Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Easter Story, 101

Palm Sunday. After church we picked up Ethan in the 2-4-year-old nursery as we do every week and I took a look at his lesson sheet. There was Ethan's usual perfunctory, one-color scribble on the picture. Today's paper pictured Jesus on the cross.

Ethan saw me glancing at the paper. "Jesus died on the cross," he announced as we were heading up the stairs to get our coats from the coat room. "Yes," I said, figuring he was just repeating what he'd heard. Bible comprehension isn't the easiest thing for our little guy, and who can blame him? He is just now starting to show some interest or basic understanding in the stories. Jonah has been the first one to fascinate him because, c'mon, what kid isn't blown away by the idea of being swallowed by a whale?

"Jesus DIED on the cross," Ethan said again, as we were grabbing our coats. "He died for REAL."

I thought about Ethan's current concept of death: mainly, as something that happens in video games or when we're playing around, and we always say, "just pretend."

"Yes, it was for real. It really happened," I answered as we struggled into our jackets.

"Why are the people crying?" he asked, staring at the three cartoonish figures standing near the cross with tears on their cheeks.

"They're sad because they didn't want Jesus to die," I told him.

"Did he die on the ground like this?" Ethan sprawled out flat on his back, as people stepped over him to get their jackets. Of course. That's always the way we play people "dying."

"No hon, remember? He died on the cross." We were walking down the church steps now.

"Did they do it with swords?" To Ethan, every death occurs by sword or gun.

"No, not swords." To Dan I whispered, this is so funny and so sad at the same time. "It was nails. They put nails in his hands and feet." I thought as I have so many times of how violent the Bible actually is. There's something about that I like -- how painfully, brutally honest it can be in many places. The question of course is how much to smooth that harshness over, for little ones.

"I don't want people to die on a cross," Ethan said worriedly, almost obstinately.

"They don't now, hon. That happened then. But you know what? He came back to life."

Ethan looked at me, not quite comprehending.

"He came back to life again. He died for real, but he came back to life again. You'll talk about that next week at church, on Easter."

"He came back to life. He died for real. Jesus died on the cross..." Ethan continued to clutch his half-crinkled Sunday school paper in his hand, until we climbed into the car and drove away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember well having a similar conversation with Hope. The Jesus Storybook Bible helped me help her understand.

How did today go with Ethan hearing the whole story?

Happy Easter to Ethan and your beautiful family!