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. These thorns reminded me of Jesus’ crown of thorns, and I felt like they could be used as a symbolic picture of his suffering.

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 one to five inches in length. We gathered up all that we could carry because the thorn limbs gave me an idea for a project. I cut up the limbs into small sections and attached to each a small parchment piece with these words:

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)

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 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 with her and my Bible, both in my lap, 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.

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)

Image courtesy of JarrettBanks.wordpress.com



  1. Thank you for sharing your idea. I am going to share it with my 11 year old grad daughter. It breaks my heart that Christ had to suffer like he did. It also speaks loudly how much He Loves me. I don’t feel worthy of that kind of love. I have to keep reminding myself God doesn’t make junk and He made me. I want to say our marriage is doing soooo much better because of you and your husband’s testimony. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Have a Blessed Easter…He is Risen. Yeah!!!! I don’t know how people live without Him. Mona


    • Posted by Kimberly Wagner

      Hello, Mona ~

      What a precious picture, so glad you’ll share this with your grand daughter! I’m so thankful that God has worked in your marriage, that is so exciting. May you have many sweet years together down the road.

      Yes, He is risen indeed 🙂


  2. Posted by Dina

    What a wonderful reminder that real love comes with suffering and sacrifice. I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone at church say, “hey, let’s just approach God in gratitude for all of this suffering, sadness, sorrow, sacrifice”. Yet in those times of suffering, I have felt most intimately reliant upon Him. It is in these times, I have truly felt the depths of His love, grace and mercy. When I cling to Him in the darkness of struggle, He reveals more about His light and love. I thank God for speaking intimately to me today, by speaking to you. I’m more aware of how the depths of His love and His great sacrifice are revealed even in the small, seemingly insignificant thorns in nature.


    • Posted by Kimberly Wagner

      You put it so beautifully, Dina, yes! He speaks sometimes softly, but it’s so deeply and tenderly when we’re walking through sorrow and suffering.

      So glad you’re connecting here, love hearing from you, precious friend! May you and your family enjoy a sweet Resurrection weekend together.


  3. Posted by Diana King

    Dear Kim,
    On our vacation in Tennessee last week with our entire
    Family, I took our Resurrection Eggs and had a precious teaching moment
    With Isaac and Rowan sharing the Easter Story. On our many hikes we came across large thorns
    Which reinforced the crown of thorns as well. Valuing every teaching moment in our grandchildrens lives.
    Love,
    Diana


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