The Jesus Tree

Here is our completed tree, with all forty-eight symbols attached, (you can definitely tell what parts of the tree were easier for the children to reach!). I’m going to leave it up for as much of the Easter season as possible, but the tape on the backs of a lot of the symbols is starting to wear out, so if the symbols keep falling off, I’m going to have to put it away. Next year, I may get some spray adhesive–according to the instructions that came with the kit, you can lightly spray the back of the symbol before placing it to help it stick, but it’s not permanent. I am a little worried about it pulling up the fibers of the banner too much, but we’ll have to see, because tape didn’t really cut it, especially for some of the heavier symbols.

I know I’ve said it before, but this was a fantastic activity. I really liked the suggestion in the kit to read out of a standard Bible in the morning, and a children’s Bible in the evening. While I don’t think a simpler version of the story was always necessary, hearing the story multiple times, and in different ways really makes it “stick,” and is good for discussion. Same logic applies to reading the story from multiple Gospels whenever possible–it may be repetitive, but you also pick up extra details you might otherwise have missed if you stuck with only one Gospel reading. I’m going to use this pattern of morning Bible readings and evening children’s Bible readings with our Jesse Tree next Advent, as well–I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before, but I’m glad I have the idea now!

I’m not going to lie–putting together this project was a huge commitment. Between cutting and assembling the banner and all of the symbols, and creating a reading schedule for the children’s Bible readings, I probably put between 20 and 30 hours into creating this resource–and that’s with having patterns for all of the symbols, and the Bible readings prepared for me! It was well worth it, however, because of how much we enjoyed it and learned from it, (yes, even I learned some new things as we went through the Scripture readings!), and knowing that I’ll be able to use it for years to come really puts into perspective how worthwhile the effort put into it was.

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Eight

And so we’ve come to the end of our Jesus Tree readings and symbols. Actually, we should have been done yesterday, but I wasn’t ready to stop, and Easter Monday seemed worthy of a reading, so I added the story of Jesus appearing to His disciples in the locked room, and then later to “Doubting Thomas,” found in John 20:19-29.

This has been a great addition to our Lenten observances. I encourage you to find something similar next year, whether it’s purchased from a kit, or made on your own. It’s a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, learning more about the life of Jesus, and what He came to do!

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Seven

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Today’s readings were, of course, about the Resurrection. They were found in all four Gospels: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-18. To be honest, between the Easter Vigil last night and the Sunrise and Festival services this morning, we had heard most of these selections, so for the Jesus Tree, I just cut to the chase, and read from The Story Bible. I did this partly because we had just heard these readings, and partly to make time for two additional readings I wanted to get to today–the Emmaus Road passage found in Luke 24:13-35, which takes place on Easter evening, and The Very First Easter by Paul Maier, an excellent book which tells the whole Passion story, and concludes with the Ascension.

Only one more day of the Jesus Tree left, and only because I created an extra symbol to go with a reading for Easter Monday. I can’t believe how much we’re all going to miss this part of our day, but at least we can look forward to doing it again next year!

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Six

Today’s readings focused on the accounts of the burial of Jesus, found in all four Gospels: Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 23:50-56; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-42. I also added Matthew 27:62-66, which details how the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to ask for a guard to be placed at the tomb. This is the only passage in Scripture that occurs on Holy Saturday, and even though it’s not directly part of the burial story, I felt that it was important to include it since today is Holy Saturday.

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Five

Today’s readings were, as you might expect, about the crucifixion. Again, I chose to read the accounts from all four Gospels: Matthew 27:32-56;                 Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; and John 19:16b-30. I wanted to make sure we covered all of Jesus’s last words, and all of the things that happened surrounding His death, so I added in the Luke reading, which wasn’t originally scheduled.

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Four

Today’s readings came from only two Gospels: Matthew 27:24-26; and John 19:4-16. These readings focused on Pilate presenting Jesus to the Jews, in a half-hearted attempt to secure His release. In the end, of course, Pilate folded to pressure from the crowd, and delivered Jesus over to them to be crucified. The symbol represents Jesus as He was presented to the crowd, being mocked as a king, with a crown of thorns and a royal robe.

We could have read the account of Pilate in both Mark and Luke, as well, but I found the readings to be similar enough that I thought the story was covered well in Matthew and John. I do think that reading more of the context around these passages could be beneficial, especially the parts where Jesus is shipped between Herod and Pilate, and they try to figure out just what they should do, and who should make the decision. That really drives hom the point that no one with any authority really wanted to get in the middle of this situation, and yet, in the end, someone had to make a decision with an authoritative voice.

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-Three

Today’s readings focused on Peter’s denial of Jesus. The scheduled readings were again from three Gospels: Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; and John 18:15-18, 25-27. Like yesterday, I also included the Luke 22:54-62 version of this story. I actually find the Luke reading to be the most compelling. While the different Gospel readings are the same for the most part, Luke included the detail where Jesus looked directly at Peter after the rooster crowed following his third denial. Realizing that Jesus was there, and aware of what Peter was saying really drives home the point that Peter did a terrible, cowardly thing, just as Jesus had told him he would.

The Jesus Tree–Forty-Two

Today’s readings focused on Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read the accounts in three Gospels: Matthew 26:30-56; Mark 14:32-52; and John 18:1-12. This was one of the few occasions where we actually could have read the story in all four Gospels, because Luke 22:39-46 also recorded this event. In retrospect, I really wish I had also read the Luke passage out loud, as well, because it has a detail that none of the other Gospels include–that an angel comes to minister to Jesus in His agony in the garden. The children and I really like comparing the differences that are recorded in the Gospels, and this would have been a great one to discuss!

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty-One

I can’t believe we only have one week of readings and symbols left! When we started this project, it seemed like it would take forever to get to Easter, but here we are in Holy Week already…time goes by too fast!

Today’s readings focused on Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper. Again we read from three Gospels: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; and Luke 22:14-20. The words in these readings were very familiar, as we hear them in church every Sunday that the Sacrament is celebrated. The Luke reading  was probably the most different of the three, even mentioning a second cup in the Passover meal, but the Words of Institution were still familiar!

The Jesus Tree–Day Forty

Today’s reading was found in only one Gospel–John 13:1-20. This is one part of the events that occurred on the day we now know as Maundy Thursday, the day the Feast of the Passover was celebrated, and when Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples. This reading focused specifically on when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Interestingly, even though this is a well-known story, this is the only other reading for which there was no corresponding story in any of our children’s Bibles. Maybe that’s because this is just one part of a larger story, or maybe because it’s only found in one Gospel. Still, I found it a little strange that we couldn’t read this one in any of the many children’s Bibles we have!

This is another story that I particularly like because, once again, Peter’s brashness and impulsivity is demonstrated. I can really relate to him, and never more than when he’s making a total and complete fool of himself!