The lesson, for our adult Sunday School class, was based upon Matthew 20:17-19:
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
I teach this class and I had studied the commentary. I had looked at the notes in the study Bible. I was ready and thought this would be a quick discussion, so I was also prepared for the next section. How long can it take to discuss three verses? Besides, this was the third time Jesus told the disciples about what was ahead of him.
The discussion started out with: Why had Jesus only told his disciples? (He was preparing them. Getting them ready so they would understand and be able to carry on. Jesus wanted them to realize this is what he came for.) Why hadn't he told everyone? (Really strong believers would have tried to stop these things from happening. Those new believers might have been scared off. Afraid of the trouble that was to come.) It was at this point that my mind went absolutely down another way (Not a bunny trail, but a full blown, paved, ten lane interstate). It was at this point that the lesson took a major turn.
I asked the class, "How many of you like to talk about death?" Followed with, "How many of you have talked to your children about your death?"
Those questions were followed by a you-could-have-heard-a-pin-drop silence. Until, I asked, "Isn't that what Jesus was doing? He was preparing his children for his death? Shouldn't we do the same?"
There was no quiet after that! It was close to being one of the best discussions our class has ever had. We talked about how hard this can be. Our children do not want to face the fact that their mommy or daddy will die. We talked about ways we can make it easier for them by making our funeral arrangements and making sure they know what we want.
We laughed about places where they now have "drive-by" viewings. One lady said if that was to happen she wanted a sign that said, "Do you want fries with that?" They all nodded, with compassion for the funeral director, who sent my obituary back three times for revisions. No, I did not revise it! If I have to pay to put my obituary in the paper, it will say what I want! (Yes, I can be stubborn. Just ask Bill.)
We were serious when the question came up, "Do you know what your children want if they were to die?" No parent wants to face the fact that their child might die first.
Often, in the middle of a lesson, an idea will fly right into my heart and I trust it is there for a reason. This idea absolutely changed the way our class looked at these verses.
Jesus was preparing his children. We should prepare our children.
Jesus was also preparing himself. He was acknowledging that the end was near. That he would die. We should prepare ourselves. We should look at our life to make sure we are not leaving important things undone or important words unsaid. We should prepare because we started dying the day we were born.
Jesus knew where he was going. That is the biggie question. Do you know where you are going? Do you think that life has been grand and the casket will be comfy? OR Do you know you can be with Jesus -- eternally?
Jesus prepared his disciples. Jesus prepared himself. Are you allowing Jesus to prepare you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am.