King Jesus Gospel for Kids

This is by Ben Irwin, and is a beautiful rendition of the king Jesus gospel, written for his daughter Elizabeth.

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.

Without God,
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,
and grandchildren,
and great-grandchildren.
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.
And another.
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,
rescued Israel,
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.

Never again
will anyone take what isn’t theirs.
Never again
will anyone ruin God’s good world.

God will live with us,
and we will rule the world for him.
Forever.
(For Elizabeth)

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.echoingjesus.com Steve Blundell

    Brilliant. Love it!

  • s. horn

    All I can say is wow! Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://theparsonspatch.com Mark Stevens

    Scot, why couldn’t you make it that easy? ;) LOVED IT!

  • Bethany

    Beautiful! Could someone put this into a book for kids?

  • Mike M

    I’m using this for my kids and for all people with receptive language disorders. Well sais.

  • Evelyn

    And yet it still doesn’t answer my friend Anneke’s question: why didn’t God just make it that way in the first place? Why make it so that we have to have all the suffering first? Why not make the end the beginning?

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Evelyn,

    That’s a great question. I won’t presume to have the answer, but will throw out a couple thoughts that have helped me with this question.

    When it comes down to it, what is necessary for God to make a world full of people who love loving Him and love loving each other?

    Freedom. Coercion is the exact opposite of love. Demanding, decreeing, or coercing someone love you cannot possibly result in love. It can bring servitude, obedience, and submissiveness, but those who submit will do so either (a) out of fear or (b) because there is no alternative. Perfect Love casts out fear. And to love with no alternative is to be a programmed robot, not a free being.

    So freedom to choose is necessary for love. What else? More than one option. If we only have one option, there is no choice, and hence no love. Think about this, if God was all there is, of nothing existe that was “not God” could we even know him? If there were no shadows or objects to reflect light, could we even know it existed? For an other conscious, free being to know God, he would also have to know “not God”. What is “not God”? If God is eternal, infinite, and “Love”, then to know him as such we must also experience the temporal, the finite, and apathy. (hate is not the opposite of love as it at least acknowledges one as worthy of strong emotion).

    The very ax of creation is God opening up pockets within himself, pulling himself back from existence just enough to create “not God”. Creation itself is God emptying himself, incarnating himself, so that others can know and love Him and share experience of Him with each other as live by also denying themselves so that others can know God.

    I know this is heady stuff, but take some time and think I through. I’d love to hear if it helps, or just raises more questions!

  • MatthewS

    I’m excited to see this! I think it’s a very helpful piece. It would be interesting to see what others would come up with as well. I love the example of a dad explaining this in a meaningful way to his daughter, that’s so cool :-)

    A question that comes to mind: What part of the story told this way is necessary and sufficient to distinguish it from being moralism?

  • Doug V.

    Thank you! On the whole, it think it is well written and appropriate for kids (as a father of a preschooler I definitely get the “not listening” parts :) ).

    However, I missed the mention of the Spirit to empower kids/all believers to do “the work the King gives us.” I know that for concrete-thinking kids, the notion of “Jesus living in my heart” is confusing (e.g. “If I drink water will Jesus drown?”) and the concept of the Holy Spirit (esp. under the name of the “Holy Ghost”) can be distractingly Hallowe’en-ish. So, Ben, if you (or perhaps a parent/teacher reading this comment?) could weave in a kid-friendly understanding of the Spirit’s work, I’d say this gospel-summary would go from good to great.

  • Elizabeth

    For anyone who appreciated this and would like something similar in a book format: I can highly recommend Michelle Anthony’s “The Big God Story.” A sweeping look at the story of promise and redemption through the whole Bible. Lovely illustrations and in a short book format (easy for say a 4 year old to listen to in one sitting). It is startlingly similar to this piece (but highlights a few more OT characters).

    It is one of my son’s favourite books and he chooses it frequently for bedtime.

  • http://benirwin.wordpress.com Ben

    @MatthewS,

    I think you raise an important question. Until I became a parent, I never fully appreciated just how much Christian content for kids is basically moralism in a shiny package: e.g. God wants you to be a nice person who always takes turns, says “please” and “thank you,” and eats your vegetables. Call it VeggieTales Christianity, if you like.

