Some time ago, I volunteered to take some old audio cassettes of sermons and preaching and convert them over to MP3 files for a friend of mine. He had discovered these old tapes in rummaging around through his attic, and thought to just discard them (attics, time, and mud wasps take their toll on old cassette tapes) but when I discovered his intention, I stepped up and offered to do this for him.
The job is not difficult, merely time-consuming; plug a cassette tape into the deck, and start recording. Most of the time, I have the volume muted so I'm not distracted by the progess of the recording until the annoying "ker-chunk" of the tape deck lets me know that the tape has reached it's end. I admit that I have probably missed a lot of good material by keeping the sound muted while these tapes are in the process of being recorded.
I have, though, uncovered some preaching gems in these boxes (which is why I volunteered to do it in the first place). Some of these tapes are by men who are/were looked at as giants in our movement, great men of God; some are from years ago, delivered by men who, sadly, are no longer with us, either because of natural or spiritual death. And so this morning, while sitting here at my computer, I kept the volume turned on (albeit at a very low level) while I continued working on my computer.
I'm glad I did.
The husband-wife team who were involved in this particular message are not known as "giants" of our movement. They are childrens' evangelists. It's not a real glamorous ministry, and one that is sometimes viewed as a "cute little thing" rather than being a bona fide ministry. And that in itself is a crying shame, for children are the future generation, and anyone who gives up the so-called limelight of ministerial politics to give themselves to reach young people is probably more of a giant in God's eyes than a lot of those oft-proclaimed "great preachers".
I've listened to a lot of preaching tapes, heard a lot of great "sermons" about God, about the Cross, about the blood of Jesus, and about the saving grace of God. I've heard a lot of good material just in the handful of these tapes that I've listened to thus far, and have little doubt that I'll hear some more before I'm finished.
However, this morning, because a husband and wife commited themselves to reaching children with this message, I saw Calvary in a whole new light.
Calvary from a child's perspective...
Children don't understand why Jesus had to die. Children can't comprehend that, because of the mistake of one man and one woman, we are all born into a life of sin, helpless to change ourselves. They don't understand the word redemption, nor the concept of grace, or the idea of spiritual adoption. The blood of Jesus, to a child, is something that probably should require a Band-Aid, not something to be sung about...
Children look at life so differently, with such innocence, and---because of a tape that I listened to this morning---I finally understood (I think) why the concept of salvation is so difficult for them at times.
Why did Jesus have to die?
He didn't do anything wrong. He made blind people see. He helped deaf people hear again. He touched crippled arms and legs and feet and made them all better. He loved everyone. He helped others. He taught people how to live better, to be nicer to others. He made bad people good. He was never mean or rude. He never told kids to go away and leave him alone. He always had time for children. He always had time for everyone, it seems like.
So why did He have to die? And why did those people do such terrible things to Him?
In today's society, much is said about the terrible effect that social trauma can have on a child. Witnessing parent's argue or fight; watching the effects that drugs and alcohol have on family members; abuse in all shapes and forms; these all take their toll on the hearts and minds of our children.
Can you imagine what a child must have thought while witnessing Calvary's cruelty? Imagine the child that once had been taken into Jesus' arms, sat on His lap, used as an object lesson to a bunch of arguing grown-ups...Can you fathom the shock and horror as he now watches Jesus struggle to draw another breath? Can you see the tears streaming down dusty little faces of children who had once laughed and ran in His footsteps, but now their eyes are wide with fear, not understanding why this kind man---who had always been so nice to everyone around him---was now hanging on a Roman cross, with crowds screaming at him, spitting on him, laughing at him?
I can't imagine it either.
But for one brief little moment this morning, I was taken back to the horror of Calvary, and saw it through the innocent eyes of a little child. And I sat here and I cried.
Sometimes we think we have it all figured out: God's plan of redemption, the purpose of the incarnation of deity into humanity, the sacrificial Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the restoration of fellowship between God and His own creation. We quote scriptures from Old and New Testament alike, pointing to why all this happened, and we have all the understanding of what God intended from the beginning of time. And we feel smug in our confidence that we have the answers, and having those answers makes our salvation that much nicer.
God take me back to Calvary's hill, but let me look at it from the innocence of a child's eyes. Let me see the horror, the agony, the cruelty beyond imagination, and let me---as a child---wonder again:
"Why did you have to die? Did I do something wrong?"
AMAZING GRACE HOW SWEET THE SOUND
THAT SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME
I ONCE WAS LOST BUT NOW I'M FOUND
WAS BLIND BUT NOW I SEE.