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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Matthew 26:57-27:60, Mark 14:53-15:47, Luke 23:1-49, John 18:12-19:37

Story Summary

To put this story in context, see this visualization of the chronology of Holy Week.

This story occurs in all 4 gospel accounts, with only minor variations of which details each gospel writer included. We chose to use the Mark telling as the basis for the story in this lesson, but you should read all 4 accounts in your study for this lesson.

Some teachers might feel uncomfortable telling this story to children - especially young children. While we certainly encourage you to be sensitive to your students' ages and their ability to process the information, we strongly encourage you not to water the lesson down so much that they miss the central point: Jesus Christ willingly suffered at the hands of men for our sins. You can teach them that the soldiers placed a crown of thorns on his head and give them a basic description of it without going into gory details. You can teach them that they nailed him to the cross on his hands and his feet without treating it like a scary movie. 

Here are the components of the story:

  • Jesus was put on trial - Jesus was first put on "trial" before the Jewish leaders. They were looking for some reason to be able to take him to the Roman government to be punished. They had different people give "testimony", but no one could get their stories straight. Finally they just asked Jesus to incriminate himself by asking him whether he was the Son of God. Jesus said, "I AM", and that was enough for them to convict him of blasphemy. Then they sent him to be put on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. He couldn't find any reason to put him to death, but by this time the crowd was whipped up into a fury and he had to worry about creating unrest in an occupied area. So he relented and had Jesus sentenced to crucifixion.
  • The soldiers mocked Jesus - These Roman soldiers were hardened death squads. The Romans had perfected crucifixion as a method of punishment, and they were making a sport of it. They placed a crown made from thorns on his head, they put a purple robe on him (mocking him as "king"), spit on him, hit him on the head with sticks, and pretended to worship him.
  • Simon carried Jesus' cross for him - They took Jesus to a hill called Golgotha (which meant, the "Place of the Skull"). They required Jesus to carry his own cross up the road. Along the way, Jesus grew tired and wasn't able to keep carrying it. So the soldiers forced a man named Simon to carry it for him.
  • The soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross - These were not ordinary nails like you get at the hardware store. These were about 4-6" long and thick. If you can get hold of some, get some cut nails from the hardware store, which are much more like the nails they used. They nailed one into each of his wrists and one into both of his feet.
  • The soldiers offered Jesus something to drink several times - Jesus was offered wine vinegar (literally just really old, sour wine) mixed with gall (a form of poison or narcotic) that he refused. After he said, "I thirst", they also offered him sour wine (also called vinegar, or wine vinegar) which he drank.
  • The soldiers cast lots for his clothes - Again, making a game of this horrible torture, the soldiers cast lots (think rolling dice or choosing straws) to see who could take his clothes home as a souvenir of their day's work.
  • The crowd mocked Jesus - The crucifixion lasted several hours. It was meant as a public embarrassment as much as it was torture. As people passed by, they shouted at him and mocked him. The soldiers had placed a sign over his head on the cross that said, "King of the Jews" to mock him. The people passing by told him that if he really was the Son of God, that he should just come down off the cross himself.
  • Darkness fell over the land for 3 hours before he died - The Mark account tells us that at about noon, darkness fell over the land for about 3 hours until Jesus died. 
  • Jesus' last words - Jesus said several phrases that were recorded as his last words. Two of them were especially noteworthy. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” comes from Psalm 22:1. This helps us understand that Jesus was carrying our sins on him on the cross and that he was taking our punishment (separation from God). Then, just before he breathed his last breath, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)
  • Miracles happened when Jesus died - The Matthew account gives us details about several miracles that occurred just as Jesus died. The temple curtain was torn in two; there was an earthquake; tombs broke open and saints were raised to life and they went back to Jerusalem and appeared to others.
  • Joseph of Arimathea helped bury him - A man named Joseph of Arimathea bought a tomb and took Jesus' body down off the cross, wrapped him in a linen cloth and placed him in the tomb.

What You Will Need

Supplies
cut nails from the hardware store, dice or straws (for casting lots), red wine vinegar, thorns

Resource Sheet

Jesus is Crucified Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Jesus as he is being led to be crucified. Notice the conversation starters: Simon of Cyrene, Golgotha, the crown of thorns, soldiers, etc.

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

Last week, we learned that Jesus was arrested. What did Jesus do to be arrested?

Today, we're going to learn about what happened to Jesus after he was arrested.

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

(There are potential triggers in this story for children who have recently experienced the death of a close family member or for those who have been emotionally or physically abused. Keep an eye out on the reactions of your students as you are teaching this lesson for any signs of distress)

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.

