The 3 Most Important Conversations about Easter that Most Sunday Schools and Parents Aren’t Having with Kids

The 3 Most Important Conversations about Easter that Most Sunday Schools and Parents Aren’t Having with Kids

When I think back to Easter as a child, I remember year after year in Sunday School coloring cross pictures, making empty tomb crafts, having Easter-themed snacks, and singing celebratory worship songs. There is no doubt I learned that Jesus was raised from the dead after dying on the cross three days before.

But as an adult, I look back on those experiences and realize how much more today’s kids need to understand about Easter given the world they’re growing up in. We can’t take for granted that knowing what the Bible says about the resurrection is enough for kids to have a confident faith when they’re surrounded by a culture that calls such a belief ridiculous. There’s so much more to learn than what kids are getting from their resurrection crafts.

I could write a lot about this, but I’ll narrow it to the three most important conversations about Easter that Sunday Schools and parents rarely have with kids.

 

1. Why does it matter if Jesus was resurrected?

When my husband and I were first married, we started attending a nearby Presbyterian church. Neither of us had any idea what to look for when choosing a church, so we went with “close, big, and Christian-sounding” (neither of us grew up Presbyterian but we knew it was a Christian denomination).

We attended that church for three years before we realized something wasn’t quite right. It was Easter Sunday when the pastor informed us, “It doesn’t really matter if Jesus rose from the dead or not. What matters is that he lives on in our hearts and we can now make the world a better place.”

We didn’t know the term for it at the time, but we had been attending a “progressive” Christian church (this is not to say that all Presbyterian churches are progressive in their teaching). I knew the pastor was preaching something unbiblical, but I couldn’t have begun to articulate why—even though I had grown up in a Christian home and had spent hundreds of hours in church.

It’s sad to me in retrospect that the question of why it mattered that Jesus was raised from the dead was not completely clear in my mind by that point. But I think it’s a good example of how explicitly we need to connect the dots for kids. We can’t assume they will automatically deduce why the resurrection matters just because they learn the resurrection happened.

So why does it matter? Let’s start here: Jesus repeatedly predicted his resurrection.

Anyone could predict their own death if they were causing a political uproar. But the Gospels each point out at least once that Jesus predicted he would rise after death. For example, Matthew 16:21 says, “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.” (See also Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:9, 20:18-19, 26:32, 27:62-64; Mark 9:9-10, 31; 8:31, 10:32-34, 14:28, 58; Luke 9:22; John 2:22.)

If Jesus predicted his resurrection but did not come back to life, he would either have been mistaken or have been an outright liar. In either case, that would mean he wasn’t perfect and wasn’t God. And if Jesus was not God, he had no power to die on the cross for our sins. Nor would we have any reason to care what he taught—he would have just been another human like us. As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

But if he predicted his resurrection and did come back to life, it validated his claims to being God (only God could do that!). That’s an extremely significant point that appears to have been lost in some churches—like the one I attended.

 

2. Why should we believe a resurrection miracle is possible?

Last Easter, Scientific American magazine featured an article by atheist Michael Shermer entitled, “What Would It Take to Prove the Resurrection?” It was subtitled, “How to think about claims, even the Resurrection.” This article featured extraordinarily bad logic, which I fully outlined in a blog post at the time. It basically boiled down to a popular magazine stating that the way to think about a claim like the resurrection is to:

  1. Identify it as a miracle claim.
  2. Accept that any natural explanation is more probable than a miracle explanation.
  3. Reject the miracle claim.

This is what passes for “scientific” today, and it’s a way of thinking kids will frequently encounter. Shermer and skeptics like him simply presuppose supernatural miracles aren’t possible. But here’s better logic to learn: The possibility of miracles depends on whether or not God exists.

If God exists, supernatural miracles are possible because the supernatural exists. If God does not exist, the natural world is all there is, and supernatural miracles are therefore impossible by definition.

