Use this lesson outline to teach preschoolers and early elementary students about Jesus’s death on the cross. It’s perfect to use when you teach on Good Friday.
Editor’s Note: This lesson was adapted from Route 52.
You can combine this elementary lesson with others in the series:
Scripture: Matthew 27:22-66
Share the Bible Story
Gather children in the story center. Ask children to tell about times when people have made fun of them. Begin by giving an example from your own life. Encourage children to talk about how they felt when people made fun of them.
Help children get ready to listen to this sad, difficult story. If the examples they have given have been funny, be prepared to offer some more serious examples and emphasize the hurt that often results when we make fun of others.
SAY: Today we will hear about a very sad event. Listen to find out what some people said to make fun of Jesus.
As you begin to read, help children understand why calling someone “the king” would be sad. Read the Matthew 27:29 Bible reference aloud. Show the children where Matthew 27:29 is found in a Bible.
Read the verse to the children. Let the children explain how each action made fun of Jesus. Continue reading the rest of the story.
- What hard things did Jesus do because He is the Son of God? (He forgave the people who put Him on the cross.)
- Who understood that Jesus is the Son of God? (soldiers at the cross)
- What happened after Jesus died? (A temple curtain was torn in two pieces.)
- How did a rich man named Joseph show that He knew Jesus was special? (He took care of Jesus’ body, wrapping it in linen cloths and putting it into a new tomb.)
Form a circle of eight or fewer. Hand each child a piece of a large cross. Ask children to work together to form the cross in the center of the circle. When the cross has been completed, read the verse together. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
- Who was Jesus speaking to? (His Father, God)
- Who was Jesus speaking about? (people who had sinned and put Him on the cross; everyone who sins)
- What had they done? (made fun of Him; put Him on a cross until He died)
- Did they know who Jesus was? (They did not know what they had done until after He died.)
Practice Using the Bible
On a large sheet of paper, list the Bible verses: Matthew 27:29; John 19:17; Luke 23:33; Mark 15:37; Mark 15:46.
Find each book name in the table of contents. When children have found the book name, ask them to read the page number of the first page. They can show the first page of the book they have found.
Help children realize that these books are the first four books of the New Testament. Recall that these four books about Jesus’ life and ministry are called the Gospels. Print Gospel above the list. Recopy the list, putting the books in Bible order.
Get out the cross cut from Styrofoam (or construction paper) and the red hearts. Give a red heart to each child.
Gather everyone in a circle to talk about what they have been doing and learning. Use the aims for this lesson as an outline for the kinds of questions you ask.
SAY: These hearts remind us of feelings like love. But the hearts also can remind us of how we feel when people hurt us and make fun of us. When we do wrong things, God is sad. Wrong things we do are called sins. These hearts will help us learn how God planned to help us when we do wrong (sin).
Explain that everyone has a red heart because every person sins.
Explain the following concepts in a way that is appropriate for the children you teach. Because Jesus is God’s Son, Jesus never ever sinned. When Jesus died on the cross, His Father God knew that His Son, Jesus, was perfect. But God let Jesus take all of our sins with Him to the cross.
Invite children one by one to attach their hearts to the cross using a thumbtack or pushpin.
SAY: All of these red hearts remind us that Jesus took our sins with Him to the cross. When God sees us, He does not see our sin, our red hearts. He sees His children who really love Him and want to obey Him. God knew that Jesus never sinned. Jesus is with God in Heaven.
PRAY: Thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins. Amen.