Last night, as we sat down for our sundown worship, I asked the kids what story they wanted to hear. They sat there thinking for a moment until my son spoke up, “I want to hear about when Jesus died.” I asked the question in good faith so it was my responsibility to fulfill the request, as uncomfortable as it might make me. After all the topic of death in any context is hard to explain to children. Or maybe it’s just too difficult for us and they are just fine.
I opened the Bible and began to read from Matthew 26. I started with His prayer on Gethsemane. I skipped a bit of the more verbose verses. I then continued with Judas’ betraying kiss. I emphasized Peter’s defensive sword strike against the soldier, accentuating the cutting of the ear in all it’s gory mess. I knew this would be received with excitement. They understood that Peter was just defending his Lord. Kids get that.
Again, I skipped some verses lacking in child friendly language and adventure. I actually skipped quite a bit here, choosing to focus on some moral points. I wanted them to know about Pontius Pilate and his heavy decision, his presentation of a choice, Barabbas or Jesus? I asked the kids who they would choose and in unison they agreed it would be Jesus. “We love Him,” from my little girl’s mouth. They weren’t too shocked that the people chose Barabbas instead, whether this was because they know the story or because they know humanity I won’t judge. We definitely talked about good and bad choices for a bit.
Returning to the story I had to omit the more graphic parts of Jesus’ trip to the cross but wanted to get back to its conclusion. Before I could get to Simon’s carrying of the cross or the generous tomb donor or the tender wrapping and burial of Christ, my son piped up with, “but he didn’t die forever, he rose after three days.” And really, isn’t that the point anyway.
As adults we like to complicate things. Over and over we want to make the crucifixion, burial and resurrection something other than itself. We want to draw out the betrayal, the difficulty of Pilate’s choice, his weak wife and her influence. We want to deify Simon, the cross bearer. All these things may be true, may be part of the lesson. In the end, however, it really comes down to one thing, Jesus rose again! Or as my son said after I asked what they thought was the point of the story. “He’s more powerful,” was my son’s answer. There’s not much more to say on that subject.