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“Story of the Cross”: A Charlotte Mason Perspective by Lori Lawing

Palm branches. A borrowed colt. Shouts of Hosanna. Jesus enters the city and the Cross looms near.

How should a child learn the “Story of the Cross”?

Easter and Christmas are the Christian’s two great celebrations. The two are juxtaposed, inseparably tied. What would Christmas be without the Cross? A little child learns of these two events at the earliest of ages. But what if, like the Old Testament Israelites, the knowledge of redemption was progressively revealed?

Trace the Bible’s “gradual unfolding” of the history of redemption. It is the story of a Promise-keeping God: Creation and Fall, the Promise of One who would crush the head of the serpent; Noah and the Rainbow, the Promise never to flood the world again; Abraham and Isaac, the Promised Seed [By faith Abraham “reasoned that God could even raise the dead”! (Heb 11:17)]; the Exodus and the claiming of the Promise Land; the Promise of a King to sit on David’s throne eternally; the Exile in Babylon and the Promise to return in 70 years; the Prophets and the Promise of a One who would come to redeem.

The Old Testament believers, with their history of idolatry and adultery and failure and weakness, longed for the One who would redeem them from their transgressions and sin. They placed their faith (as we do) in God’s promise of a Savior.

Then the 400 silent years. Would God keep his Promise? Would the Messiah ever come?

In “The Divine Life in the Child” (Vol. I – Home Education, pp. 351, 352), Charlotte Mason muses, “It is a matter of question when the child should first learn the ‘Story of the Cross.’ One thinks it would be very delightful to begin with Moses and the prophets: to go through the Old Testament history, tracing the gradual unfolding of the work and character of the Messiah; and then, when their minds are full of the expectation [like] the Jews, to bring before them the mystery of the Birth in Bethlehem, the humiliation of the Cross.

Luke 2:25-33 relays the story of Simeon, a man of faith, waiting, waiting. “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Would the Messiah ever come? Can you hear Simeon singing “Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free,/ From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee”?

Sometime before the end of Simeon’s long life, God gave him a Promise: “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Did his expectancy and longing make his heart burst when he went into the temple, and “the parents brought in the child Jesus”?

What was Simeon’s inexplicable joy when “he took him up in his arms and blessed God”! Simeon exclaimed, “my eyes have seen your salvation …a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” The longing fulfilled!

Rembrandt 1666

Perhaps Charlotte Mason desired for children to have Simeon’s same experience of promise, longing, expectancy, and then inexplicable joy as they learn of the Promise fulfilled in the coming of Christ the Messiah.

However, as powerful as this impression might be, Miss Mason insists that the “Story of the Cross” is paramount. She concludes, “But perhaps no gain in freshness of presentation would make up to the children for not having grown up with the associations of Calvary and Bethlehem always present to their minds” (352).

Mason’s musings, quoted above, are prefaced by her insistence that children know “Jesus as Savior.” She entreats us, “Here is a thought to be brought tenderly before the child in the moments of misery that follow wrong-doing. ‘My poor little boy, you have been very naughty to-day! Could you not help it?’ ‘No, mother,’ with sobs. ‘No, I suppose not; but there is a way of help.’ And then the mother tells her child how the Lord Jesus is our Saviour, because He saves us from our sins” (351, emphasis hers).

How should a child learn the “Story of the Cross”?

Through progressive revelation of the story of redemption? Perhaps! More significantly, though, he learns through his real life, every day recognition of his own “naughtiness.” The gentle mother shows her child, in the midst of his sin, a “way of help” and leads him to the Promised One. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died.”

The Promised Messiah came! God incarnate was born, died and was raised again. As our children painfully learn of their need for a Savior, may they tenderly learn the Story of the Cross.

© Lori Lawing 2011

This entry was posted in: Philosophy


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. Bobby Jo says

    absolutely beautiful!

    thanks for sharing this with us. i just read the “palm sunday” part of the story to my 3 year old son.

    hearing this makes me even more aware of the devoted intention behind motherhood that i strive for.

  2. Mary Grace Alexander says


    Thank you for this reminder that we need to be pointing our children to Christ in the daily opportunities we are given. Indeed, God does work all things together for good!

    Mary Grace

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