This is simple logic that even young kids can understand (I taught it to my kids in Kindergarten). If someone says miracles aren’t possible, kids should immediately recognize that such a statement assumes God doesn’t exist. Of course, we must then be able to share the evidence for God’s existence, as the logical plausibility of the resurrection rests on it (for help with talking about the evidence for God’s existence with your kids, see chapters 1-6 of Talking with Your Kids about God).

 

3. Why should we believe a resurrection miracle actually happened?

There’s a big leap from miracles being possible given the evidence for God’s existence and being able to determine that a miracle has actually happened.

In the case of the resurrection, there are four facts that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, including skeptical ones (this is known as the “Minimal Facts” argument). Drs. Gary Habermas and Michael Licona lay these out in their book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. I’ll briefly explain each below. See Habermas and Licona’s book for a comprehensive discussion, or chapter 21 in Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side for a more detailed summary.

 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. Jesus’ crucifixion is referenced by several non-Christian historical sources, including Josephus, Tacitus, and Lucian of Samosata.

 

  • Jesus’ disciples believed He arose and appeared to them. Habermas explains, “There is a virtual consensus among scholars who study Jesus’ resurrection that, subsequent to Jesus’ death by crucifixion, his disciples really believed that he appeared to them risen from the dead. This conclusion has been reached by data that suggest that 1) the disciples themselves claimed that the risen Jesus had appeared to them, and 2) subsequent to Jesus’ death by crucifixion his disciples were radically transformed from fearful, cowering individuals who denied and abandoned him at his arrest and execution into bold proclaimers of the gospel of the risen Lord.” A skeptic may claim there are natural (as opposed to supernatural) explanations for what happened to the disciples, but very few deny the disciples experienced something that led them to willingly face severe persecution and death.

 

  • The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. Paul seriously persecuted the early church (Acts 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). But everything changed when he had an experience with who he claimed was the risen Jesus (Acts 9). After that experience, he converted to the Christian faith and tirelessly preached Jesus’ resurrection, eventually being martyred for his claims.

 

  • The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. James was not a believer in Jesus during Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21,31; 6:3-4; John 7:5). However, 1 Corinthians 15:7 says Jesus appeared to James, and after this alleged resurrection, James was described as a leader of the church (Acts 15:12-21; Galatians 1:19). He, too, was martyred for this belief, as recorded by both Christian and non-Christian historical writings (Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria, and Josephus).

 

Again, these are the facts that the vast majority of scholars agree on…facts which require explanation. In chapter 22 of Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, I explain the competing naturalistic (i.e., non-resurrection) explanations scholars have offered, and show how none of them adequately account for these facts. Unless you presuppose that miracles don’t happen (which takes us back to point 2), the best explanation for the historical facts is that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

 

I realize that Sunday Schools have to cover basics for the ongoing group of kids who are new to Christianity. But if the church doesn’t step up to equip kids with the next level of understanding in their faith, we will undoubtedly continue to see a youth exodus from Christianity. That said, while I wish more churches were stepping up to teach subjects like these, ultimately it’s the parents’ responsibility to disciple their kids. This Easter, throw out these three questions to your kids and start some conversations that will be more impactful than empty tomb crafts can ever be.

13 Comments

  1. Carol on March 30, 2018 at 6:44 AM

    Really good knowledge to hsve…insightful..thsnk you!



  2. Jim Shiers (CIA-California 2016) on March 30, 2018 at 6:56 AM

    Another thoughtful, gentle and respectful article. Thanks Natasha!



  3. Nicole Carrillo on March 30, 2018 at 7:58 AM

    Thank you so, so much for this encouragement and rich truth! I am currently reading your book on the conversations every Christian parent must have with their kids, really enjoying it. My older brother denied God’s existence as a teenager after learning about evolution in school and going to my dad, denouncing the faith, and receiving nothing in response on my dad’s behalf. I pray the Lord continually stirs up in me a desire to have these hard conversations with my children and not disregard their burning questions about God’s existence and following Christ.

    I have been a wee bit frantic looking for ways to make Easter rich in my son’s heart and mind- and all I’m running into are resurrection crafts and baking and toys!

