Youth often come to believe that Jesus is out of reach. Easter reminds us he is not.
On Easter morning, a group of women went looking for Jesus’ tomb. These dedicated disciples sought to honor Jesus by treating his body according to Jewish custom. When they got to the place where his body was laid, they found angels standing in front of an open tomb. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read:
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7 NIV)
We are in the Easter season, and many of us will hear this account in one form or another during this season. This is as it should be. We need to keep telling and retelling the story of our risen Lord. Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain. However, the reality of the resurrection gives us hope that Jesus has made, is making, and will make everything new.
Within this story, I see an important principle for our work with children and youth. On Easter morning, the women went searching for a Jesus that was beyond their reach. They sought the remains of one who was beyond space and time. They looked for a man who could not hear their cries or give them words of comfort. They did not find what they were looking for.
Instead, they found that Jesus was on the move. He went before them and was at work where they lived. He was alive!
Similarly, when children and youth come to our congregations, they are presented with a Jesus that seems out of reach. We tell them stories about what Jesus did millennia ago with people who are long dead. Yet, the reality is Jesus is alive! Not only is he alive, but he is at work where our children and youth live.
We do a service to our young people when we bring them into close encounters with Jesus in their own neighborhood. We can do this through community service — opportunities to participate in what Jesus is doing to help those who are in need. We can lead our young people to pray for their teachers, police officers, sanitation workers, business owners, and others who play a role in their lives. We can talk about current events and the things that concern them with empathy, reassuring them that Jesus knows and cares.
If we do this, perhaps our young people will realize that the Jesus who is far away and out of reach does not exist. Perhaps they will see that Jesus is alive and at work where they live.
Generations Ministry Coordinator