This section provides Bible stories with the theme of forgiveness, along with questions you can use as a guide for family discussions. Choose one story that is appropriate for your children. Before reading aloud, take a few minutes to review the story. If the Bible passage is too complex for your kids, paraphrase the story yourself or use the summary provided under “key concepts.”
Read Luke 15:3-7, John 3:16 and John 1:12.
Jesus told a story about a man who had 100 sheep. One day, the man lost one of his sheep. Even though he still had plenty of other sheep, the man would not stop searching until he had found the one that was lost.
Jesus told this story to help people understand how much celebration there is in heaven when one sinner repents. To repent means we let God know how deeply sorry we are for sinning. God loves the people He created so much that He offers eternal life to anyone who believes in His son, Jesus, and repents of their sins.
In the Bible it says, “…to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). God wants everyone to become part of His family and to spend eternity in heaven with Him (1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9). Anyone who does not believe that Jesus is God’s son and has not asked God to forgive their sins is like a lost sheep. God keeps hoping that they will notice that He is looking for them (Acts 17:27-28).
This may be an opportune time to share the message of salvation with your child.
Read Matthew 18:21-35.
There was a servant who owed a king a very large sum of money. He deserved to lose everything that he had to pay the debt, but the king had mercy on him and cancelled the debt.
But this same servant, who had had his debt forgiven, then went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him only a small amount of money. He grabbed him and began to choke him, saying, “Pay back what you owe me.” He demanded that the man be thrown into jail until he could repay him.
When the king heard what had happened, he was angry. He had the first servant put into jail himself. The lesson to be learned is that we need to have mercy and forgive each other, as God is merciful in forgiving us. When we have unforgiveness in our hearts, we are like the unforgiving servant. God has forgiven all of our sins and we need to readily forgive others too.
Read Luke 17:3-4, Matthew 6:12-15 and 1 John 4:19-21.
The Bible tells us clearly that we are to forgive others many times, just as God does for us. The number we are given is 70 x 7. That is a pretty big number! The Bible also tells us we show others that we love God when we love our brothers. God’s love in us can help us love and forgive others.
Read Romans 12:17-21 and 1 Corinthians 4:5.
When we forgive someone, we are not saying that what they did was right. Rather, we are giving up our right to be angry about their wrong actions. We are leaving the problem and our hurt with God. God is the one who will judge what should happen to those who do wrong. Instead of paying back wrong for wrong, we should be kind (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
God has appointed certain people who are allowed to pass judgment in the form of discipline (Romans 13:1-6). Those people may be judges, police officers, government officials and parents of children. It is not up to children to discipline each other. God forgives everyone who asks Him and we need to forgive as well. The Bible says that if we do not forgive each other, then God will not forgive us.
Read Leviticus 19:17-18, Matthew 18:35 and Proverbs 4:20-23.
As you read these verses aloud, ask your children to listen for the word “heart.” You may also choose to have a stone ready for each child to hold during your discussion.
The opposite of love is hate. To hate someone means that we have an extremely strong feeling of dislike for him or her. We usually try to stay away from things or people we hate. A grudge is when we remember the wrong someone did to us and we are unfriendly towards that person. In Proverbs God tells us that we will be healthier if we guard our hearts from hate and holding grudges. If we do not forgive from our hearts, then God will not forgive us. God commands His people to love others as they love themselves (Galatians 5:14, James 2:8).
Read Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 17:1, Proverbs 12:16, Proverbs 10:19 and Proverbs 8:32-35.
An offense is when someone does something that hurts our feelings or makes us angry or irritated with him or her. Many times, an offense is something small and should not be a reason to argue or fight with others. To overlook something means to not see or notice, or to ignore it. The Bible says that if we can overlook an offense it is to our glory. This means God will be pleased with us when we ignore the wrong that others do.
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon, a very wise king, gives some advice on overlooking offenses. To summarize, Solomon told people to speak gently, because speaking harshly stirs up anger. He said that wise people are patient and willing to overlook offences, but fools get annoyed easily.
