My R.E. lesson at school today was the first in our Easter series. I love teaching this series, as I encourage pupils to get down to the nitty-gritty of what Christians believe, rather than the superficial ‘nice little story’ side of it, which they normally get from their not-to-clued-up teachers. Today we were looking at the story from Palm Sunday through to The Garden of Gethsemane. In particular, I asked the children to listen out for parts of the story that showed that Jesus knew what was going to happen to him, that God was in control of the events of Holy Week. I expected the children to remember 3 points to write in their exercise books afterwards but I was pleased to see some children coming up with 6 or 7 bullet points! Here are some of the reasons they picked out:
Jesus knew what was going to happen to him. Christians know this because the Bible says:
- As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem, he told his disciples that he would be mocked, flogged and crucified there. He said that on the third day he would rise.
- Jesus knew the Old Testament prophecy that said the Saviour/Messiah would come riding on a donkey, so he fulfilled that prophecy on Palm Sunday by riding a colt into Jerusalem.
- At the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that one of his friends would betray him to his enemies.
- At the Last Supper, Jesus compared the bread and the wine to his broken body and his own blood, showing he knew he would soon die.
- In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to God, asking his father to take away the unbearable thing that was about to happen to him. He was so distressed that he sweat blood. Jesus battled with his imminent future but then willingly gave himself to it.
- When the guards came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples got protective and drew their swords, cutting off one of the guard’s ears. Jesus told the disciples to stop because he knew he had to go with the guards.
The children did really well in remembering these points, which led us into a great discussion about Christian beliefs.
You see, so many people argue that Jesus was a good man, a good teacher who just got caught up in a load of events that unfortunately led to his death. According to them, he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. People have said that his death shouldn’t have happened. It just got out of control. A bad accident.
I would suggest that these people get stuck into their Bible a bit before coming out with such comments. It is clear through all the gospels that the Easter weekend is going to happen. Jesus states he will die on more than one occasion and these events of Holy Week show not only that Jesus knows what is going to happen but that he is letting it happen. Do you not think that, if he wanted to, he could have told the disciples to carry on fighting the guards while he legged it out of the Garden of Gethsemane by another route? Do you not think that the man who uttered two words to still a violent storm a few months earlier could have ordered a tree to fall on the guards that Thursday night, if he had wanted to? This man of miracles could have done numerous things to stop these mere mortals, if it were just a human plot to get him killed. But ultimately it was not just the humans that were behind this mind-boggling event. Yes, their motives were real and they did get him killed but they were simply part of a bigger thing. The Bible is bursting to show us that Easter week was God’s plan. It was all part of God’s perfect purposes for the redemption of his people.
So what was God’s plan? Why did Jesus have to die?
That’s next week’s R.E. lesson.