As part of The Easter Code: Can you crack it?, our Easter event for primary schools, we wanted to spend ten minutes in bringing the pupils up to speed before we launch into the events of holy week. We are tussling with different ways to do this. I spent some time this afternoon trying to write an account from Jesus' baptism through to Palm Sunday. It is quite a challenge to discern what to include and what to leave out so that you get a good overview of what Jesus was about, how people reacted to him and how his impact began to spread.
Although I have tried to be balanced, I am sure my own personal response to Jesus has an impact on the choices made. [There's more...]
It reminded me of one of the discussion evenings we had last year when we were talking about the different images of Jesus that have come from different cultures around the world. One of the images I really liked was the one of Jesus enjoying a hearty laugh. Though not all of us agreed!
So here you go with my first attempt at an introduction to Jesus' life in ten minutes (actually I can read this in 9:30 secs but that gives room for leeway and for the mime that could go along with this).
If you have any suggestions for changes, things to include or exclude, then feel free to add a comment.
A long time ago in a land far away there lived a man called John. He wore clothes made out of camel hair and ate bugs and honey. That might sound funny, but he was very serious in telling people that they needed to admit what they had done wrong and follow God’s way.
People did what John said, and to show they had changed their ways they were dunked in the Jordan river - baptised by John.
One day John said, “Someone is coming who is greater than I am! Look I am baptising with water, but he will baptise with God’s Spirit!”
And sure enough, not long later, it happened. A local carpenter came to John, his name was Jesus. John baptised Jesus in the Jordan, and everyone there heard a voice from heaven say, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me much joy.”
After his baptism, Jesus went off into the desert. He didn’t eat or drink for a long time. He wanted to understand what he was to do next.
Jesus knew that if he was to be a leader, it wasn’t going to be like other leaders who dressed in fancy clothes, ate fancy food, lived in palaces and tried to use their power over other people. He knew his leadership came from loving other people.
As he got thirstier and hungrier in the desert, he heard a voice ask him, “Why, if you are God’s special Son, do you not turn some stones into bread to eat.” But Jesus knew that he shouldn’t use his power just for himself.
Then the voice said to him, “See all this world, before you, it can be yours, you can have it all if you do things my way.” But Jesus knew that he had to do things God’s way.
Then the voice suggested to Jesus, “If you are so special, do something to show everyone what a hero you are. Jump off the top of a building so that God will rescue you.” But Jesus knew it was wrong to test God.
Leaving the desert, Jesus knew better than ever what he was to do. Walking next to the Sea of Galillee he saw some fishermen, and he called out to them, “Leave your nets behind, I’ve got a bigger challenge for you. No more catching fish for your supper, how about I teach you to catch people for God? Follow me!” And they did.
Jesus gathered around him an unlikely bunch of people. There were fishermen, freedom fighters who had fought against the Romans, even a tax collector who was hated by everyone but who Jesus called to join him.
Out of the many people that began to follow Jesus, he picked 12 special friends with whom he was going to share everything he knew about God. They were: Simon Peter, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaues, Simon and Judas.
Jesus Heals a Paralysed Man
One day, Jesus was in a house talking to a whole crowd of people, they were hanging around at the door and windows trying to hear what Jesus was saying about God.
Four friends arrived at the house each holding a corner of a mat with a very ill man lying on it. They couldn’t get in, there were just too many people. But they were determined that their sick friend should see Jesus.
So, they climbed onto the flat roof. They dug away at the dried earth that filled the spaces between the wooden beams until they made enough space for them to squeeze their friend through and lower him down on his mat right into the room.
Now in the room were some of the town’s leaders and they were not pleased about this interruption. But Jesus smiled, “You have some great friends,” he said to the sick man. Then he told him, “My friend, for all the bad things you have done, you are forgiven.”
The religious leaders in the house were stunned, “How dare he!! Who does he think he is!! Only God can forgive sin.” Jesus turned to them and said, “You don’t think I can forgive sins? How about I tell this sick man to get off his mat and walk? Would you believe then?”
And that’s what Jesus did. “Get up! Take your mat and off you go back home,” he said to the sick man. The man felt better than ever. He got up and grinning from ear to ear made his way through the crowd. Maybe Jesus can forgive sins, the crowd thought, but the religious leaders grumbled to one another.
As well as making people better, Jesus also spent a lot of time talking to people about how they should live. At the time there were lots of rules about how to wash, about what you could do on which day, about what you could eat, about how you should treat other people. And some people kept a strict eye on everyone else to check they were doing it right.
But Jesus had other ideas. He said it wasn’t just about what you did, it was also about what you thought inside, deep down. “Yes,” Jesus said, “these religious leaders are right, you shouldn’t kill anyone! But neither should you look at them and think to your self I really hate you! I wish I could kill you!”
He said, “if you really want to be happy, then you need to make peace. Even with your enemies, those that would try to hurt you, you are not to hurt them back – that doesn’t solve anything. Instead try to love them.”
