Next month, our daughter turns two. Ever since she was born, we’ve wondered: how do we introduce her to Christ? We had her baptized a year ago — now what? How do we help her to embrace faith in God for herself? Somehow, coaxing her into praying the sinner’s prayer as soon as she can mouth the words and leaving it at that doesn’t feel like the best way.
That’s what led me to Scot McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel several months back. (You can read my review here, if you want.) Scot argues that what we call the gospel isn’t really the gospel — or at least it’s an incomplete gospel. The true gospel is not four spiritual laws or some other formula. It is a story — specifically, Jesus’ story, which in turn was the fulfillment of Israel’s story. That is the gospel the ancient church confessed from its its earliest days (see 1 Corinthians 15). And that’s the one we should be sharing today.
Near the end of his book, Scot takes a stab at sketching this gospel in story form. It’s not something that can be distilled into a sound bite, though. As Scot writes, “The assumption that the gospel can be reduced to a note card is already off on the wrong track.”
The gospel sketched in Scot’s book is the one I want to share with my daughter someday. What I wrote below was an attempt to translate it into simplified (hopefully not simplistic), kid-friendly version. Someday, when my daughter is ready, we’ll sit down and read this together. (In the meantime, any suggestions or feedback would be welcome, especially if you’ve interacted with Scot’s book.)
The King Jesus story
It all began with God.
God made everything you can see.
(And even some things you can’t see!)
God made the world to be his home.
Then God made the very first people
so he could share his home with them.
God gave them a beautiful garden to live in.
He gave them a job to do:
take care of God’s good world;
rule it well on his behalf.
But they didn’t.
They didn’t like doing things God’s way
and not theirs.
So they took what wasn’t theirs,
and tried to rule the world their own way.
They tried to be God.
So the very first people
had to leave the garden.
They had to leave God’s presence.
they began to die.
But God never gave up on his people.
He still loved them.
He promised to fix the world
so he could share it with them again.
But it wouldn’t be easy.
Everyone who’s ever lived,
from the very first people
all the way to you and me,
have gone the same way.
We’ve all taken what isn’t ours.
We’ve all tried to do things our way.
We’ve all tried to be little gods.
Things kept getting worse.
But God had a plan.
God chose a man named Abraham.
He gave Abraham children,
God turned Abraham into a great nation
and called it “Israel.”
God made Israel his chosen people.
They would help him fix the world.
God went with Israel
everywhere they went.
When they were slaves in another country,
God remembered them.
When they were treated badly,
God rescued them.
God gave Israel a home.
He gave them a job to do:
show the world what it’s like
to be God’s people.
God gave Israel priests
to teach them how to love God.
He gave them laws
to teach them how to love each other.
God told his people,
“If you follow me,
you’ll have a good life.
You’ll get to help me fix the world.”
But Israel didn’t listen.
God’s people didn’t want God
telling them how to live.
They wanted to do things their way,
just like the very first people — just like all of us.
God’s people didn’t want God
to be their king.
They wanted a king of their own,
a person just like them.
So God gave Israel a king.
Then another king.
Some were good. Some were bad.
Mostly, the kings did whatever they wanted.
They took what wasn’t theirs.
They ruled Israel for themselves, not God.
They tried to be little gods.
So God sent prophets
to tell the kings and their people
that there is only one true King;
there is only one true God.
But the kings and their people wouldn’t listen.
So they had to leave their home.
Other nations came and conquered Israel
and carried God’s people off by force.
Israel lost everything.
Then there was silence.
Years went by.
No one heard from God anymore.
Until . . .
something new happened.
God sent someone:
a person just like us, yet different.
Someone who could rule the world
the way God wanted.
God sent Jesus,
his chosen one,
to rescue Israel
and fix the world.
Jesus did good wherever he went.
He healed the sick.
He fed the hungry.
He rescued people from all sorts of problems.
Jesus did everything God wanted,
but it wasn’t what God’s people wanted.
They didn’t want Jesus to be their king.
They didn’t want the kind of kingdom he would bring.
So one day, some powerful people decided
they’d better put a stop to Jesus
before he took their power away.
So they arrested Jesus.
They stripped him naked.
They nailed him to a cross
and watched him die.
Jesus didn’t fight back.
He didn’t raise a sword;
he didn’t even raise a finger.
And so the powerful people
thought they had won.
They thought they had beaten
God’s chosen one.
But there was something they didn’t understand.
They didn’t know that Jesus died
not because he had to,
but because he chose to.
They didn’t know that they,
like all of us, deserved to die
for all the times we’ve gone our way
and ruined God’s good world.
They didn’t know a servant’s death
was the only way to live.
They didn’t know a servant’s cross
was the only crown worth having.
The one true King had come
and given his life for the world.
But they didn’t even know.
No one did.
But then God —
the one who made the world,
and sent Jesus —
raised him from the dead.
Lots of people saw him alive
before he went back to God.
But Jesus didn’t just rise from the dead.
He defeated death,
so it wouldn’t have power over us any longer.
God gave us the King we needed,
a King who loves, forgives,
and changes everyone who comes to him.
This King gave us a job to do:
love each other with all we’ve got.
Because that’s how we show others
what it’s like to be loved by God.
That’s how we show others
what kind of King we serve.
For now, the world is still broken,
still waiting to be fixed.
But someday, our King is coming back
to rescue us and share his home with us again.
will anyone take what isn’t theirs.
will anyone ruin God’s good world.
God will live with us,
and we will rule the world for him.