Dying to live – the thief on the cross


The thief on the cross


To help the children learn that everyone needs the help of others.

Bible base

Luke 23:32-34; 39-43


1 Ask the children to imagine the following:

Claire was rushed into hospital because of a serious problem with her heart. The doctors said there was no cure. The only thing that would save her life was a heart transplant.

The problem with this was that, in order for Claire to have a new, healthy heart, another child would need to die. For her to have life, someone else needed to die.

A little while later, Mark was tragically killed in a road accident. The doctors asked his parents if they would be willing for his healthy heart to be given to Claire, so that her life could be saved. They agreed. Claire was given Mark’s heart and new life as a result.

Mark’s death meant Claire could live.

2 Tell the children that this reminds you of the story in the Bible about Jesus’ death and the death of the two criminals who were executed with him. Read (or tell in your own words) the story from Luke 23:32-34; 39-43. Talk about how life in the future was possible for the thief on the cross because of Jesus’ death.

3 Ask the children to imagine the three crosses and the three people on them – Jesus on the centre one, with a criminal either side of him. They were all going to die.

  • Jesus was special. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Christians believe that he died as punishment for the things we’ve done wrong, so that we can be friends with God.
  • Thief number 2 knew he wasn’t perfect and admitted he’d done wrong. He knew he needed help. He had realised that Jesus was special and that he could help him. So he asked for help. Then Jesus made him a very special promise. Because Jesus was going to live, the criminal could live too.
  • Thief number 1 thought only of himself. He didn’t care about Jesus or the other criminal. He could have chosen to ask for help from Jesus, and Jesus would have promised him life too.


A Christian viewpoint

Explain briefly that Jesus’ death meant that thief number 2 could have life. Christians believe that because of Jesus’ death, everyone can have life. None of us is perfect. We all need help. Thief number 2 knew Jesus could help him. He will help anyone who asks him.

For everyone

The criminal on the cross needed help. We all need to recognise that we can’t ‘make it’ on our own. Sometimes we need to ask for help.


You could use this prayer:

Dear God, help us to know that we are not perfect. We do things wrong. Help us to know that we need your help. Amen.



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