Solomon also advised people to speak few words. He told people to “hold their tongues,” because when we speak it is easier to sin. Solomon also pointed out that it is better to live in a home where people get along and you have very little to eat than to live somewhere where there is lots of food and people are fighting. God gave Solomon wisdom. When we follow the wise advice God gives us in the Bible, God promises to bless and guide our lives.
Read Genesis 4:1-16, 1 John 3:11-15 and 1 John 4:19-21.
Cain and Abel were brothers. One day, both brothers presented offerings to God. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. This made Cain very angry, so angry that he killed his brother Abel because he was jealous that God favoured Abel’s sacrifice over his own (1 John 3:12). After Cain killed Abel, God told Cain that he would be removed from His presence because of his sin.
We might also be tempted to allow our anger or hate to cause us to harm someone else. This does not please God. In order to remove the anger and hate from our hearts, we need to ask and allow God to put His love in our hearts. God wants us to love others as He loves us.
Read Luke 15:11-24.
In this story that Jesus told, a son asked for the money that his father had put aside for him as his inheritance. The son then left home and spent all of the money having fun. When he had no money left he found a job feeding pigs. It was an awful job and the son became so hungry he wanted to eat the pigs’ food. The son realized how unhappy he was and thought that if he could get work as a servant for his father, taking care of his animals, life would be better.
The son realized that he had sinned against God and against his father. He returned home and asked for forgiveness. The father was overjoyed when his son came home and understood how sorry his son was for what he had done. The father forgave his son graciously and welcomed him back into the family. This is how God forgives us when we say we are sorry for our sins. He welcomes us into His family.
Read Hebrews 4:13, Psalm 32:3-5, Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:8-10.
God knows about everything we do, even if it is done in secret. Keeping our wrongdoing secret and being unwilling to ask for forgiveness from God or others can cause us to feel weighed down inside, as if we are carrying a heavy load. God is ready and willing to forgive us when we come to Him and say we are sorry. He says that we will not experience blessing if we do not say we are sorry for the wrong things that we do.
This story fits well with the hands-on option entitled “heavy luggage.”
The following interactive story will help you explain to your child what Christ accomplished through His death on the cross. Although the selected Scriptures are often associated with Easter, the story of God’s forgiveness is appropriate at any time of the year.
Fifteen different readings, with questions for discussion, are available below. Choose only twelve readings in total, working through one or two readings each day.
To help engage your children, purchase twelve plastic eggs with hollow centers. Put a Bible verse and a symbolic item appropriate to each reading inside each “resurrection egg” – or simply put the items and verses in an empty egg carton. Commercial “resurrection eggs” are also available at Christian bookstores or online.
When you have completed your readings, be sure to ask your child if they want to have Jesus as their best friend and have Him forgive their sins and become the leader of their lives. If they do make this choice, take the time to help them personalize a prayer, requesting forgiveness and God’s lordship in their lives. After they have prayed, assure them of God’s love, forgiveness and leadership.
Read Matthew 21:1-11, John 12:12-19 and Matthew 26:3-5.
Symbol: palm branches (Take long feathery leaves from a house plant or garden plant and press them in a book until they are dry, or cut palm branches from construction paper.)
Jesus was hailed as king as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people spread their cloaks on the ground and cut palm branches and laid them on the road. This was a tradition that was reserved for very important people or royalty. This made the religious leaders jealous enough that they made plans to kill Jesus.
Prophecy fulfilled: Zechariah 9:9.
Read Mark 14:12-26 and Luke 22:7-23.
Symbol: a piece of bread or dry cereal
On birthdays and holidays we often gather together with friends and relatives and eat food. Before Jesus was arrested, He had a special meal with His disciples to celebrate the Passover.
While they were eating, Jesus showed his disciples some bread and wine and said that the bread should remind them of His body and the wine should remind them of His blood. This was because Jesus was going to sacrifice His body through dying on the cross. Because Jesus died for us, God said that our sins would be forgiven if we believe in Jesus.