Be sure to include as many details (see the Story Summary above) as are appropriate for your age students. The "Crucifixion Egg Hunt" reinforcement activity can be used as a teaching aide as well.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Mark 15:16-38

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Who put Jesus on trial? (first the Jewish leaders, then Pontius Pilate the Roman governor)
  • What was Jesus accused of? (blasphemy, or claiming to be God himself)
  • What did the soldiers do to mock Jesus? (put a purple robe on him, a crown of thorns, beat him and called him the "King of the Jews")
  • How did the soldiers put Jesus on the cross? (they nailed his hands and feet to the cross)
  • How did the soldiers mock Jesus while he was on the cross? (they cast lots to divide his clothing and insulted him)
  • What did the Jewish leaders say to Jesus while he was on the cross? ("He says he is the King of the Jews. Why can't he save himself from the cross?")
  • What were Jesus' last words? ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" and "Into your hands I commit my spirit")
  • What happened when Jesus died? (Darkness fell over the earth, there was an earthquake, the temple curtain was torn in two, tombs were opened and dead saints were raised to life)
  • Who buried Jesus? (Joseph of Arimathea)
  • Where did he bury Jesus? (In a tomb he bought in the side of the mountain)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this lesson, we learned that Jesus was punished and suffered a terrible death on the cross. But he did this willingly, and to take our sins and the judgment of God on him.
  • Have you accepted Jesus' forgiveness of your sins?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31 ESV)

Reinforcement Activities

Popsicle Stick Cross

Heads up! It is a good idea to glue the popsicle sticks ahead of time for young students.

Scripture Mark 15:24-39

Supplies full sized popsicle sticks, popsicle sticks cut in half, glue or hot glue, markers, string or twine

  • Glue two popsicle sticks in the shape of a cross.
  • Allow students to write a scripture reference or color the cross.
  • Glue twine or string to the top for hanging.

Crucifixion Egg Hunt

Scripture Matthew 26:27-60

Supplies items to put in Easter eggs (see below)

  • Hide eggs with items inside.
  • Once students find the eggs, have them sit in a group.
  • Begin to tell the story.
  • Have the students open the appropriate egg as you reach that part of the story.
  • Items to put in eggs: (make sure you know what order to open the eggs - make a cheat sheet by color of the egg)
    • The soldiers mocked Jesus- piece of a thorn branch
    • Simon carried Jesus' cross for him - small cross
    • The soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross - nail
    • The soldiers offered Jesus wine vinegar, but he refused - small cloth soaked in wine vinegar that they can smell
    • Darkness fell over the land for 3 hours before he died - small black construction paper with 3 crosses drawn in pencil or crayon to show it was dark
    • Joseph of Arimathea helped buried him - stone

Nail Cross

Scripture Mark 15:24-39

Supplies 2 large cut nails per student, twine

  • Give each student 2 cut nails and a long piece of twine.
  • Put nails in shape of a cross.
  • Wrap twine around the middle of the cross to hold the shape in place.
  • Tuck in or knot the loose end.

Crown of Thorns

Scripture The soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus. Then they twisted thorns together to make a crown. They placed it on his head. They began to call out to him, “We honor you, king of the Jews!” Again and again they hit him on the head with a stick. They spit on him. They fell on their knees and pretended to honor him. Mark 15: 17-19

Supplies small twigs and vines, twine

  • Provide twigs and vines for the students to make a crown.
  • Provide twine to help hold pieces together, if necessary

Easter Finger Puzzle

Scripture And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. Mark 15:37

Supplies printed sheet

  • Print sheet.
  • Fold as instructions direct.

Casting Lots

Scripture They nailed him to the cross. Then they divided up his clothes. They cast lots to see what each of them would get. Mark 15:24

Supplies sticks or stones (one being smaller than the others)

  • Casting lots is mentioned 70 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament.
  • It is often related to division of land in the Old Testament.
  • The lots may have been stones or stones.
  • The Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothing.
  • Use sticks or stones and allow students to take turns casting lots.
  • The student with the smaller stick or stone loses.

Wine Vinegar Taste Test

Scripture One of them ran and filled a sponge with wine vinegar. He put it on a stick. He offered it to Jesus to drink. “Leave him alone,” he said. “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Mark 15:36

Supplies wine vinegar, plates

  • Place a small amount of wine vinegar on a plate.
  • Allow students to dip their finger in and taste.

Cross Diorama

Scripture Above his head they placed the written charge against him. It read, this is jesus, the king of the jews. Two robbers were crucified with him. One was on his right and one was on his left. Matthew 26:37-38

Supplies clay or playdoh, pieces of cardboard, stick or popsicle crosses

  • Cut cardboard into rectangles to use as the base.
  • Place three mounds of playdoh on the cardboard.
  • Stick a cross in each mound.

Carry a Cross

Scripture A man named Simon from Cyrene was passing by. He was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Simon was on his way in from the country. The soldiers forced him to carry the cross. Mark 15:21

Supplies large cross made out of landscape timbers

  • The point of this lesson is to let the students experience what it might have been like to carry such a large cross.

Nail Prints

Scripture They nailed him to the cross. Then they divided up his clothes. They cast lots to see what each of them would get. Mark 15:24

Supplies red permanent marker, black fine-tipped permanent marker

  • Place a red dot on the inside wrist of each student's arm to represent the nail that was used to
  • Write their name across the red dot with the black marker.
  • This will serve as a reminder that Jesus' death on the cross is personal. He died for YOUR sins, not just a generic plan to save the world.