When you sit down and think about it, you discover that Christianity makes some astonishing claims. Claims which aren’t easy to understand for adults, let alone children. So how does a parent explain Easter where the God-Man Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins (incurred from our parents), with His blood, rising from the dead and then ascending to Heaven. Not an easy job.
Fortunately, the Bible has given us four “stories” or “pictures” to help us understand what the cross is all about. The first story is of a family. The next two stories are of a marketplace and a courtroom. The final story isn’t easy to understand in our culture; the temple.
We know from the Old Testament that once every year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest would enter the most holy place of the Tabernacle or Temple and would perform a series of rituals involving the blood of an animal being poured out on “the mercy seat” to cover the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16 is where the rituals are outlined for Aaron.) How does one explain this to children?
There are two parts to this final story that help: God’s wrath towards sin and Jesus’s atoning sacrifice.
God’s Anger Towards Sin
In order to explain why sin makes God angry, you need to find that “thing” that gets your kids really worked up.
“How would you feel if you saw someone kick your new puppy?” (Eyes grow wide.)
“How would you feel if you saw someone throw a kitten into the river?” (Horror.)
“How would you feel if someone pushed your little brother into a puddle to laugh at them.” (Confused indifference.)
“How would you feel if someone pushed YOU into a puddle and laughed at you.” (Fury.)
The reason we feel angry when someone intentionally hurts weaker creature is that we are witnessing evil. Evil should rightly make us angry. When human beings commit evil, we want to do something about it! That is how God feels as well. Sin makes God more than disappointed, it makes Him furious (Ps 7:11, 56:7, 78:38; Ro 1:18; Eph 5:7). It’s one thing to do evil to an animal, that isn’t good. To do evil to a human being is FAR worse. But to do evil against God is just pure wickedness. The reason is that God is the one who gave us life (Ge 1, 2; Ps 139). God keeps us alive (Ps 66:9). God saves us from sin (Ro 3:23-24, 5:8). God fights the devil for us (Ps 91:11)! God gives us gifts (Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12).
So when we choose to do evil against God, He is rightly furious with us. And that is just a bit scary. (As it should be.)
Here’s the good news, we don’t need to be afraid any longer (1 Jn 4:18)! God’s anger has been satisfied (Ro 5:9)! And how was is satisfied? Through Jesus blood!
In many places, we are told that God’s blood atones for our sins. That word atonement means “covered.” So for example, when Noah had completed building the Ark, he atoned it with tar to make it watertight. When Moses’ mother made the basket for him, she atoned it with pitch so that it wouldn’t sink when it was placed in the river. The atonement, or the covering, is literally what kept Noah and his family safe in the Ark and kept baby Moses safely floating in the reeds until he was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. This is what it means that Jesus’s blood atones for our sin, it literally covers up our sin.
Although this isn’t completely accurate, we can tell our children that when we sin, and God gets angry, Jesus’s blood hides our sin from His sight, so that He doesn’t “see” our sin any longer. Jesus blood is like a shield that protects us from God’s anger towards our sin. That is the story of the Temple! That is where the Perfect Lamb was killed.
One final thought, God’s anger does not make him a bad God! It makes Him a just God. If someone were to kick a bear cub and the mama bear came out and swatted him upside the head, we would say that guy got what he deserved! If someone hurts a child and goes to jail, no one gets mad at the judge, even if the judge was MAD himself! So the fact that God gets angry at sin is a good thing! It means that He is a real Person, who feels deeply and acts on His feelings.
The astonishing thing about our God is that He made a way for us to be saved from His own wrath! When Jesus died on the cross all the anger God has towards sin was directed towards Jesus. God was rightly mad at our sin and chose to send His Son so that our sin could be covered from His anger. This is an amazing God we worship!
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