Read John 12:1-8.
Symbol: a tiny sample bottle of perfume or olive oil
At a dinner party, a woman came and poured very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. She did this to honour Jesus, but Judas complained that she had wasted it as it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
Jesus corrected those who objected to her actions, because He said it was a beautiful thing she had done. He also said that it was to prepare His body for burial. During Jesus’ time on earth, the custom was to put spices, perfume and oil on a person’s dead body before putting it in a tomb or grave.
Oil was also used as a part of a special custom called “anointing.” A small amount of oil was poured on someone’s head to show that he had been chosen to do a special task. Usually only kings, prophets or priests were anointed. Christ means “anointed one.”
Jesus had been sent by God, His Father, to die on the cross to save us from our sins. Jesus knew that He was going to be nailed to the cross and die so that our sins could be forgiven. He knew this was the special task God had given Him. He had the power to avoid this cruel death, but chose to go through it all so we could have forgiveness for our sins.
Read Matthew 26:14-16.
Symbol: dimes or silver coins
One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Jesus over to you?” They gave him 30 silver coins. Judas valued money more than he valued his friend Jesus. Jesus had been very good to Judas, but Judas was not good to Jesus. Judas was not a faithful friend.
The leaders and priests were jealous of Jesus because the people were honouring Jesus as they would honour a king. Jesus claimed to be king, but not the king of Israel – rather the king of our hearts. The leaders and priests did not understand this. They were afraid that if everyone followed Jesus, they would lose their jobs as religious leaders. So they devised a plan to kill Jesus. They accused Jesus of doing many wrong things, including claiming He was God. Jesus did not defend Himself. This made them angrier and even more determined to kill Him.
Prophecy fulfilled: Zechariah 11:12.
Read Mark 14:27-31 and 66-72.
Symbol: rooster feather or plastic rooster
Peter was a strong and confident man. Jesus even changed his name from Simon to Peter and the name Peter means “rock.” But when Jesus was arrested and things got scary, even Peter pretended he didn’t know Jesus because he was afraid of what the people might do to him if he admitted he was one of Jesus’ friends. On three different occasions people asked Peter if he was a friend of Jesus, and each time he said that he didn’t know Jesus at all.
After Peter had “denied” Christ three times, a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered that he had told Jesus that he would never deny Him. Peter was very disappointed in himself and he cried.
It is easy for us to say Peter was a “chicken” or a “scaredy-cat,” but we need to be careful we don’t deny our friendship with Jesus like Peter did. We can “deny” Jesus by choosing not to tell people we go to church and believe in Jesus.
Read Mark 14:53-65 and 15:16-20.
Symbol: purple cloth and/or a crown of thorns (made from a branch from a rose bush)
The soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus and a crown of thorns on His head. They mocked Him and teased Him, saying that He was the king of the Jews. They also beat Him on the head with a stick over and over again.
Many people said things about Jesus that weren’t true. Jesus did not even try to defend Himself. But when He was asked if He was Christ, the Son of God, He did reply, saying, “Yes, it is as you say.” People also spit in His face and slapped Him.
There are two kinds of pain. One is physical pain, like when you hurt yourself by falling down. The other kind of pain is emotional pain: when your feelings or your heart is hurt by the unkindness of others. Jesus had both kinds of pain.
Prophecy fulfilled: Isaiah 53:4-7.
Read John 19:17-27.
Symbol: a small cross (made out of two twigs or matchsticks tied together with fine thread)
Today, criminals are put in prison. The worst criminals are put in “solitary confinement,” meaning they are put in prison alone. In Jesus’ time, Romans often killed criminals by nailing them onto a cross to die. They would do this as a warning to others who might also be doing wrong. The criminals would often be beaten and forced to carry their own cross to the place where they would be crucified. Death on the cross was used for the worst criminals. It is a very painful way to die.
Read John 19:16 and 20:24-31.