It was all too much for some of the people. “Love your enemies,” they said, “has he gone mad?”
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
Now, Saturday was a special day for the people, it was their Sabbath. It was a day when people rested and came to the synagogue to worship and learn about God. There were lots of rules about the Sabbath.
On one Sabbath, Jesus came to the synagogue and everyone was watching him to see what he would do. There was a man at the synagogue who had an injured hand that couldn’t move. The leaders there were hoping that Jesus would heal the man so they could accuse him of breaking the rule that you should do no work on the Sabbath.
Jesus knew what they were up to and it broke his heart that they could be so cold-hearted. He invited the man with the injured hand forward and said, “Does the law permit us to do good things on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing bad things? Is it a day to make life better, or worse?”
Jesus looked around at everyone, and those who were trying to catch Jesus out looked at the floor, they couldn’t answer him. Jesus told the man to hold out his hand, and when he did it was healed and worked perfectly.
The leaders were furious with Jesus and started to work out how they could get rid of him.
Jesus the Storyteller
One of the other things Jesus loved to do was to tell stories to help people understand what God’s love was like. Like the time he told the story about two brothers.
Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger son said to his dad, ‘Give me my share of the family’s belongings now. I’m tired of living here being told what to do. I want to see the world!’ So the father divided his money between his two sons.
“The younger son went off far away and had a great time living it up, but soon all the money was gone. He had no food, nowhere to stay, and no friends to help. Starving, he persuaded a farmer to give him a job feeding the pigs. He was so hungry that even the pig food looked good.
“Finally he came to his senses and remembered that even the workers at his dad’s farm had plenty to eat. He decided to go home and beg his father to take him back.
“He returned home and even when he was a long way off his father saw him and ran to him flinging his arms around him in joy. ‘I’m sorry dad, I have let you down, I’m not fit to be your son.’
“‘Don’t be silly,’ the father said and turned to one of his workers, ‘fetch my best robe and bring shoes, and start preparing a feast, we’re going to celebrate!’
“But when the older brother heard about this he was outraged and confronted his father, ‘What about me? I have slaved for you all these years, what have you given me? And he has wasted all your money, and now you celebrate?’
“‘Son, son,’ the father said,’ everything I have is already yours. You’re already with me. I thought your brother was lost, but now he is found, we must celebrate!’”
Jesus’ stories were brilliant. They made everyone think.
Who do you say I am?
One day, Jesus was with his disciples walking along and he asked, “What are people saying about me? Who do they think I am?”
His disciples thought a minute and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist, back from the dead (for John had been killed by King Herod for speaking out against the king), some say you are Elijah, that messenger from years ago, and others that you are a prophet.”
“Okay,” Jesus said, “but what about you? Who do you say I am?”
And Peter replied, “You are the Chosen One.”
Jesus smiled, for Peter understood. And yet he told them all to keep it quiet for a little longer.
However it wasn’t long before the disciples were arguing about who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God. “I think I will be greatest,” said one. “No, it will be me!” said another. Jesus stopped them.
“It’s not like that,” he said, “whoever wants to be first must take last place. You are to be the servant of everyone else.”
Jesus Predicts his Death
By now they were getting near to Jerusalem, the big city. Jesus friends were both excited to be going to the big city, but also frightened about what might happen.
Jesus stopped walking and gathered his friends around, “Look, we are going to Jerusalem and things are going to get tough. All the religious leaders will turn against me, the rulers will see me as a threat to their power and they will all conspire to get me arrested. In the end they will kill me. But, I shall rise again three days later.”
“No way!” said Peter, “That won’t happen, I won’t let it!”
“Shush, Peter!”, Jesus replied. “It must be this way, for I will be following the will of my Father.”
Zacchaeus and Jairus’s Daughter
As they travelled, Jesus and his disciples had many encounters, they met a wee chap called Zacchaeus who stole lots of money, and after talking with Jesus his heart was changed and he gave the money back many times over. They met a family whose young daughter had died, and yet Jesus went to her and in the stillness of her room asked her to “Get up!” and she got up.
They met a young man who was very rich. He tried to be a good man, to obey all the rules, but he wanted to be sure he was right with God. So he asked Jesus about it.
Jesus took one look at him and saw he enjoyed his money a lot, then he looked at all the poor people in need and said, “You know what you need to do? Give all your money to these poor people who have nothing.” The rich young man did not know what to do cause he loved his money so much.
Jesus challenged everyone to think about their lives and what was most important.
When they got to Jerusalem, it was in time for the big feast, the Passover. Many crowds were with Jesus and they wanted to celebrate his entry to the city, like a King. But Jesus had other ideas. Instead of riding on a huge horse all dressed up with gold and fur, he arranged for a donkey to take him into the city.
Yet still the crowds cheered and cheered. “Hosanna, hosanna!” they cried, “God be praised for the King has come!” And they threw down cloaks and palm branches onto the road as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.