A picture timeline that I updated throughout the day was just the thing to help my kids appreciate Jesus’ Passion on Good Friday and beyond.
by Becky Arganbright
For years, I tried various ways to incorporate more prayer and contemplation into Good Friday for my kids. One year, we had the house in complete darkness from 3 p.m. until Easter morning. The kids loved the idea of being in darkness on Good Friday, but by Holy Saturday we were getting tired of the gloominess.
“Fun” wasn’t exactly what I wanted my kids to walk away with, anyway. What I was looking for was a connection that my kids could make with Good Friday. How could I help my kids re-live a day that happened two thousand years ago? How could I help them feel an empathy and gratefulness for what Jesus did for us on that sad day?
I finally came up with an idea—at the very last minute, of course, as happens with all my inspirations, it seems. We were going to make a Good Friday timeline.
A Makeshift Timeline
Had I been prepared, I would have gotten a long roll of white paper. Instead, I gathered all the white paper I could find and taped it into a long row on a wall. The kids thought it was all very strange.
“What are you doing, Mom?” they asked.
“We’re going to make a timeline,” I told them.
“What’s a timeline?” they asked.
“You’ll see.” I said mysteriously.
The next morning, Good Friday, while the kids were eating breakfast, I drew my first picture. This picture was of Jesus being arrested. Underneath I wrote “Jesus is arrested.” I purposely didn’t point the picture out but instead, let the kids discover it for themselves.
“Hey look, Mom drew a picture!” I heard them say to one another, as though they thought it was cute that I would make a little doodle.
They asked me about the picture: Why would I draw Jesus like that? Why was He being arrested? What did He do?
I explained to them that while we were sleeping, Jesus had been arrested and thrown into jail. We talked about how that must have felt for Jesus. He had spent a long exhausting night praying and then had to spend the early morning hours in shackles.
Throughout the morning, the kids would come check the timeline to see if I had drawn any new pictures. If I did, they would excitedly report back to the others.
At 9:00, they said to one another, “Jesus is being scourged right now!”
At 9:30, another would report, “Now he is being mocked and crowned with thorns!” These reports were said with genuine sympathy, and I often overhead, “Poor Jesus, He sure went through a lot this morning!”
At 10:00 I drew the picture of Jesus taking His Cross. And finally, at noon, Jesus was nailed to the Cross.
We continued on with our day, the chores that needed to be done; playtime resumed and the occasional argument would arise. But there was always someone checking the timeline and reporting back to the rest of the group.
At 3:00, I drew my last picture. I called the kids and had them check the timeline.
“Jesus died,” they said with genuine concern and sadness. They looked at me to see what we would do now.
“Now we are going to go pray to Jesus and thank Him for what He did for us,” I told them. I had them go to their own private areas to pray in whatever way they wished. They could pray the rosary, read from a prayer book or saint book, or even draw a picture for Jesus.
A few times, I had to send a child back after he or she asked if the prayer time was over. But most of them stayed in their quiet areas, praying on their own. At the end of the hour, they showed me the pictures they drew or the prayers they said. They all agreed the timeline helped them think of what Jesus went through that day.
Not quite the end
At the end of the day, I was going to take the timeline down, but the kids protested.
“What about tomorrow?” they asked.
“Well, He’s in the tomb” I said, wondering what kind of timeline that would make.
So the timeline stayed up and another picture was added of a tomb with a big stone in front of it.
Every so often the kids would check up on the timeline to see if anything had been added. “He’s still in the tomb,” they said to one another.
“I can’t wait until tomorrow!” I overhead one of the kids say. “When the timeline shows Him out of the tomb!”
I hadn’t thought of continuing the timeline into Easter. But, as the kids say, why not?
On Easter morning, before Easter baskets were hunted for and Easter candy was eaten, the kids ran upstairs to check the timeline to see if another picture had been added. I was rewarded with enthusiastic delight.
“He did it! He rose!” they shouted to one another.
Easter had finally come.
If you’re not artistically inclined, you can always download or purchase our beautiful Stations of the Cross for Children posters with art by Vicki Shuck.