“Mom, did Jesus get splinters from the cross?”
My daughter doesn’t really know how to whisper. She somehow manages to make her voice breathy and full of air, but still push the words out with a great deal of volume.
I mentally apologized to the audience members in front of us and behind us, who had come that night to see the Ballet Magnificat dance in worship and to tell the Exodus story.
But then the dancers surprised us. They fast-forwarded in time to our ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to give us freedom from slavery to sin.
You never know what might make an impression on a child. I had already answered whispered questions about slavery in Egypt earlier in the program.
Because, as many times as we had talked about the story and read the account in the children’s Bible . . . . and as often as my daughter had heard it in Sunday School and Children’s Church and Awana . . . somehow she had missed the part of slavery where it’s horrible and evil and frightening and relentless and hard and unfair and cruel.
So, the sound of the whip cracking and the way the slaves dropped to the ground in fatigue and despair shocked her.
You mean “slavery” is this? It’s not just a happy little Jewish community living in tiny houses on the outskirts of Egyptian cities?
No, my baby girl. Slavery is a pharaoh ordering that every male baby be killed at birth. It’s waking up every morning to labor hard and long for someone else, no freedom to worship or rise above or choose for yourself or provide for your family. It’s whips and rods and beatings and shame and being less than.
Why are the slaves working so hard, Mom? Why is he beating them, Mom? Why do they look so tired, Mom?
All whispered in my ear and what to say in that moment of hushed conversation other than, “That’s what slavery is, honey. Didn’t you know?”
But how could she know? We have a way as humans of protecting ourselves from knowledge that hurts. And we have a way as parents and teachers of watering down the truth so we don’t frighten kids (or ourselves). And we have a way as adults of sanitizing reality so we don’t have to face the ugly horror of it.
But when Jesus told the crowd that the truth would make them free, they didn’t understand: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:34).
They had forgotten their people’s four-century-long history, of slavery in Egypt, and how God sent them the deliverer Moses.
Jesus reminded them: You, yourself, have a lifelong history of slavery to sin and “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).
I explain this later to my daughters, when whispering is no longer mandatory, and we have the time and space to talk.
Did you see how terrible slavery was for the Israelites? Jesus says we were slaves to sin in the same way.
And did you see what Moses had to give up in order to deliver the people out of Egypt? He couldn’t keep his fancy room in the palace, his princely clothes, his royal position, his delectable foods. He sacrificed all that to lead his people out of slavery.
But Jesus gave up more. Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
My daughter knew about the nails and the crown of thorns. She knew about the cross. But the scornful cries of the crowd, that she couldn’t understand.
Then, while watching the dancers portray Jesus’ crucifixion, she thought of the most horrible thing she could imagine, the thing that terrifies her into wearing shoes on our deck and the thing that has sent her into fits of screaming on our couch when we pull out the tweezers.
Did Jesus get splinters from the cross?
Why yes, baby girl, he probably did. But he did it for you and for me. He hung bare-skinned on a rough wooden cross so He could deliver us and set us free.
That’s the truth of costly grace and the Savior who paid the ultimate price: splinters, whips, mockery, the weight of sin, separation from God, and death and all.
How can you keep from forgetting what Christ has done for you?
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King