By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist
Woodland Hills Church
At the end of the Old Testament, we find the Israelites’ world a very uncertain place. Their ancestors have walked away from God and, though He still loves them and has sent them numerous warnings through His prophets, they continue to break off their relationship with Him. His love for them has not changed, nor has His plan to use them to save world altered, but He must allow the consequences of their breaking the relationship play out in order to restore what was broken. And so mighty empires attack and invade the Promised Land, killing and kidnapping its people and ruining its lands and cities. In exile, many of the Israelites, now called Jews, do turn back to God, and healing begins to take place. Some are even allowed to return from their captivity to their homelands to begin rebuilding. But they know things are not the same even there. They come under a series of foreign rulers, some of whom allow the Jewish people to worship God and others who are less kind. And so begins some 400 years in which no prophet from God appears to guide the people. There is, essentially, silence on His end.
But His silence does not mean He isn’t still with them and working. It’s quite the opposite. Even in the midst of their suffering under foreign rule, God is preparing their redemption. He is preparing to send them the Messiah, the One He has promised will save them. The people anxiously await this Savior, their hunger for his arrival heightened as the worst power of all takes charge of their lands: The Roman Empire. They anticipate a Messiah who will enter their world as a victorious and militaristic king, one who will come with the might and power to rid their lands of the Romans and all other Gentiles and bring judgment and justice to their world.
Little did do they suspect that the Messiah, God’s Son, will arrive in the form of a tiny, poor child in the little-regarded town of Bethlehem. God’s Son, Jesus, grows and quickly proves He is both the Messiah they have been waiting for and not the Messiah they’ve been waiting for. He has, indeed, come to redeem and save them, as He shows through His ministry in which the blind are given their sight, the lame walk, and the downcast and marginalized are shown life-giving love. But He is not the Messiah they have been waiting for as He refuses to use violence or usurp power in order to draw people to God. Rather, He is a peacemaker and one who puts relationships above rules. He seeks to bring about God’s Kingdom not through might but through love. Many, though astounded by this change in perspective, are drawn to Him. They celebrate, follow, and worship Him. Others hear His teachings and see His popularity, and it darkens their already dark hearts. They grow jealous of His popularity even as they balk at His teachings which seem to verge on blasphemy. And so they begin to plot against Him.
Their schemes play out, and Jesus is arrested and tried. Never does He lift a hand of violence or a harsh word. He accepts what is being done to Him because He knows God shall use His death to redeem all humanity, even those who now persecute, beat, and kill Him. On the Cross, Jesus finishes the work He came to earth to do: To bring God’s loving Kingdom to earth through His teachings and interactions and to put Himself in the place of all sinful humanity so that their broken relationship with God might be redeemed and saved forever.
Three days later, Jesus’ followers are still mourning for Him even as they fear for their lives. They wait together in confusion. How could this have happened? They were certain Jesus was the Messiah – So how was it that He died? But then incredible news reaches them: Jesus is alive! Before long, they meet the risen Christ and learn that His death and resurrection mean eternal life for all who follow Him. It’s a message of love and joy that He instructs them to share with anyone and everyone. It’s a message of love and joy for you and for me. It’s truly good news.