Ask a Toddler Why Jesus Was Crucified
By Sheldon Vandrey – Every year on Good Friday at 10:00, our parish of the Holy Spirit in Arcadia, Port Elizabeth, hosts its Passion play, performed by the youth group and other young people in the parish.
I’m a lover of theatre, and I have seen hundreds of plays over the years. To me, going to the theatre is better than going to the movies. With that experience of seeing theatre productions in mind, I can state that last year our youngsters exceeded themselves. The talent and performances were worthy of the Baxter or the Market Theatre.
Watching the play with my two-year-old girl was even more fascinating. Other than the play giving me the shivers at each station of the cross, it was additionally intriguing to watch how my little daughter took everything in.
When they initially brought Jesus out to show up before Pontius Pilot, she euphorically — even if somewhat embarrassingly for me — yelled: “There is Jesus, look, there is Jesus!”
As the soldiers pushed him forward towards Pilate, beating him as they did so, she asked me with alarm: “What are they doing to Jesus? Why are they hitting him?” I tried to keep her calm. I could see that the older couple sitting in front of us was not impressed with the “noise” from our end.
The play continued. At times I had to keep back my own tears. We know how the story ends, but I don’t think we always genuinely appreciate the end result for Jesus on that day.
We eventually went to stand at the back of the church. At every station, my wife explained to my little girl what was happening. She was fascinated. “Look, Jesus fell,” she said loudly. Again!
“Why did they push him? Jesus got a eina.”
Later that evening she recalled with fascination what had happened during the play. We would ask her, “What happened to Jesus?” “Jesus fell,” she said. And then? “He got back up.” And then? “They nailed him to the cross.”
So far so good. Then we asked why they had nailed Jesus to the cross. “Because he was naughty” she replied.
“No, baby, he wasn’t naughty. He died for our sins.” “Oh, okay.” She seemed to think about that for a while.
The Holy Spirit youth did well last year. The play is a highlight on the parish’s calendar. This is evident by the fact that the church is always overflowing at 10:00 on Good Friday—despite the fact that the play is primarily aimed at the children of the parish.
I look forward to seeing it again this year.