    I’m all for my daughter learning to be considerate and eating her vegetables, but I don’t think this version of the gospel (if we can call it that) is nearly as compelling as the one Scot sketched in his book. Jesus didn’t come to make us nicer versions of ourselves; he came to rescue and redeem the cosmos.

    I think sometimes we resort to moralizing b/c we don’t think kids can handle a bigger gospel. I think kids are up for it. I think most kids can understand and embrace the basic story sketched out above and in Scot’s book.

  • Evelyn

    @Nate S #7

    Thanks for your response – I’m going to send the link to this blog entry to Anneke :-) My guess is she will say something along the lines of… At the End, when Jesus comes back to reign, there will be no more tears and suffering etc. So does that mean that when Jesus comes back we will have no more free will? Or if we do still have free will, why couldn’t God just make us with free will and choices but different in the way that we don’t have to have everything that comes before the End? The grammar on that is dodgy but the kids are arguing and I can’t sty to fix it now! Will try to BBL.

  • Ben Pun

    Scot, have you ever seen David Helm’s Big Picture Story Bible for children? He takes Goldsworthy’s “God People in God’s Place under God’s Rule and Blessing” and traces it through the bible for children. I know it’s more of a Reformed Covenant Theology perspective, but I think it shares a lot of similarities with what I read above.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Evelyn,

    I think I hear what you’re (or rather, Anneke) is saying. No one can know for sure what happens after death or at the “last day” but, I think it’s important to remember that we continue to be the same individual person that we are now, with free will and all, but that the experience of seeing God in all his full glory is unimaginably transformative in itself. When we are presented with a face to face experience with God, those who knew him in this life will recognize Him as the object that lay behind their every earthly desire. Because they had experienced The pain and suffering of distance from God (the common shared experience of every human could be said to be a sense of the ABSENCE of God from the world, in a way) the vision of God as he is allows God to be known fully and entered into fully.

    In a way then, it’s actually not those who think they’ve found God that will know Him then, but those who have entered into the pain of his absence (like Christ on the cross) in love or the world.

    Hope all these vague wanderings of my mind are helpful to your friend in some way. : )

  • Edgardo José

    Hi Scot,

    This is awesome!

    I have a question: Given the parallels between the story of Adam and Eve and the people Israel, is there any chance that the history of Israel is the key to understand the creation narratives in Gen. 2-3?

    I mean, are these similarities a coincidence? Putting things in such a simplified way can make these connections so obvious.

    Blessings!

  • scotmcknight

    Edgardo,

    Yes, they have to be read together…

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Evelyn and Nate W.

    Believe it or not I run across a similar line of questioning in the business environment. I tell folks that I want to appreciate what they are doing in their job, and the only way I can do that is by learning about it. So I need to get to know what they are and what they are not so that I can appreciate them.

    I believe that is similar to god wanting us to love him. To love him we need to understand something about him, and part of understanding someone or something is to see what they are and what they are not. We get to do that here, and it heightens our appreciation/love for him in the end.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Thanks for the insight DRT. : )

    I still struggle with the fact that this clinical/rational explanation I suffering would probably be less than helpful to one in the midst of deep pain. For that reason I hope that I can see other’s pain not as an opportunity to explain God to them, but as an opportunity to BE Christ for them. In the end, experiencing Christ in another’s self-giving spirit is the only way that God will be known for who he is and loved until we see him clearly.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Nate W., that is quite nice and appropriate from my perspective. When the ask, in pain “But Why!?!?”, how do we answer? We love them. That is how the disciples of Jesus will be known.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I want to give a little bit of TMI, I recently got on ADD meds (I am 50). I have found that it has made a great inroad into my ability to focus on the other person. I have been learning things about my behavior that have been hidden from me my entire life. I was so blind……

  • Evelyn

    @ Nate W #14

    But surely then any delay in parousia is tantamount to cruelty? I totally accept that the very presence of God is transformative. But then why delay the presence?

    I realize we can argue that he is here now through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but that’s clearly not enough to stop man’s inhumanity to man – let alone the suffering and loss that result from natural disasters.

