“Jesus the Savior”: Preschool & Kids Leader Training for Unit 25, Session 3—Jesus’ Hard Teachings
Like many parents, my wife, Tara, and I are in this odd season of playing the role of teacher for our three kids who are distance learning for a quarter of school. While Tara is carrying most of the weight of this task, from time to time I am called on to help with a problem one of my kids can’t figure out.
Helping my kids is good for me. It is humbling. Not to be in the posture of serving my kids, but rather often having to admit I can’t solve the problem either. Middle school was so long ago!
I know my kids are at the end of their rope when they call on me for help because I am a stickler for them understanding what they are doing, not just getting the right answer. I want them to know why it is the right answer too. They don’t quite get why I harp on that—I hope they will one day. And I understand their perspective. They just want to do what is required and move on. But I want to help them—truly help them—and knowing why an answer is right ensures they are learning and will continue to be able to understand future concepts that are built on the ones they need help with now.
Easy answers are often desirable. But they are not always better.
What Jesus Can Do For Me
When you read through the Gospels, you will see that Jesus never took the easy route. After all, His mere coming to earth and wrapping Himself in flesh proves that easy was not important to Him. At times it seems as if Jesus tried to reduce a following rather than grow one. Why? Because He wanted true followers—committed followers—not superficial ones.
We see this in John 6. After Jesus fed a crowd of well over five thousand people (that was the number of men, adding women and children could mean a number three, four or even five times that amount), many of that crowd chased down Jesus the next day. After a brief exchange, the crowd asked (ordered?) Jesus to give them bread always (John 6:34).
Before them stood the Son of God, the Creator of everything, and yet the people demanded lunch again. How short-sighted. How superficial. How naive. How tragic.
Jesus knew how the people were missing what mattered; He had told the people as much (John 6:26). And this is why He pressed in with some challenging teachings after this. The people needed to be jarred. They needed to be unsettled because they were too comfortable in this world.
That crowd of people that followed Jesus has long died off, but the spirit of the crowd remains. How many people pursue Jesus today for what they want Him to do for them? How many people see Jesus as a cosmic Santa Claus or genie—there to give us our every whim.
The list is endless.
Does Jesus give good gifts? Without a doubt. Is there anything wrong with asking for health, wealth, relationships, and so forth? Unless they are sinful, of course not. But these are not what should draw us to Jesus. If God were to take everything away and leave us with Jesus alone, our souls should continue to cry out and worship in joy. Jesus is enough.
Who I want Jesus to Be
But knowing that Jesus is enough requires that we know Jesus. Many do not. While they don’t pursue Jesus for stuff, they pursue a Jesus who is not really Jesus. They are after a Jesus of their invention—who they want Jesus to be. We see this some in this passage (John 6:41-42), but more clearly in the larger story of the Gospels. The people then wanted Jesus to be a political or military messiah. When they realized that was not the Jesus in their midst, they turned on Him. Chants of praise turned into calls for execution.
Again, the air that filled the lungs and enabled the calls of those people for Jesus’ death has long since left them, but the spirit of that crowd remains. How many people today want a Jesus of their imagination? How many want a Jesus who stands for what they believe is right? A Jesus who accepts all without condition? A buffet Jesus, allowing them to take what they like and leave the rest? A redacted Jesus, who never did or said the things they don’t like? An easy Jesus?
As the meme goes, this is not how this works; this is not how any of this works. There are not countless Jesuses, shaped according to the will and whims of individuals. There is one Jesus—the true Jesus. And it is He who we are called to trust in and follow. This is what Jesus was driving toward in John 6.
Who Jesus Is
Jesus taught hard things because it was necessary. Easy leads to the two mistakes above. Hard leads to Jesus Himself. The road is narrow indeed. This is what Jesus had in mind when He said that we have to eat His flesh (John 6:51). We have to consume Jesus—who He really is, the Son of God and Savior of the world.
This week’s session may be challenging. And that is OK. It should be. Because that is what Jesus intended. Understanding the gospel is easy and hard all at the same time. Following and loving Jesus is easy and hard. Help your kids understand this. Stretch them because you love them. Help them determine now in their minds and hearts that they will not pursue an easy Jesus, but the real Jesus. They will not chase after Jesus for what He can do. They will not chase after a Jesus they create. Rather, they will chase after Jesus because He truly is the greatest treasure. He alone satisfies.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a rock we stand on to climb a mountain; it is the Rock, the Mountain. It is His faithfulness that holds me, not mine that holds Him. The footholds only hold because they are part of the Rock of Ages.” — Amanda Bible WilliamsAmanda Bible Williams, in She Reads Truth, by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2016), 6-7.