Tomorrow is February 2nd, the day designated on the church calendar as a day for remembering Jesus’s presentation at the Temple. One Sunday at our local church, we taught this story to the kids from Luke 2:22-52. The lesson materials combined the stories of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple with Mary and Joseph losing Jesus at the Temple when he was a twelve-year-old boy. The emphasis of those lessons was Jesus’ perfect obedience. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus on the eighth day to fulfill the law (v. 22, 27). Even later on when his parents got frustrated about losing him, Jesus sat in his Father’s house, and he followed his Father’s will (v. 49). Even after he returned to Nazareth, the text emphasizes that Jesus obeyed his parents (v.51) and grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man (v. 52).
During that lesson, there was a near disaster that turned into a gospel opportunity. A sister and brother struggled to sit and listen during the large group lesson. Later we discovered that the older sister had taken her little brother’s toy just before the large group time began. He was angry and began to pinch her. One of our team members separated them and talked to the brother (as a good Sunday school teacher should) about how the way he was responding was not Christ-like. But every time we thought there was calm, the young boy would sneak back over to where his sister was sitting and begin to pinch and grab at the toy again. When he was kept from antagonizing her sister, he got very angry—so angry in fact that he had to be restrained. One of the classroom leaders took him aside until he could calm down and we could understand the situation better (That’s when we found out about the toy and began to correct the sister as well).
When the large group lesson was finally over, we transitioned to our classroom small groups. The kids calmed down a bit. That’s the time when classroom teachers review the story with the kids and begin to talk about personal application. Peter, the classroom teacher for these siblings, took out the “God Report Card,” an object lesson our team adapted from chapter two of Jack Klumpenhower's book, Show Them Jesus. Here’s how that object lesson works. The teacher has two manila envelopes with “Report Card” written on them. Inside each envelope, there is an actual report card. On one, the word “Me” is in the name line, and on the other, “Jesus” is in the name line. Kids are asked to imagine that this is their report card that they will show to God. Instead of earning grades in math and science they will earn grades in subjects like honesty and generosity.
By this point in the class, the sister and brother who fought earlier were feeling some shame and guilt over their sin. They didn’t give themselves very good grades. Then Peter explained that it’s worse than we know. Because God demands perfection, we earn all Fs in every subject. When Peter pulled out the second envelope with “Jesus” written on the name line, the brother and sister sat with rapt attention as Peter explained that Jesus got an A+ in every area—obeying his parents, generosity, honesty, and even forgiveness. Then—and this is the heart of the gospel—Jesus put his report card in our envelope. When we talk about Jesus taking our sin to the cross, it means that He traded His perfect life for our imperfect one. It was like Jesus taking home a report card full of F’s to God the Father and then giving us his A+ life. Those two siblings were amazed that Jesus would give his report card—his perfect obedience—to us.
I debriefed the discipline situation and the lesson with Peter on the phone later in the week. He told me that Sunday class time was “simultaneously his most stressful and most meaningful experience serving in children’s ministry.” That day isn’t just a great story about an opportunity to share the gospel. The day illustrates how God uses our weakness and desperation to shine his glory through us.
Where do you feel weakest as a minister of the gospel? Do you see that weakness as an opportunity for God to show his glory through you?
Jared Kennedy is husband to Megan and the father of three girls—Rachael, Lucy, and Elisabeth. He leads SojournKids as Pastor of Families at Sojourn Community Church—Midtown in Louisville, KY. He also serves as a Children's and Family Ministry Strategist for Sojourn Network. He is co-author of the PROOF Pirates Vacation Bible School and co-writer of Leadership Mosaic. You can follow Jared on Twitter: @jaredskennedy