    So it goes back to the beginning: if it’s possible to have a world without suffering eventually, why not have it now? Or thousands of years ago? And if it is about being free to choose, waiting more than one generation also doesn’t make sense. At some point there will be a generation who are alive when it happens – so why have all the generations before suffering? Or are we supposed to wait until we’ve blown our own planet up and there are no humans left and then there will be a Great Accounting? And in terms of getting to know him – each individual in each generation has to do that for themselves – so again, waiting more than one generation makes no sense. There is no real cumulative getting to know God on humanity’s part – and presumably God knows us all already.

    So although I’d never stopped to think about it (beyond the standard free will answer) till Anneke asked me the question, increasingly I see that something does not add up. And because I think it is a question that goes to the heart of so many important issues – how we read scripture, the nature of God, the nature of man, our relationship to the divine and to each other – I think it is a question that is worth pursuing. I ask it a lot :)

    Thank you for taking the time to answer.

  • MatthewS

    Actually, thank you for sharing that, DRT. I don’t see that as inappropriate TMI at all.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    DRT – same story here, except I was diagnosed a year and a half ago at 28 years old. It must have been pretty rough going as long as you did. I’ve always struggled to relate to people. To finally see what I’ve been is life-changing. Now it’s just down to actually habitually changing how I relate to people.

    Evelyn – I really appreciate your openness and willingness to ask questions. Don’t stop asking or let anyone make you feel like questions are taboo for Christians. The moment we think we have everything about God figured out is the moment we’ve actually transformed God into an idol, carved from our own intellect.

    I’ve asked questions and sought answers I’ve experienced God as more expansive and wonderful than I’d ever imagined, but also realized that I know far less about him than I’ve ever thought.

    I can not argue that everything does in fact add up in this world. Being a follower of Christ will not make life make sense or make everything go well for us. What will happen at death and beyond has become such a focus for the church (even the main point of salvation) that we have in deeper ways missed that the point of following Christ isn’t to look forward to the parousia, to hope for escape from this world of suffering, but to find in Christ the energy to fully ENTER INTO suffering and in its midst, BE the parousia of Christ in the life of an other person. Just as Christ on the cross cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” we are called to feel forsaken by God, and yet… to rise from forsakeness into Love.

    Christians don’t have answers, they, with the rest of the world, feel forsaken by God (by Love, as Go IS love) yet by the power of faith in Christ rise and step into Love regardless.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Nate W, I have always cared deeply for people and would sacrifice nearly anything for them. I never could understand how people get the opposite impression from me until they get to know me well. I now am starting to get it. My wife tells me that I would go into the room, ask start a conversation with people, then simply walk out in the middle of their response. Not exactly good behavior.

  • Evelyn

    @ Nate #23

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I totally agree :) And actually I’m not particularly interested in what happens when we die. I don’t think Anneke’s particularly concerned either.
    That said, what you say simply explains that which is – and I accept the explanation, as I said – but it doesn’t deal with why it isn’t different. Do you see what I mean? I can think of a number of unverifiable but credible explanations for why things are the way they are, and why the bible says the things it says. Some of them I am more convinced by at the moment and some less so, and I’m very happy with the lack of certainty ;) But the question isn’t ‘why is it this way?’ but ‘why does it have to be this way at all?’. Hmmm. Not sure that makes the distinction any more clear.

    Let me try to concretize (is that even a word?)… If we hold onto the idea of an all-powerful God, it actually raises a lot of problems. God cannot be both all-powerful and Love AND allow suffering. Since we condemn our fellow sinful men who stand by and allow someone to be tortured it makes no sense to exonerate God BECAUSE he is God – that’s just lazy. If God is not all-powerful (and I’m heading into Open Theist / Process territory here) a huge part of the problem goes away. But so does that ‘comfort’ that comes from the idea that God is ultimately in control. If we insist that God is in control of everything, the fact that he is choosing not to fix things actually is problematic, and we deal with the problem by saying things like, “We don’t get to understand everything now, but one day it will all make sense” and “It’s all to do with the nature of God” and “It’s to do with free will / choices / the nature of love.” If we say God is love, and only as powerful as love is allowed to be (how powerful is that? what kind of power is it? what does it mean God can and can’t do?), there’s a lot less of a problem in terms of reconciling the nature of God with the nature of life on earth – and we can accept the findings of science about the origins of the universe and life. But it raises other questions about the nature of scripture. Which is fine :) But it does need to be acknowledged.


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