In the American culture, it is increasingly more difficult to keep children focused on Jesus during Easter and Christmas. When bunnies, eggs, candy, gifts, reindeer, and a fat man sliding down your chimney is thrown at them at all times, it is a challenge to reorient their thinking to the things of God. You don’t want it to become, “Let’s get through this Jesus thing so we can get to the fun thing,” and it is a battle.
I’m not posting today concerning what is right or wrong for a family to do or not to do, I’m simply posting this dad’s struggle.
Yesterday was a special Easter for our family. As a minister, Easter weekend is very busy and very anticipated. We had a whole bunch of people at our church this weekend that we are getting connected to our church. Our services were so energetic, passionate, and Bible-saturated.
And then I get home, and I have another group to pastor. It’s my bride and my three children. How do I shepherd them to make much of Jesus as I had hours earlier with many this weekend?
We had family talks throughout the weekend (Deut. 6:4-9) concerning Jesus. On Sunday morning, I ran in the room and began singing rowdy resurrections songs with them. This was one morning I was completely fine with them jumping in their bed and singing out energetically, “He is risen!”
Time with our church family was great. I asked the boys, “What did you learn about in your church lesson today?”
Eli responded, “Dad, you know the answer to that – Jesus is risen!’
What was I thinking? 😉
On Saturday night, I had shown a clip of Jesus: He Lived Among Us by the Voice of the Martyrs. It is a cartoon movie on the life of Christ. I showed them pieces of the crucifixion and resurrection scenes. They were so enthralled with it, they asked if the could watch the whole thing on Easter Sunday.
And so I watched the whole thing with the boys Sunday afternoon. The boys would go through all types of emotion as we watched the life of Christ.
There was confusion as to why officials and soldiers would want to kill baby Jesus if he had come to save the world. There was genuine rejoicing as hope-filled eyes watched Jesus heal so many people and they actually began to chant, “Go, Jesus! Go, Jesus!” They began to sing songs that our church had written during different point of the narratives like, “I Will Follow,” “Woe to You,” “It Is Finished,” “Go,” and others. Those moments alone made “Knowing Jesus” worth every bit of it!
When we got to the crucifixion scene, I struggled with what to do. I had watched it before that moment, and the scene was not gruesome but it was honest. You can’t really make the Savior of the World nailed to a cross he didn’t deserve seem happy and cheerful.
As a solider slapped Jesus and the crowd began to yell, “Crucify,” Obie began to cry. He crawled in my lap and said, “I don’t like what they are doing to Jesus.”
“I don’t either, buddy. Do you want me to fast forward through this part?”
“No, I mean I don’t want to see it, but it is hard not to watch it.”
“Why don’t I fast forward through this?”
Eli jumped in, “Let’s get to the tomb where he rolls the stone away!”
Obie replied, “But I do want to see the whole thing.”
“Well, you can cover your eyes if you don’t want to watch it. You do know what happens next don’t you?”
“Yeah, Dad, I know Jesus is going to rise from the dead, but still it’s just hard to watch what they did to him.”
You may read this and think I am a horrible father for allowing my children to watch this cartoon depiction of Jesus. Honestly, I would rather them watch a very cautious cartoon depiction of the real life of Jesus than some of the sarcastic, annoying, disobedient cartoon characters that are infesting television channels today. Maybe I should have been busy with other Easter rituals.
I can promise that the scenes were acceptable for their age, but honestly, this is the reaction that all of us should have as we celebrate Easter.
As I held Obadiah in my arms as he cried over what Jesus went through, I began to tear up as well thanking Jesus for allowing my son to knock the cobwebs off of my heart as we celebrated Easter. Jesus died to put my sin to death. He rose to give me new life. He endured my punishment, and yes, that should do something to you. It shouldn’t just be a holiday where you do a couple of rituals and get reminded about a story with which has little impact upon you. Don’t get over Easter!
The chance to hold my boys during the high and low emotions of Jesus’ life was a gift. To share with them the sorrow associated with Jesus’ death and to explain to them that he went to that cross with joy (Heb. 12:2) for us was a treasure. To teach them that nobody took advantage of King Jesus but that he volunteered for the cross gave them much hope. To celebrate exuberantly with them when we watched how Jesus put death to death was a memory I will always cherish.
Yesterday, Jesus was the biggest hero in our house.
And I pray he is today as well.
I left the playroom for a moment only to return and see that the boys were using their building blocks for another creation. As they had constructed three wooden crosses, aligned their knights to be the soldiers, and Iron Man was a substitute for Jesus (hey, you gotta work with what you got ;)), I watched them retell the story to each other. And I want them to continue.
I pray that Jesus is the center of our home on Easter and every other day of the year.
While the story of Jesus is “just hard to watch” sometimes, there is something else that would be even more difficult to watch – not making much of him in our home every single day.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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