Well it’s the best day on the Christian calendar! Easter Sunday. So I thought I’d share with you guys a bunch of ways you can approach talking to your kids about the resurrection and what it achieved. The only problem is that I wrote it while I was at Theological College, which means it is gonna be way more dense than the other stuff on here. But for the keen beans among you – enjoy.
What a deep and great mystery the resurrection of Christ is to so many Christians. A doctrine universally acknowledged as essential amongst evangelicals, and yet many would be hard pushed to articulate why. Christ’s death takes away our sins, averts the wrath of God and provides the grounds for our justification. But what about the resurrection? People say that it can’t be separated from the cross, but what does it actually contribute, if anything, to our salvation? Does it simply help us overcome the sadness of the death of our king and allow us to rejoice that he is once again alive (the extent of resurrection theology in most Sunday Schools)? The resurrection most definitely achieves that, but it proceeds to do far more.
If we are honest with ourselves, there is a whole range of elements that the resurrection brings to bear on the Christian mind that are far too often neglected, to our detriment. As we include these elements in teaching the resurrection to our kids, we will not only do well by them in building the correct picture of the resurrection, but will also sing the many harmonies of the resurrection song refreshingly sweet. So let’s cast our gaze on each of these elements in turn, and consider how we might best explain them to kids. We shall be brief on each element and aim to get to the heart of it quickly, for that must be the nature of instruction when teaching kids. In this task, we will explore up to two texts for each element, recognising that each element has further Biblical evidence, but for the sake of time we shall limit our enquiry to the pair.
Victory Over Death
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:9-10
I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:18
The resurrection points us to the great victory that Jesus achieves over mortality. Death – that power, which holds all mankind in the chains of slavery – has finally been overcome. By tasting death himself, and then rising again, our Lord and Saviour won the victory over his mortal enemy and allowed immortality to flourish. Because he has defeated death for himself, he is now able to give that victory to his own. He has paid the price for sin – death – and therefore allowed to live once more; but not simply as he was, but in the glorious reality of the new creation, never to die again.
For the Kids:
Jesus didn’t stay dead, he came back to life. That means in his battle with death – he won! And because he won, he will never die again. Not only that, but because he beat death once and for all, he can now let us live forever too – just like him.
Victory Over Satan
…[the mighty strength God] exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:20-21
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:8
Similar to the previous point, Jesus’ resurrection defeats the Great Serpent, the devil. Satan’s power is in accusing us of our sin, yet because of what Jesus has done, he has no accusation left to make. Upon Jesus’ death, Satan may have assumed the victory, but on his return to life Jesus thoroughly destroyed his foe, leaving him with nothing. Because we are justified, Satan has nothing left of which to call us to account. Furthermore, after raising him from the dead, God the Father was then able to exalt the glorious Lord Jesus to the highest place, from where he has dominion over all spiritual powers (including Satan).
For the Kids:
Satan tells us lies and tries to convince us we’re not good enough for God and should be punished. But because Jesus rose from the dead, our sins have been taken away and there is nothing left to be punished. So we don’t need to listen to Satan, because Jesus has already beaten him.
Vindication of Jesus’ Righteousness
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ Galatians 3:13
All the way from Genesis 2 death is stated as the punishment for sin. After this, the Bible is clear (even in the Old Testament), that humanity will face a judgement that involves resurrection. All peoples, both the elect and non-elect, will be raised from the dead to face the judgement of God. Those who are deemed righteous by the perfectly just God will be granted eternal life, but those unrighteous, to eternal damnation – the second death. As the Galatians passage above indicates, death (and particularly death on a tree) is a marker of a cursed life – which according to the Old Testament, indicates a sinful life.
Jesus claimed his death (on a tree) was for us, a claim that would only be valid if he had lived a completely righteous life, for otherwise the death he paid must necessarily have been for his own sin, not ours. The only definitive test of his righteousness (short of viewing his life through the eyes of God) is to behold the condition to which he was raised – life or death. As the scriptures emphatically assert, he was raised to life eternal – even to the right hand of God, a position only obtainable if he was raised to life. Therefore, his resurrection to life vindicates Christ’s claim that the death he paid was not for his sin, but rather ours.
