After singing “Jesus Loves Me” with the children in my Sunday School class yesterday, I asked them, “How do we know Jesus loves us?”
I was pleased by their good, biblical answers. Several of the children said, “Because He died on the cross for us.”
Little five-year-old Moriah (affectionately called Momo) said, “He loves us … because He does!”
I affirmed to Momo that she was exactly right. God told Israel that He didn’t love them because they were so great or talented or strong, but because … He loved them! He chose to love them because of who He was, not who they were (Deut. 7:7-8).
I also told them that we know Jesus loves us not primarily because of things that happen to us, but because His Word says so, and because He proved it by dying for us.
“Because sometimes in life, something really hard may happen to you, and it might be tempting for you to doubt God’s love for you,” I told the kids. “But actually the Lord lets really hard things happen because He loves us—and He’s using those things for good in our lives.”
After more singing, I opened my Bible to John 11 and began drawing out the events of Lazarus’ resurrection on my whiteboard. One of the little girls raised her hand and sweetly commented, “Your people kind of look flowers.” Despite my poor drawing, they listened attentively as I explained that Mary and Martha must have felt very let down when Jesus didn’t show up. Jesus was their one friend who could have prevented Lazarus’ death! And He didn’t come, even when they requested Him to. But the truth was that Jesus purposefully delayed His coming because of his love for them (11:3). He was planning to do something even better.
I discussed with the kids about Jesus’ compassion and tears upon His arrival.
“He didn’t cry,” one of the little boys protested in denial.
“No, He really did cry,” I said. “Crying isn’t wrong–Jesus was showing His love for them.” I explained that the people around really took notice of His tears. It showed them how much He cared. In fact, Jesus used the deep sorrow that Mary and Martha were experiencing as a time to bond with them. If Jesus had prevented their pain, Mary and Martha wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience the love of His comfort and empathy. When someone comforts you, that creates a bond. If Jesus would have raised Lazarus immediately upon arrival, He wouldn’t have had those important conversations with Mary and Martha.
Next I drew the tomb scene and told the kids, “Then Jesus said something really shocking. He said to ‘take away the stone.’ Think of what everyone must have been thinking! I mean, there was a dead man behind that stone. That’s kind of like if Jesus told people today to dig up the coffin of someone who was recently buried.”
It was cute to see the children really getting into the story.
I continued, “Martha complained that there would be a bad smell. She was thinking practically, from a human perspective. Sometimes in our lives, our problem is that we think from an earthly perspective too — and that’s why we doubt Jesus. But you know what Jesus said to her?”
I read it to them: “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”
I emphasized a point to the kids that I am trying to learn myself: Jesus wanted Martha to understand who He really was. He is the resurrection and the life! This was not a problem for Him! Jesus’ actions are shocking. He is always doing something bigger and better than our minds can fathom. He wanted Martha to see that no matter the predicament, disaster, or agony, she should refuse to look from her practical, earthly viewpoint, and rather turn to Him in belief. That’s when she would see the glory of God.
The same is true for us, and I think that Jesus asks us the same question in our trials: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
Is our faith lacking because we have not read what He has said to us? Or have we read and forgotten?
May we respond to Him with the same faith represented in the children’s song:
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but HE IS STRONG.
“Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, For we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the GLORY OF YOUR NAME; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.”
Psalms 79:8-9 NASB
Oh, and I thought you’d enjoy seeing a picture of my class (including Lazarus).
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the PROOF OF YOUR FAITH, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).