Three years ago I found myself teaching the 4–6 year-old Sunday school class at church. I can’t remember what lesson I taught that day. But I do remember teaching the kids a little trick to help them remember the message of the gospel.
I asked the kids, “What is the gospel?” To answer that question, I taught them to stoop low with a closed fist and slowly whisper, “Jesus . . . died . . . for . . . our . . . sins . . .” unfolding one finger for each word so that by the end of the sentence each hand was no longer balled up but wide open. Then, they’d jump up and shout, “And then he rose!” while shaking their wide open hand in exuberant, silly joy. We had a lot of fun that day.
Although I don’t officially serve in the children’s Sunday school class, I drop off my daughter there. Without fail, every Sunday little Ava—6 years old—runs up to me as I’m dropping off my daughter: “What’s the gospel?! What’s the gospel?!” She won’t stop shouting that question until I bend down with her and whisper, “Jesus . . . died . . . for . . . our . . . sins . . . and then he rose!” She has become my weekly reminder of the simplicity of the gospel.
It’s been said that the gospel message is simultaneously the most complex and the most simple message in the world. It’s so complex because the gospel involves unfathomable mysteries—an infinite, holy Creator God steps into his own creation by becoming a man, living a perfectly holy life, dying for our sins, coming alive again, and then going back to Heaven until he returns to judge the world.
J. I. Packer rightly stated, “The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us . . . lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation. . . . that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man. . . . that [he] was as truly and fully divine as he was human.” We learn helpful, fancy terms for this mystery, like “hypostatic union.” We read theology books and take Bible classes because the gospel message is a statement about the infinite goodness and glory of our inscrutable God. And how can such a grand God ever be fully grasped or mastered?
The beauty of eternal life with God is that we’ll never grow tired of exploring the endless depths of his glory. Or as Jesus proclaimed, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Growing in an experiential, intimate knowledge of God both now and forever is our greatest joy. It is true life.
And yet, the gospel message is so simple that a 6-year-old Sunday school student can grasp it and demand you recite it with her every Sunday. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). In other words, the gospel is so simple that we have to become like children to truly appreciate it.
And that might be the most profound thing about it.