For the kids:
The punishment for sin is death. Then after we die, God will judge us. He will either punish us forever, or give us eternal life in heaven – depending on whether we’ve been perfect or not. Jesus didn’t deserve to die because he was perfect and the fact that God raised him to eternal life shows that he was perfect. So who’s sin was Jesus paying for on the cross? It was ours! It must have been, because Jesus was raised to life again!
Vindication of Jesus’ Truthfulness
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21
They will kill him [Jesus], and on the third day he will be raised to life. Matthew 17:23
"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:18-19
On a whole bunch of occasions Jesus prophesied his own death and resurrection. This word was confirmed as true the moment he strode out of the grave on that glorious morning. Incidentally it also give us further confidence (as though we would need further confidence than the Word of God himself) that all he claimed was true, for this was most definitely his most remarkable feat.
For the kids:
Way before it even happened, Jesus said he would die. But then he said something that sounded crazy – he said he would come back to life again. And you know what? That’s exactly what happened. He did just what he said he would do. What power! We can trust him in everything that he says!
Vindication of Jesus’ claim of Messiah
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. Psalm 16:10
…and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:4
The Holy Spirit is emphatic in Psalm 16, where he mentions God’s intentions for the Messiah (the faithful one), that he will not abandon him to the grave. The Messiah will be raised to life. Jesus’ claim as Israel’s King and redeemer, the Messiah (or Christ) is vindicated upon his resurrection. Furthermore, as the Romans passage indicates, this was God’s powerful declaration of Jesus’ identity – the Son of God being one of the more popular Old Testament designations of the Messiah. His great title required an equally great revelation.
For the kids:
Way back in the super olden days, God promised to raise his special king – the Messiah – from the dead. When Jesus died, God raised him from the dead. That shows us that Jesus is God’s special king. What is up?!
Vindication of God
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. Psalm 16:10
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:24
Very closely linked to the previous point, in the resurrection of Christ God is shown to be faithful (yet again) to his word. He had promised to raise the Holy One from the dead and in the of raising Christ this promise finds it’s fulfillment.
For the kids:
God promised to raise his special king – the Messiah – from the dead. He kept this promise when he raised Jesus from the dead. That’s because God always keeps his promises. What a good God that we can trust!
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15:17
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:25
As has already been demonstrated, had Christ not been raised to eternal life we would not be made right, for he would have be shown to be unrighteous. It should also be noted that caught up in Christ’s vindication is our own justification. If Christ was not declared once and forever “righteous” by his resurrection from the dead, our justification is lost. For our justification is the declaration that Jesus is right, as it is in him that we find our forgiveness. It was achieved at the cross, but the verdict was handed down at the resurrection. Without the declaration Jesus is not justified, for justification is a declaration by very nature. To forego the resurrection of Jesus is to forego our own justification, and any benefits that ensue.
For the kids:
Jesus has made us an awesome deal. He traded our sin for his good life. He got punished because he took our sin, and we get rewarded because he gave us his good life. But how do we know that God said, “Yes” to this deal? How do we know he’s ok with it? Well when he raised Jesus from the dead, he said “yes” to the deal. We can be forgiven because God said that our sins are paid for. We can go to heaven because God said that Jesus’ good life counts for us. He said yes to this deal when he raised Jesus from the dead.
Union with Christ on High
… [the mighty strength God] exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:20-21
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus Ephesians 2:6
Because Jesus has been raised, we have been united to him in both his death and his life. What is to be noted from the aforementioned verses is that the one who is joined to Christ is united with him in his ascended position. The Lord Jesus would be unable to be the ruling Lord on high unless he were raised from the dead, for that is the role of the Messiah, and the Messiah must be raised. The possibility that a Christian may enjoy the high place of glory is dependent upon the resurrection (and ascension) of Christ.
For the kids:
After God raised Jesus from the dead, he put him in the highest, most important place in heaven. That is where he rules the universe from. But God didn’t stop there. If we trust in Jesus, we get to join Jesus in that high position, because God has joined us to Jesus. That’s right! We are joined with Jesus in the highest place in heaven!
Arrival of the Last Days
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:1-2
The great resurrection from the dead is to happen on the last day. Judgement Day. All will be raised before the Almighty, the great judge of the earth. Some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting death. It will all occur on that final day, which will mark the beginning of the resurrection age. But Christ has already been raised. He has already been declared righteous. He has already been granted everlasting life.
