A week ago we celebrated Easter – remembering what Jesus did for us. I wrote the following story for our older grandchildren to remind them, “why?” Why did Jesus come and die for us besides guaranteeing our salvation and heaven someday? Is salvation really all about us, or about others, or God? The answer is “Yes!”
Consider reading this story to your children or grandchildren and then discussing the questions at the end with them.
There once was a beautiful country ruled by a good and just king who loved his people deeply. He cared for their every need. Therefore, his faithful subjects simply called him Father.
There was also in that land a terrible Prince they called The Evil One. Many centuries ago, The Evil One deceived the subjects of the Father’s kingdom and most became his slaves. As the centuries passed, this population of slaves grew until there was a vast slave camp encircled by a high fence and barbed wire, encompassing millions and millions of people.
Humans had lived in the camp so long they began to think of themselves not as slaves, but simply as people who were destined to lives of frustration, purposeless, and fear. Over the generations, the inhabitants of the camp worked at trying to make a normal life for themselves. They built houses, started businesses, established schools, and life had a certain rhythm. Most had forgotten about the Father King and were unaware of The Evil One’s influence on them.
But the Father had not forgotten about his subjects. In fact, he loved them deeply. In every generation he called out men and women to follow only him, to live in his kingdom, and participate in his purposes and plans. Over the years, he also sent messengers into the camp to declare that one day he would send his son to personally rescue them.
One day someone cried out “he’s here!”, and a young woman hearing these cries followed the crowd and went to the fence at the edge of the camp. On the other side was a man with the kindest face she had ever seen. As she stood at the fence, her fingers intertwined in the wire, he began to speak.
“My name is Jesus and I’ve been sent by your true king, my Father, to set you free. This is not the life my father and I intended for you. He has a kingdom and all who live in that kingdom love one another and love my Father and me. You no longer have to live as slaves. In fact, the Father loves you so much he sent me years ago to give my very life for you, which I did on a cross.”
Several in the crowd asked aloud, “What do we need to do to be free and live in your father’s kingdom?” Jesus said, “Simply believe that I am the Son of the King and that I’ve already paid the price for your sin which now holds you captive, and come follow me.”
But others in the crowd laughed. Many of them had heard Jesus’ offer before. The woman’s friends said, “Come on, let’s go. We’ve heard enough of this fool. Nobody is going to set us free. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s a trick.” The crowd melted away until only the young woman remained, staring into the eyes of Jesus.
After what seemed an eternity, something in the woman moved her to believe Jesus. Quietly and almost tentatively she said, “Yes, I believe you. What do you want me to do next?”
Jesus replied in a soft voice, “Trust me. Follow my instructions. First, you must renounce your life of slavery and admit that the bad habits you’ve developed as a slave are wrong and make a decision to leave that life behind. Walk over to the gate, push on it, believe that I can open it, then step through and follow me.”
Immediately doubt began to flood her mind. “It can’t be that easy,” she thought to herself. “If it were, everyone would do it.” Even then the power of The Evil One was tempting her to not believe. He whispered, almost in a hiss, “If you leave, you leave your fun, your family, and your friends behind.” That thought unsettled her and for a moment she hesitated, uncertain.
But another voice, an inner voice, a voice of hope, kept calling to her and encouraging her. She moved slowly toward the gate, put her hand on the bars, and looking directly into the face of Jesus, gently pushed as the gate swung open. The ease of its opening startled her, so much so that she stood for a moment unsure what to do next.
“Now, swear your allegiance to me and my teachings, and come follow me,” Jesus said. And she did.
Jesus led her to meet his Father. “This one is mine Father. For my sake, accept her into our family.” As she came into his presence, the voices of the millions who had chosen as she did, drowned out all other sound and they cheered her on and sung praises to the Father. She was indeed free and happier than she had ever been in her entire life.
She was introduced to new friends who also loved Jesus, and was taught from the Bible what it meant to live in the Kingdom of God. She loved learning and living this new life.
One day Jesus called her and again said, “Come follow me.” After hours of walking and talking, they climbed a high hill. As they came over the crest, the woman saw spread out below her the camp from which she had been set free. It startled her and frightened her to see the camp again and she grabbed Jesus’ arm.
Jesus turned to her and broke her thoughts by saying, “I need you to go back.” “No!”, the woman almost cried out, but she caught herself and listened. She had learned to trust Jesus even when it made no rational sense to her. “There are many like you who are still slaves, who need to know that the Father and I love them.”
Slowly she began to remember that there had been groups of people in the camp who went to places called churches. Occasionally they would talk about Jesus to their neighbors, but for the most part they just stuck to themselves. Surely Jesus wanted her to go to them and join with them. Jesus, reading her thoughts, said, “While I do want you to find your spiritual brothers and sisters and gather together regularly to encourage each other and worship my Father and me, that’s not the primary reason you are returning. The reason I’m sending you back is to rescue those still in slavery. To do that, you’re going to have to hang out in places and with people many religious people will not. I want you to tell them about me.”
“But there is one thing that will give your message real credibility and will truly bring glory to the Father and to me: impersonate me in character and behavior. Everything you’ve learned about me and from me put into practice every day. I want you to love your enemies, even my enemies. I want you to care for the poor and forgive everyone generously and graciously. You are to be my living billboard. I want people to be so enamored by your good character, behavior, and attitude toward people and life that they are drawn to come to the fence like you did and follow me out of slavery also. That is your mission for the balance of your life in the camp.”
The woman finally understood. She had been rescued to be a rescuer herself. She slowly began walking down the mountain toward the camp, unsure of herself, but obedient to Jesus. Each step brought her more confidence and peace. She was not alone. Jesus had sent with her the Holy Spirit to teach and guide her and keep her true to him. Together they would do it. Her mission was to both, bring the good news and be the good news of the Kingdom of God to everyone she met.
Because she was faithful, she, and many she led to the fence to meet and follow Jesus, lived happily ever after.
Q. Can you remember ever asking Jesus to forgive your sins and telling him you want to live for him?
Q. What do you think that means, “to live for him”?
Q. What did you learn from this story about why Christians are saved? What does Jesus want us to do with our lives?
Q. What are some specific ways you could “imitate Jesus” or “be the gospel” this week?
Next Week: I’ll begin a two week series on the importance of having a written, personal mission statement to begin putting flesh on the specific mission God has given you!
Following Jesus in Real Life