19 Aug 2019
A friend was recently walking with her seven-year-old son, Billy. He asked her how we can be sure that Jesus is real if we can’t see him. She told him about the eyewitnesses. Luke starts his Gospel with a great introduction for just such a purpose:
Many have tried to give a history of the things that happened among us. They have written the same things that we learned from others—the people who saw those things from the beginning and served God by telling people his message. I myself studied everything carefully from the beginning, your Excellency. I thought I should write it out for you. So I put it in order in a book. I write these things so that you can know that what you have been taught is true. (Luke 1:1-4; ICB)
She could have shown him Luke’s method - carefully studying the words of those who saw these things for themselves, and his goal- that his readers would be certain that what they are reading is the truth.
She told him about the predictions in the Old Testament about Jesus. She could have taken him to the first pages of Matthew’s Gospel where Matthew repeatedly takes us back to the Old Testament to show his Jewish readers that Jesus is the one they had been promised.
She told him about the evidence for the resurrection; the certainty of Jesus‘ death (John 20:34-35), the witness statements of Jesus’ friends (John 20:16, 19), the Roman guard placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:66) and the hundreds who saw Jesus alive and well (1 Cor 15: 6). I’m not sure that she opened all those passages, after all she was walking at the time and it would be very dangerous to walk, talk, flick, read and study! For more of this, I recommend this book.
My friend finished up, feeling pretty delighted with such a helpful conversation, by saying, “…and so we know that Jesus is real, not made up like Santa.”
Billy looked up wide-eyed, “Mum, wait, so Santa isn’t real?”
I’ll let my friend finish the story in her own words: “I thought we’d made it clear that Santa was all make-believe and I’m sure I’d told him before, but all the talk in school had obviously convinced him that Santa did in fact exist … In one clumsy moment, I popped his childhood fantasy. All talk about Jesus was forgotten. It was now ALL about flippin' Santa!!!”
No conversation with a child comes in a vacuum. Billy’s friends at school had been telling him that Jesus is made up. I know from experience that the next step will be that Billy is told he’s stupid for trusting this made-up hero. It came as a shock to me when I first saw this happening to young children. It’s the saddest promise in the Bible:
Everyone who wants to live the way God wants, in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12, ICB)
But when this prophecy comes true, we have plenty to say, with or without mentioning Santa!