Me: And the earth shook, and an angel came and –
Micah: He pushed the stone away! Mom, if I were like eighteen hundred years old, I could push the stone away, and the angel wouldn’t have to. I would be strong enough, maybe even stronger than Daddy!
There is a sweetness in the innocence of our kids. I love the way worlds merge and they understand everything in such literal ways. While I choose to believe that Jesus literally died for our sins, that an angel literally moved the stone away from His tomb, and that Jesus literally came back to life, the reality of the Easter story isn’t even a question to Micah. The real question for him is how many years old he has to be before he’s strong enough to move the stone (and also maybe how old Daddy really is, since by 1800 years old, Micah only might be stronger than him…)
Micah’s ready acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection speaks volumes to me. Not only does it test my heart – do I really, fully believe the way my four year old does? It also shows me the beauty of the simplicity of the gospel. Almost every kid understands the power of a trade, and almost every kid understands the sting of a consequence or punishment. Jesus didn’t just come to save adults. He came to save everyone, and in His beautiful wisdom, He did so through concepts that even kids can understand.
The other day I was trying to explain this to the kids. “It would be like if you did the biggest disobedience you could do. And Mommy was going to give you a gigantic time out, but then Jesus came and said, ‘I love Micah and Norah so much that I will do their time out for them. That way, you can forgive them, Mommy.'”
Norah started jumping on her bed at this point, but Micah said, “Yeah, and then I would not want to do that disobedience ever again. After that, I would ask Jesus to make me never do it again.”
At it’s most basic level, Jesus speaks His sacrifice to our hearts, whispering that His love is the motivator for making the trade for us. He didn’t do it because He wanted to have one up on us or hold it over our heads. He did it because He wants us to be able to be forgiven. He came to take the consequence for our biggest (and smallest) disobedience, willingly enduring the punishment so that God could forgive us and restore us back to Him. There is power in that trade. There is a heaviness and a beauty to that sacrifice. Christ, pure and sinless, enduring the wrath of a good God, justified in giving us punishment for our full, willing, and intentional disobedience, so that we can be allowed to be part of the family of God. So that we aren’t separated anymore from the wholeness that comes through being welcomed to God’s family.
Like a father, God can’t let us get away with disobedience and sin. It seeps into the cracks. It corrodes the good that it comes into contact with. My kids know what that’s like. How many times has everyone in the family become grumpy just because one of us woke up grumpy that morning? If they’re choosing to be ugly to us, or have yucky attitudes, or be willfully disobedient, they can’t be around the family. They have to be separated – a.k.a. “sit in your bed until you are ready” – until they can choose to say sorry and change their attitude or the way they’re treating us. In the same way, when we sin, we have to be separated from God, until we choose to accept the trade Jesus has offered us, asking for forgiveness, accepting that He already took the punishment for our big disobedience and that He can return us to the forgiveness and open arms of God the Father.
When I think of Micah trying to determine just how strong he would have to be to move the stone for Jesus, I can’t help but tear up. Jesus, powerful enough to take our sins and conquer death and the grave, big enough to shoulder the weight of the world’s sins (past and present and future), and strong enough to provide a bridge for us to a holy God, is still tender and focused enough to make the message of His sacrifice accessible even to small children. It isn’t a matter of whether this could happen . To Micah, it’s a matter of joining in because it is so exciting. Who doesn’t want to accept and be part of a trade this powerful? Who doesn’t want to trade their punishment for the biggest disobedience for being forgiven and restored to a family that loves you so much? And if being 1800 and strong enough to push that stone away and hurry up the process is the way to do it , Micah wants in.
At bedtime tonight, I told the kids that whoever asks Jesus to forgive their sins can go to heaven when they die because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. “I’ve already done that, Mommy,” Micah said. “But I really want Nay Nay to do it. I want her to know what it feels like.”
Me too, buddy. Because being forgiven and being restored is the most incredible thing , especially when we understand just how much we don’t deserve that trade. And the beautiful thing is, we don’t have to be strong or big or super smart to accept the trade. We just have to believe. Jesus has already done all the work. Instead of having to push the stone away ourselves, make the trade ourselves, or find a way to forgiveness for our dark secrets ourselves, we can do the other thing the angel did: sit on the stone and say, literally, “Jesus is not dead. Jesus is alive!” And because He lives, so can we.