I had an hour long Skype session with my 13 year old granddaughter who had a paper to write for her religion class (private school, Hong Kong) in which she was asked to reflect on a movie about Jesus and contrast several things that were said about him in it with what is said about him in scripture. I presume that the other kids in her class were all well versed in scripture and the basics of Christian history so that they could easily distinguish between the movie version and the mosaic of Jesus that comes to us through the gospels and epistles. Moreover, the instructions for the paper required the students to distinguish between what Jesus’ disciples believed about him during their time with him and what today’s Christians believe about Jesus.
As I said, no doubt the other 13 year olds in her class were up to it, but she was in tears because she simply could not understand what was being asked of her. Frankly, I doubt that many adults who regularly attend church would be up to it either. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have several conservative evangelical acquaintances who have been taught the correct answers and are quite certain that any other possibility is of the devil, but I digress.
We talked it through as best we could, and I think she will produce a fine paper, but how do you explain, in a few words, that the disciples did not know anymore about who Jesus was on any given day than what they had experienced up to that moment, nor did they have any idea what tomorrow might bring? We, on the other hand, have read the whole story and know how it comes out, and we have two thousand years of scholarship and tradition to help us understand it in ever new ways.
How do you explain that everything depends on the resurrection? How do you explain that the four gospels portray Jesus in ways sufficiently different from each other that there are conflicts and gaps hard to reconcile? Becoming a mature Christian is not an easy thing to do. Providing a 13 year old with enough understandable information to write a school paper isn’t that easy either. I hope we get a decent grade on it. I’d like to see the one her teacher writes.