Jesus loved us so much that He went through this punishment so we wouldn’t have to be punished for our sins. When Jesus went through the pain of being crucified on the cross, He was taking the punishment we deserve for our sins. We all deserve to be punished for our sins, but Jesus took the punishment for us.
Read Luke 23:34 and John 19:23-24.
The soldiers divided up Jesus’ clothes among themselves, but because one of the pieces of clothing was a seamless undergarment, they decided to play a game to see who got to keep it.
Prophecy fulfilled: Psalm 22:18.
Read Luke 23:36-43.
Symbol: a sign saying, “This is the king of the Jews”
When a criminal was crucified, the list of crimes he committed would be written on a sign and placed above his head. The sign placed above Jesus’ head read, “This is the king of the Jews.” Many people came by and made fun of Jesus, saying, “If you really are God, then save yourself.”
One of the criminals being crucified near Jesus said, “If you are the Christ, then save yourself and us, too.” The other criminal said, “Don’t you fear God? We deserve to die as we have done wrong, but Jesus has done no wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise,” meaning that he would be in heaven with Jesus. It might have been tempting for Jesus to prove He was God by getting off the cross, but then He would not have completed the very important job of dying to obtain forgiveness for everyone’s sins.
Read John 19:28-30.
Symbol: a sponge, or some vinegar to taste
When Jesus asked for a drink, they gave Him vinegar to drink. John says that Jesus, knowing all that was to happen and that Scripture (prophecies from the Old Testament) would be fulfilled, asked for a drink.
Prophecy fulfilled: Psalm 22:15 and Psalm 69:21.
Read John 19:31-37.
Symbol: a spear (Use pliers to poke the dull end of a sewing needle into the end of a twig. You could also use a little cocktail spear.)
The soldiers usually broke people’s legs to make them die on the cross sooner, but they did not break Jesus’ legs. To confirm that Jesus was dead, they stuck a spear in His side instead. The Old Testament said that not one of Jesus’ bones would be broken and that He would be pierced.
Prophecy fulfilled: Psalm 34:19-20, Zechariah 12:10 and Isaiah 53:5.
Read Matthew 27:51–54.
Symbol: a length of fabric torn in two
In the temple, there were two rooms: the outer room, and the inner room. The walls were made with thick curtains. The curtain that separated these two rooms was the curtain that was torn in two. Only once a year, the high priest entered the inner room. In the inner room, he would sprinkle the blood he got from a lamb that had been sacrificed.
When Jesus died, it was no longer necessary for the high priest to go into the inner room and sacrifice on behalf of the people to have their sins forgiven. Jesus did that for us. Jesus was the sacrifice!
When the curtain was torn in two, the earth shook and rocks split. Holy people came out of their graves and walked around. How amazing! The centurion who was guarding Jesus as He hung dying on the cross was terrified and exclaimed, “Surely, He was the Son of God!” We know Jesus was the Son of God. We also know that we can go to God for forgiveness and help any time we are scared.
Read Matthew 27:57–28:4 and Mark 16:1-15.
Symbol: a rock and/or linen strips
In the days when Jesus lived, people were buried in tombs and wrapped in linen strips. The entrance to the tombs would be closed with a very large stone. There was a huge stone placed in front of Jesus’ tomb. It was so large it would have been impossible to move the stone without many men.
When Mary went to look at the tomb after Jesus body had been laid there, she discovered the stone had been rolled back. She also saw an angel there. The soldiers who were guarding the tomb were so afraid when this happened that they shook! When she looked in the tomb, Mary saw the linen strips just lying there. Jesus had gone!
Read Matthew 28:5-10 and Luke 24:6-12.
Symbol: a tiny angel
When the women went to look for Jesus, they found His tomb was empty. They saw the linen strips just lying there and Jesus was gone! They also saw an angel there. The angel told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as He had told them He would.
Prophecy fulfilled: Jesus Himself prophesied of His resurrection in Matthew 20:17-19.