In 6th grade Catechism class, we go through the Bible chronologically, Genesis to Revelation. In the first four months, the kids learn all sorts of Old Testament stuff that will connect to what’s covered in the last four months. What sort of stuff? Stuff such as this bit of Exodus 3:
“I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses said unto God, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?”And God said unto Moses, “I AM That I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
We talk about how God’s title, YHWH, is related to the Hebrew word for ‘I AM,’ and says something important about God’s existence in the Eternal Present. As the Glory Be puts it, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”
Then a few months go by. We leave the O.T., and eventually Jesus becomes an adult, and drives the Pharisees and scribes so crazy they want to kill him. Here’s a good example from John 8. Jesus’ critics ask:
“Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?…Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
I ask the kids why people would want to stone Jesus to death. They make a few guesses. I write “I AM” on the board. “Where have y’all seen that before?” Little brains percolate; then, “That’s what God told Moses his name was! Yes, genius! Somebody tell me about it! It was when Moses saw the Burning Bush! Yes! So why do folks want to kill Jesus when he says “Before Abraham was, I AM?” More percolation, and boom, “Because he’s saying he’s God? Yes, that’s it! Nobody thinks a human being can be God, and to suggest that you are God will offend many people. It’s a serious sin aimed right at God Himself, what we call blasphemy. Jews would stone such a person to death.”
In that first case I have to help them a bit with the I AM business. Then last Wednesday, Jesus was arrested:
The high priest asked him, and said unto him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I AM: and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, “What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye?” And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.
This time all I said was: Tell me about it. And within two seconds, a child responds, “He said I AM again like he’s God. And is Jesus God? Yes, but they didn’t believe him. Yes- what doesn’t the high priest have? Faith. Yes, good. Of course faith is a great gift; but nobody has to accept it.”
In Catechism class, if I let the Bible be the Bible, it can teach the kids about Jesus almost by itself.