This indicates that the final-day has now begun. The age of the resurrection has broken in early. Although the ultimate, universal judgement of all humanity will occur at the end of this era, Jesus has already been judged, and he has been found worthy. As we are in him, we have already been judged also, and therefore are declared right with God. This truth gives us confidence in both our current and eternally perpetual state of justification.
It also alters the way we ought to see the world. It is on its last legs, and needs the gospel of Jesus Christ more than anything else. It is the only hope for our dying world. A hope we know to be true, for Christ has been raised (he is our ‘living hope’ – 1 Pet 1:3).
For the kids:
On the last day before heaven or hell, God will judge every single person that has ever lived. He will decide whether they should go to heaven or hell. But God has already judged Jesus to be good. He doesn’t have to wait until that day. By raising him from the dead, God shows Jesus to be good. So if we trust in him, we don’t have to wait for that day either, but can be judged good now. Not because of our goodness, but because of his. He is our only hope! And if you do trust him, you are walking around as someone who has been forgiven forever!
Attaining New Life Now
Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11
Because we have been united to Jesus in both his death and resurrection, we are united to the risen Lord Jesus. We are not united to a dead man. By God’s life-giving Spirit we have union with Christ, and therein we experience his life-giving power. We enter the last days with Jesus and experience resurrection power now. This is a very different experience to Old Testament saints, for they were not united to the risen Lord Jesus. We have not yet been bodily raised and therefore still struggle against sin in the confines of the flesh, but we have the power of life at work within us. If Christ was not raised, we would not be able to walk in the newness of the resurrection life that we now enjoy – even if we had the Spirit of God. But because we are raised with Jesus we share in his new life and enjoy all the benefits that follow.
For the kids:
God joins us to Jesus and because he is alive, we get to have that life too. In fact we are made totally new people because we are born again with new lives. That is because we are joined to Jesus’ new life. We don’t need to keep sinning. The Bible calls people who aren’t joined to Jesus dead, and they can’t stop sinning. But if you are joined to Jesus, you are alive and can start saying ‘no’ to sin. Now we can obey Jesus, by his power of life that he gives us. Not perfectly yet, but we can say no to sin in a way we couldn’t before when we were still dead.
Secures Our Bodily Resurrection
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:23
But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:21
Christ is the perfect image of God in a way that Adam never was. Where our first forefather failed, Christ prevailed. That is why we are now being renewed into his image (Rom 8:29). What follows on from this is that all those who are in Christ will follow the pattern of life that he has experienced. That includes a new glorious body that will be like his – immortal, incorruptible and eternally free from the bondage to sin and decay. On his return he will present us with the bodily garment we’ll be wearing into the ages. And it shall be glorious!
For the kids:
God raised Jesus back to life and gave him a new body. But he’s not the only one who gets a new body. If we trust in Jesus, when he comes back he will give us new bodies too. Bodies that will never get sick or die. Bodies that we won’t sin with. Bodies that will be way more awesome than the great ones we have now. That day is gonna be a hectically cool one.
The resurrection of Jesus is a mine rich with truth, the implications of which we will be astounded by into eternity. It is also a doctrine that can often feel very dry and wooden. However, as has been demonstrated from the most brief of investigations, this teaching contains a great variety of elements, which if taught well to our kids would keep our teaching fresh.
It is our opinion that Sunday School teachers ought to reflect and ponder deeply this great doctrine and its effects so that their teaching will truly enrich the kids under their care and not simply give them a phrase to repeat (although that does have its place). The ‘for the kids’ sections are not intended to be learnt by rote, but are merely examples of how a conversation might transpire. It is also not the intention that all the elements ought to be included each time the resurrection would be taught to kids – that would be ludicrous. It would be far more profitable for teachers to learn this doctrine well for themselves, that they might more passionately proclaim the depths of the richness of the wisdom and grace of God and over time the kids will be enriched by a more complete picture.
The aim in all of this is that kids know their God and Saviour more deeply, trust him more persistently and understand the very real benefits of God’s goodness to them in Christ. What a God we have and can know in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not short-change our kids by shortcutting doctrine. Let them drink deeply from the word of God – the wellspring of life.