The Bible is one big story centered around the Jesus.
That is the driving truth behind The Gospel Project.
It is essential that we teach our kids how to read the Bible through this lens, and it is perhaps the best way that we will help our kids learn to love to read the Bible and be positioned for a lifetime of fruitful times in God’s Word.
It is important that our kids know the basic facts of the Bible. These facts form the “what” of the Bible and connect with their minds. But we also need to take those deeper steps with kids and help them see why everything takes place, who it all points to – Jesus – and how they should respond accordingly. The “why,” “who,” and “how” of the Bible connect with their hearts. When kids get this, they can truly start to understand and live out the Bible. And this makes the kid’s mind and heart fertile soil for the gospel.
So how do we get there? How do we help guide our kids to go past the “what” and understand the major “why,” “who,” and “how” of the Bible? I would encourage you to consider using these four passages as a starting point:
- WHAT: Genesis 12:1-3. The Abrahamic Covenant provides the basic storyline for what the big story – the metanarrative – of the Bible is all about. It links God’s promise of a promised descendant to Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 3:15) with all that occurs after. The rest of the Old Testament explains how God moved His people into the land (and out and back into it a few more times), continued the family line through whom the Messiah would come, and prepared the world for His blessing. The New Testament shows how Jesus (the promised descendant) came into His kingdom (the promised land) to provide blessing (salvation). Put another way, this passage teaches us how to read the Bible.
- WHO: Luke 24:13-35. The account of Jesus and the two disciples on their way to Emmaus provides the interpretive key for the entire Bible; that it is all about one person – Jesus. This is the passage covered in The Gospel Project for Kids this week and we’ll examine it more in a minute. Put another way, this passage teaches us how to understand the Bible.
- WHY: Ephesians 2:1-10. In the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul provides a clear, relatively concise, and powerful explanation of the gospel. This passage shows how we can step into the story and become part of it through the power of the gospel. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it is not a story that we read from afar; it is a story that is designed to pull us right into it. Put another way, this passage teaches us how to experience the Bible.
- HOW: 1 Corinthians 10:31. In the middle of a discussion of eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul provides an overarching principle for the way we should live in light of Jesus’ story. Experiencing God’s gift of grace is not the end, it is one more link in a long chain. We are to live a changed life that God uses to change others. Put another way, this passage teaches us how to apply the Bible.
As you lead your kids through Luke 24:13-35 this week, keep in mind that you have a great opportunity to point them to the “who” of Scripture in a powerful way.
Luke records that later on the day that Jesus was raised (v. 13), two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to a small town named Emmaus. While we aren’t sure where Emmaus was, Luke tells us that it was about seven miles from the city – just over a two-hour walk away. Luke provides the name of one of the disciples, Cleopas, but the second disciple remains anonymous. This is the only reference to Cleopas in the New Testament. Clearly Luke’s original readers would have known who this person was or else there would have been no reason to mention his name. Some believe that Cleopas is another name for Clopas who was the husband of Mary who was at the cross (John 19:25). If that is the case, then the second disciple was probably his wife, Mary. However, there is no way to know this and Luke leaves out this information because it is not essential to the account.
As the two walked that day, they discussed the events of the week before. The Greek word Luke used indicates that their conversation was probably spirited with a lot of back and forth between the two. At some point, Jesus pulled alongside the two. Luke records that they were prevented from recognizing Jesus (v. 16), most surely supernaturally. When Jesus asked them what they were discussing, notice what happened. The two apparently stop walking and stood still with sad expressions on their faces (v. 17). This is not an unimportant detail. First, it conveys the depth to which these two were emotionally connected to Christ’s crucifixion. They clearly cared. So much so, that they came to a complete halt when asked about their conversation. Second, it conveys that the two didn’t grasp the resurrection. They had heard about the resurrection (v. 23) but at this point they didn’t believe it.
I love Cleopas’ response (v. 18). My paraphrase: “Have you been living under a rock?”
At this point Jesus presses into them. It almost seems as if He is trying to draw out of them their interpretation of what had happened in Jerusalem. “What things?” He asks.
Then the two open up and begin to share the events surrounding the crucifixion. Now, as you read through their account (v. 19-24) notice that they have the details right. They have the “what” down. But again, that isn’t enough. They had yet to make sense of those facts. It almost seems as if they take Jesus on an emotional roller coaster. They share one piece of information that they were excited about – hopeful even – but then they share a detail that makes them sad and confused. After going back and forth in this manner, they end by sharing that the tomb was empty indeed (v. 24).
Jesus’ response is jarring. Seemingly harsh even.
The two disciples were foolish (v. 25).
That is a strong term not to be used or taken lightly.
Why does Jesus respond this way? We find out why if we keep reading. The two disciples were slow of heart to believe what the prophets had written.
Do you see it? They had all of the “what” they needed. They had the prophets. They had the events of the prior week. But they were slow of heart to understand the “who” – that all of the prophets wrote about Jesus.
They should have seen it. They should have connected the dots. But they didn’t. And failing to do so led to their unbelief.
I love how Jesus doesn’t leave them there. Instead He takes them where they need to be. His rebuke seems harsh at first, but I imagine Jesus used it to get their attention so that they could finally comprehend the story around them. Jesus takes them on a journey through the Old Testament and shows how it all pointed to Him (v. 27). Oh, to have been there that day and to have heard Jesus unpack passage after passage! Can you imagine what that was like?
When the three arrive in Emmaus, Jesus reveals His identity to them and then disappears from their sight (v. 28-31).
What happens after that is critical.
The two marveled at how their hearts burned within them while Jesus taught them and then got up right then and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others. In the dark when it was not the safest to travel. Over two hours right back from where they had just come. Why? Because they finally got the “who” of the Bible and it transformed them immediately!
As a kids leader, can you think of a better goal? We have the privilege of walking our kids through the Bible to show them how it is all about Jesus as well. Let’s pray that God uses us to stir the heart of each kid we have the privilege to lead and that they too are moved to the point that they cannot contain their joy in the gospel. Let’s get our kids to the “who” of the Bible so that they can experience the “why” and “how” as well.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the April 26, 2015 session (Unit 33, Session 1) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay in 2014. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian and his wife, Tara, and their three children – Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb – live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 1-3 graders at City Church.