I was driving my 9-year-old to soccer practice the other day, when out of the blue she asks "Do you think it hurt when they beat up Jesus?" (My 9-year-old is my deep thinker. My other daughter's out-of-the-blue comments tend to be more along the lines of "You know, I think every movie would be better with a bazooka.") After explaining to her that it did hurt when the soldiers beat up Jesus because Jesus was 100 percent human and 100 percent God, I realized that we probably haven't drawn a very accurate picture of Jesus for her if she needed to ask that question.
The temptation is to tell our kids that Jesus loves them and paint a picture of Him as this gentle, loving person. When your child is a preschooler, that's a fine picture for them to have. It's one they can understand and one that presents Jesus in a manner they can accept. But, as our kids get older we need to do a better job of fleshing out a truer picture of who Jesus is. One of the goals of a Christ-follower is to become more like Jesus. We can't do that unless we really know who Jesus is.
Jesus was not a meek and mild man. He was clearly a strong leader as He had crowds following Him. He wasn't afraid to stand up for the truth even when it meant He would die. He got angry (remember Him cleaning the money-changers out of the temple?). He fought injustice (just by speaking to the woman at the well, He threw out society's rules). He confronted hypocrisy. Yet, He was clearly joyful and gentle as children loved Him and couldn't wait to be near Him.
Our kids need to know that Jesus was 100 percent God and 100 percent man. He understands what it's like to face the same obstacles that we face today. Hebrews 4:15 tells us "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." Children need to know that while Jesus was sinless, because He was human, He was tempted to sin just like we are. Jesus understands our trials and sufferings.
Use some of these examples to paint a more accurate picture of Jesus for your children:
- Let your kids know that Jesus understands what it's like to have your friends turn on you. Share with them the story of Judas who turned Jesus over to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver. Just knowing that Jesus confronted a problem similar to what your kids encounter with their own friends can help your children understand that Jesus was real and faced trials.
- When your children are justifiably angry about something, talk with them about how Jesus was angry with the money lenders in the temple. Talk about how He sometimes got angry with His disciples (He once called Peter "Satan.") Let them know that sometimes anger is OK, but we need to not let our anger take over and push us to sin.
- Ask your kids to describe Jesus. Ask them if they think He ever was sad, tired, angry or upset. Point out that Jesus felt all of these emotions. He cried when His friend Lazarus died, He often went to be by Himself to recharge and He was often irritated and upset with the Pharisees and their refusal to see the Truth. Try to paint a broader picture of who Jesus was for your kids.
It's important for us to create a picture of Jesus for our children that goes beyond the fact that Jesus loves them. If we want to raise true Christ-followers -- ones who will change the world around them for Jesus, then they must know and understand exactly who Jesus is and why He is worthy of being followed.