In preparation for Easter, the youth class I teach started watching one of the early Jesus movies – The Greatest Story Ever Told – which was first released back in the 1960s. As the movie progressed, I began to realize something – the teens, especially those who had grown up in church, had a pretty good knowledge of the individual events portrayed in the film. But they didn’t seem to realize how all those stories were connected from the birth of Jesus until his death. It was like a light bulb turned on in their heads as they suddenly saw it as Christ’s whole life rather than just a bunch of unrelated stories!
Think about it – every child who grows up in Sunday School will hear the story of how Jesus was “left behind” by his parents at age 12. They go back and find him engaged in a theological debate with the priests in the temple. The lesson teaches the importance of “being about our Father’s business” but have you ever wondered why that story was important in the whole picture of Christ’s life?
It’s there because it helps connect the birth of Jesus with his ministry and his ultimate death. Jesus wasn’t just born and never heard from again until he reached adulthood. The story shows us He was the Son of God throughout his whole life. But it also shows us that he had to go through a period of growth and development just like we do to get to the point where he was ready to do God’s business.
Jesus had the knowledge as a young boy to debate with the priests, but he wasn’t ready to be in full time ministry yet. He had more of life to experience – like learning obedience and submission to his parents – like we have to learn submission to God. If he hadn’t become obedient to his earthly parents at that point in his life, who knows what could have happened?
I can picture Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his trial and crucifixion. “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” And as he kneels there his mind flashes back to the experience in the temple when he debated with the priests as a 12 year old. He remembers his struggle as he must decide to submit and return home with his parents or to take his rightful place as a Bible teacher. After all, He was the Creator in the flesh and could have easily started his ministry then and there.
BUT HE CHOSE TO SUBMIT his will to the will of his parents. Perhaps that choice some 21 years earlier helped him to submit to the eternal Plan of salvation as he faced shame and death on the cross. He really could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free in that moment.
His life was a journey, like ours – full of individual events and memories. Each one of these events and memories builds on the one before telling us a little bit more about who we are as a child of God and preparing us for the plans God has for us. We must look at our individual experiences as well as our whole journey to get the full picture.
What kind of reader are you? Do you look at the Bible as a collection of individual stories and life lessons? Or do you see it chronologically as a progression of how God has dealt with man through the ages? Can you see the importance of both?
How do you read the story of your life? Is it a collection of vignettes or a saga of growth and development?