“Everybody dies. Why does Jesus’ death matter so much?”
She was seventeen years old, a stranger, entirely sincere, and asking a legitimate question. And she made a good point. Since the beginning of history people have been dying. Many have died in service to or sacrifice for another. A soldier dies defending his country, and we don’t turn his life and death into a major world religion.
Some would say the answer is the demonstration of love God showed in this death, and that’s true, but again, when a loving mother dies to protect a child it doesn’t spark a new spiritual belief system.
Some would say the answer is that Jesus is the only one to return to life, and that’s true, but not really an answer.
Some would say the answer is that Jesus was the sacrifice for sin, and that’s also true, but of course the logical question that follows is, “If God loves us so much, why can’t He just decide to forgive us?”
In the midst of teaching our students the stories of the Bible, we need to make sure they understand the Story of the Bible.
How long has it been since you spent some time with the Old Testament? How long has it been since your students did? I heard someone remark once that they avoided the Old Testament because it’s just ancient stories of Jewish history. Really?! How do we understand the awesome holiness of God, the awesome perfection He requires of us, the awesome provision for His people without the Old Testament? Without the Old Testament how do we even begin to understand Jesus?
Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but let’s not miss the fact that pictures of Jesus show up everywhere in the Bible long before His birth. I’m not talking just about the prophecies that point to Him, I’m talking about the representations of Him in these stories that many of our teenagers have been hearing since childhood. But sometimes we are so familiar with it all (and let’s be honest, sometimes it is not easy reading) that we miss Him entirely.
It is important that we help our students acknowledge Jesus as more than just a super-nice good guy who stumbled into Jerusalem one day, got turned into a King by the crowds, and somehow found Himself on a cross. It is important that we help them see past the skeptic’s argument that He was just running a political agenda to help the poor. It is important that we help them connect the death of God to our sin.
This means we have to take our students a little deeper into theology and doctrine, two words we seem to have a hesitancy about in youth culture. We need to reintroduce old school church topics like the Law and sin and blood sacrifice and atonement. And once in awhile we need to take the time to be storytellers and lay out each step behind the how and why God’s grand rescue actually works starting with, “In the beginning…”
The amount of our teaching that actually sinks in and is accepted is between the student and the Holy Spirit. Our job is to consistently connect the dots to reinforce the reality of Jesus.
NTS Foundations Teacher
© 2015, Never The Same