When I was thinking about what to do for the first Kids’ Club session after the Easter break, several stories in the Bible came to mind. I thought that what follows on from Jesus’ resurrection would be his appearance to his disciples, and I wanted to tell the children about doubting Thomas. As I was churning over in my mind how I might make the short passage in John’s gospel (Chapter 20) more memorable, somewhere in my subconscious surfaced this illustration, and whether it connected the dots for the kids or not, I was determined to use it. It went something like this:
“Hello kids! I’ve not been feeling that well lately, and I thought I should try something new for my diet.” I took out a tin of dog food from my bag and continued, “You know how they always advertise that these branded dog food would give your dog energy and make their coat look shiny and silky. It’s great tasting and full of vitamins… Well, I thought I could do with some of that.”
At this point I opened the tin by pulling on the ring-pull and started scooping up the contents into my mouth. The children gasped and made disgusted noises, even commented that it smelt vile.
“Does anyone want to try some? It’s really nice!” I said.
Rev James jumped at the opportunity and hogged the tin of dog food for a moment, while we distributed spoons amongst the children – they were willing to try some! We took turns to dip the spoon in and proceeded to eat the dog food. Some found it quite appealing, whereas others spat it out straightaway. The point was, they ALL tried it. They tried it not just because I said it was tasty (perhaps more so that Rev James said it was tasty – maybe he has more authority amongst these youngsters!), but they tried it for themselves before deciding whether they liked it or not.
Then I told the children that it isn’t real dog food they had been eating, but chocolate muffin set in orange jelly. It looked convincing enough! (This is how I prepared it: I opened a tin of baked beans from the bottom and substituted the beans with chunks of chocolate muffin set in orange jelly. After it had set in the fridge, I stuck the bottom of the tin back on with sticky tape. Then I carefully removed the dog food label from a tin of dog food and stuck it on the tin containing the chocolate muffin and orange jelly. I found that most brands of dog food had tins with rounded bottoms which normal tin openers fail to open, so it was easier to find a similar sized tin with a lip on the bottom and then exchange labels.)
Linking the dog food tasting to the Bible story, I explained that this is a bit like Thomas not believing that his friends had seen Jesus after he was raised to life. Thomas wasn’t in the room with them and so he said that unless he could see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into his side (where the spear had speared Jesus when he was dead), he would not believe. Thomas needed evidence; he needed to see for himself and not believe just because his friends told him so. A bit like the Kids’ Club children wanting to try the dog food for themselves. They were keen to do so, and there was a certain amount of excitement about it.
So I imagine that there would have been a certain amount of excitement and awe on that day when Jesus did appear again to his disciples and Thomas was there this time. That’s why he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” He saw for himself and could touch Jesus for himself. I often think that he was very hard done by being branded doubting Thomas. Wouldn’t you and I have the same reaction given the circumstances? The disciples saw with their own eyes that Jesus died on the cross, and the women amongst them saw with their own eyes that he was laid in a tomb. So the kids here this afternoon saw with their own eyes that I opened the tin with the dog food label on, and that I scooped out a spoonful from that tin into my mouth and ate it. I said it was good, so whether they believed me or not, they were willing to give it a go and experience it for themselves.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good.” – Psalm 34:8
OK, some of the kids did not like the chocolate muffin and orange jelly combo, even though we had it on good authority that it tasted great! Hang on a minute, you say. It is not advisable to try absolutely everything before we trust that what we’ve been told is true. For example, we wouldn’t want our children to try taking drugs before they find out for themselves that it’s dangerous, do we? For bad things, we’d like our kids to trust our judgements. But for good things? I hope that all of us would “taste and see that the Lord is good”. We don’t like to just take others’ words for it. I believe that if we are willing to give God a chance, He will come close to us and bless us. My prayer is for you and me to experience that awe and happiness which Thomas had when he encountered the risen Jesus.