to children, although we see it perhaps most explicitly there.The temptation that comes to all of us, in every era of the church, is to have Jesus, without seeing ourselves in the gore of his bloody cross and the glory of his empty grave. In the way that we speak of Him to our children, or to skeptics, or to seekers, we sometimes believe we’ll gain more of a hearing if we present Him as teacher but not as a former corpse. It is too disturbing, we think to ourselves, too weird.

Peter thought that way too. Not the bold preacher of Pentecost, mind you, but the Peter of just a short time before that, the Peter of Caesarea Philippi. Peter certainly knew Jesus as friend, and he had just confessed that He was Messiah and Son of the living God. But when Jesus began to teach that He must “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised,” Peter was outraged (Matt 16:21).

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Dr. Russell Moore is President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Seminary, and as a visiting professor of ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A native Mississippian, Moore and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.