    I’m going to read this blog post with my kindergartner today, and ask him if he has questions. Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I’ll stop looking an the resurrection eggs on Amazon now 😉

    Oh, and all I remember from Easter when I was a kid was 1) Easter dress 2) Easter egg hunt 3) Easter basket full of toys and candy.

    That is it.

    That’s messed up. Alas, I know even if my parents spoke of the incredible resurrection of our Savior year after year, as a kid I could have just not payed attention.

    Anyhow. Thank you again.



    • Jessica Catterson on March 30, 2018 at 11:31 AM

      I think the resurrection gifts and baking are a great tool. It does not, of course, remove us from explaining it to our children. This is the first year my eldest (almost 6) and I are having this conversation. He wasn’t ready before and he learns *differently* than others. That’s okay, and I’m okay with using those tools for help.



  4. Pat Mingarelli on March 30, 2018 at 11:28 AM

    So many Christians today don’t think about such things. Thanks for making these concepts plain for all to read.



  5. Stefan on March 31, 2018 at 5:57 AM

    Hi,

    thank you for the thoughts and the logical conclusions. I totally agree with them. It is true that we have to talk with our children about them. But I think we have also to speak what these truth implicate for our daily life. Does it make a difference that Jesus died and rose from the death for my daily challenges? What is the difference? I see the churches you mentioned who are skeptic and cynical and don’t really believe in supernatural miracles. But I also see a lot of churches who believe in a historical ressurection (and the implications for the biblical persons). But it doesn’t matter for the people in the churches because they don’t know the implications for their life. They don’t speak and thought about the implications. It is only: “Do you believe Jesus is (historically) risen? Yes! OK, all is good. Live on as before!” And so many churches live without real hope and the power of ressurection. I think ressurection changes everything and can be so healing for our cynical und suspiciously culture. It can give so much courage to live and optimism (for situations, realations, …). So I hope we talk about both with our kids: the reasons for historical ressurection and the overwhelming implications for our daily lifes and challenges.

    Sorry for my bad English. I am from Germany and never lived in a English-speaking country …

    God blessings,
    Stefan



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  7. Milton Goh on April 2, 2018 at 11:01 PM

    Hi Natasha! Thanks for this post! Truly, Easter crafts may be a fun entry point for kids but they need to take the education further than that.

    Adding on to point 1, I believe that Jesus was resurrected as a divine proof that our sin debt is truly completed paid-for. This is written in Romans 4:

    “but for our sake also–to whom righteousness will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead– who was betrayed and crucified because of our sins, and was raised [from the dead] because of our justification [our acquittal–absolving us of all sin before God].” ‭‭(ROMANS‬ ‭4:24-25‬ ‭AMP‬‬)

    If Jesus wasn’t completely sinless, there is no way He could have conquered Death and risen from the dead.
    The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. So if there was any trace of sin in Him, Jesus would not be able to come back from the dead.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. Hope you will come visit mine too! 🙂



  8. […] PARENTING * Natasha Crain: The 3 Most Important Conversations about Easter that Most Sunday Schools and Parents Aren’t Ha… […]



  9. […] The 3 Most Important Conversations about Easter that Most Sunday Schools and Parents Aren’t Having with Kids: http://christianmomthoughts.com/the-3-most-important-conversations-about-easter-that-most-sunday-sch… […]



  10. Karen SHOCKEY on April 7, 2018 at 10:18 AM

    Thank you so much, Natasha!



  11. Tochukwu Ibe, Guides for Christian Parents on April 16, 2018 at 7:27 AM

    Hello Natasha
    Nice write up, I agree with all the points; we need to adjust our seat belts as parents and teach kids biblical principles.



  12. […] Over the next three years, I noticed a few teachings here and there that didn’t seem to be the same as what was taught in the churches I grew up in. But my husband and I didn’t realize it wasn’t a biblically sound church until the pastor told us one Easter that it didn’t really matter if Jesus was raised from the dead (you can read more about that problem here). […]