How do You Explain the Horror of the Cross?

“What are these, Mimi?” My little three-year-old granddaughter was fingering the sharp points of wicked looking thorns. While I was out hiking with a friend, we came across a thorn tree that had shed several limbs. Piled around the base of this stubby tree were long, thin limbs covered in sharp thorns ranging from 1 to 5 inches in length. We gathered up all that we could carry because the thorn limbs gave me an idea for a project.

These thorns reminded me of Jesus’ crown of thorns, and I felt like they could be used as a symbolic picture of his suffering. I cut up the limbs into small sections and attached to each a small parchment piece with these words:

[box]He was pierced for our transgressions . . . crushed for our iniquities . . .

And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head . . .”

(Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 27:29)[/box]

A few years ago, at Easter, I gave several of these to friends and family members. Although my granddaughter had probably seen the “thorn-piece” I’d given to her family, apparently it hadn’t grabbed her attention like this “thorn pile” that was sitting on the bedroom table.

She looked intently at the sharp points and asked again, “What are these?”

How do you explain to a precious child the horror of the cross? How do you describe it in an age-appropriate way? Most children’s story books and Bibles, display a sanitized version (for good reason) when presenting the graphics of the crucifixion. I was grappling with that question, when I decided to let the Word speak for itself.

I gathered up my little one in my arms and sat down with her and my Bible, both in my lap, and we turned to Matthew. I read her portions of the last two chapters, but stressed that although Jesus wore a painful crown of thorns as He died to give us life, today He is alive.

I’ve noticed her returning frequently to gaze intently at those thorns. Jesus’ suffering on the cross has made an impression on her young heart, although she doesn’t quite grasp the significance yet, I believe she is responding to the spiritual reality that is a truth that transcends age. True love was defined by the suffering Jesus endured on the cross. And that love knows no boundaries. It has the power to penetrate the heart of the youngest child or the most hardened criminal.

[box]God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9–10)[/box]