What Does This Mean to You?
Life is full of moments for teaching. There’s almost always a lesson that we can share or an observation worth making. This is the work of education, in the home, at covenant schools, and at church.
All that you need is an inquisitive student, something worthwhile to talk about, and enough time to do so.
As one example of a teachable moment, think of what’s revealed in Exodus 12. This is where God is giving instructions for the first Passover meal. And after God has explained how it should be celebrated, He turns his attention to the youth. For there’d be children and young people there, watching and wondering about it all.
As God says in verses 26-27, “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service? ...You shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD.’”
It was not supposed to be an obscure ceremony, a moment shrouded in secrecy. For this was the whole point of the Passover: remembrance. It was a memorial, something outward and physical for reminding Israel about God’s miracle of salvation. The LORD had delivered them from their slavery in Egypt, setting them at last on their journey to Canaan, and giving an entrance into their inheritance.
This redemption was something God’s people needed to remember, to turn over in their minds, to discuss and share. And to talk about with their children, too! Because what if the parents didn’t tell their kids? What if they shushed their questions? The story would quickly fade. Soon a generation would grow up who’d never heard of Egypt or the plagues, and who didn’t know how Israel came to reside in this fertile land. In short, a generation would grow up who didn’t know about the greatness of the LORD.
That’s why Passover was meant to be a family event. And as they celebrated, God knew that questions would come up. The children would be filled with curiosity at the things they saw: that young lamb, slaughtered at twilight; that bright red blood, brushed onto the sides and tops of the door-frames; that roasted meat, eaten along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. These were peculiar things for children to see.
The question isn’t surprising, then: “What do you mean by this service?” If you think about it, that’s just a variation on that question which is still voiced today (at times incessantly): “Why, Mom? But why, Dad?”
And the Passover was a great opportunity to teach exactly this. God commands, “When your children ask you, then you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” The parents have to tell what God has done, his great work in delivering his people.
As a nation—as the church—this was their story. The parents could say to their children, “It doesn’t matter that the exodus was ages ago, or that you weren’t there when it happened. Because those old events have everything to do with today. This is where we’ve come from, and it’s made us who we are, God’s holy people.”
What about today? Passover makes us think of Holy Supper, and it’s likely that our young children too will have questions about what they witness in the sacrament. There are those strips of bread being broken, and little cubes of bread being passed around on silver trays; red wine poured from a silver pitcher into a silver goblet, and the cups going around; the minister speaking those solemn words, everyone sitting there at the table so somberly.
It can all seem so mysterious. On the way home, the question comes from the back of the car: “Mom, Dad, what’s with those little bits of bread? Why did you drink from that shiny cup? What does it all mean?” Such questions are good. Such questions need answers.
So we need to teach. We tell about God, Almighty and gracious, who has conquered all His and our enemies. We share how the LORD in his mercy has passed over us sinners, sparing us the judgment we deserved. We speak about Jesus the Passover Lamb who was killed in our place, so that we might be free and live forever.
And this is just one, brief moment for instruction. God doesn’t want us to mention salvation or explain the Bible only when our kids happen to ask about it. This is what God commands in Deuteronomy 6, “These commandments… are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (vv. 6-8). It should be a continuous and consistent thing: teaching throughout the day, throughout the week, all year.
Who is God? What great things has He been doing in creating, and saving, and renewing? What did Jesus do on the cross, and why did He do it? How does God want his redeemed people to live? How do we pray? Why do we read the Bible? What’s our purpose here on earth?
And because God and his Word have everything to do with this life, the teachable moments are many. Think of it: every part of our existence is touched by the Lord, and addressed by Scripture. Each day there are more occasions to have those conversations, and to move forward the good instruction.
May God help us not to see these moments as hassles or interruptions, but as humble opportunities to teach—even if it’s sometimes just a few words, at bedtime, in the car, at the dinner table, or out in the bush for a walk.
Don’t forget to teach these lessons because your children are too busy in front of a screen—or because you’re too busy in front of a screen. Don’t assume that they’ll learn by absorbing it simply from the atmosphere of your home. For if parents don’t tell their children, who will? How will they know about the great works of the LORD? Starting in simple terms and building from there, tell your children who they have become in Christ, who you have become in Christ. Tell them what it means to you.
It’s a question for all of us: What does the gospel mean to you? Is it something you cherish? Do you seek to know Christ and be filled with his Holy Spirit? Do you want to celebrate the wonderful deeds of the Lord your God?
Then continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of your Saviour Jesus Christ!