Toward A Biblical Theology of Show and Tell | A Kindergartner's Report
I really need to get to my son’s kindergarten class for show and tell sometime soon. The reports he’s bringing home of what has been “showed and told” are jaw dropping. Ready for these: A soccer trophy, teeth from an elk, stuffed animals, a toy airplane (a high bar contribution from my son himself), and a kite. And he accompanies each of these with a story that probably loses something in translation, but surely must leave those 5 and 6 year old bums on the edge of their carpet squares in the moment.
Sarcasm aside, as primary as kindergarten show and tell time may be for you and I, there is obviously something about it that impacts my son deeply, to the degree even of reporting back to me on what he heard and saw. And that is why I want to visit sometime soon. Not to hear and see the same things my son hears and sees, and arrogantly remind myself how childish it is to talk about and show off a $15 dump truck or a $5 princess crown. But rather to listen curiously and watch carefully as great stories are told of real things that have enormous value to children, and how those stories and things are met with wide-eyed wonder and sincere impression by their peers…so I can be reminded of how to show and tell the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Do you catch what I mean? Maybe you’ve got it figured out already, and if so, you can save time by not reading anymore of this blog post, but I want to be able to give report to anyone and everyone about what I hear and see my Savior doing in me and around me so that people are impressed – pressed in or imprinted upon or lastingly stamped – by Him who I am showing and telling…and often enough I think my show and tell lacks that. I guess I want to make an impact in such a way that others are confirmed in their pursuit of Jesus Christ; that he really is who he showed and told himself to be and that he has enormous value to me, and that “you oughta go home and tell your parents about Him.”
In Matthew 4:23-25, after Jesus was baptized and after he was tempted in the wilderness and after he carefully selected his first few disciples, but before he launches into what we refer to as The Sermon on the Mount, there is a narrated transition in the text. It’s a movement between scenes that is noticeably fast and general, like when a commuter train accelerates to top speed in less busy areas of the city or in tunnels to cover ground between two stops quickly. It sums up the prior scene and sets off the next by filling the reader in with necessary detail. In a mere three verses we learn of Jesus traveling “throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”
You can see and feel the speed and generality of the passage, as well as the breadth of Jesus’ reach. But I want to slow the passage down lest we miss the two-fold activity Jesus engaged. Right near the beginning of the text, as Jesus journeyed long and wide throughout the northern region of Israel called Galilee, he basically did two things together wherever he went: He proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God and he healed everything among the people. Kingdom proclamation and kingdom demonstration. I guess you could say he had show and tell time everywhere he went. Don’t believe me? Read the next six chapters.
Matthew 5-7 is a nutshell proclamation of the Kingdom of God. You’ve read it, I’m sure, or at least heard of it...
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And on go the “blessed’s,” even unto those persecuted, to whom, by the way, also belongs the kingdom.
- Then “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” so that, as the Psalmist suggests, others may taste and see that the Lord is good (Psa. 34:8).
- Then Jesus boldly declares himself to be the One who will fulfill the Law and the Prophets by meeting and exceeding the exceedingly high standard for common things like anger, lust, divorce, keeping our word, getting back at people, loving enemies, giving stuff away.
- Then the “how to’s” of the kingdom; how to pray, how to fast, how to invest (“lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”), how to trust (“do not be anxious…but seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness…”), how to judge others (“first take the log out of your own eye, and then…take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”), how to receive (ask, seek, knock), how to get in (go for the narrow gate), and finally how to spot bad fruit.
- Then a wrap-up conclusion that gently declares himself; Jesus that is, to be the good news of this kingdom he’s expounded upon, the Lord and Christ…the Son of “my Father who is in heaven,” (7:21-23). And that you and I are responsible to hear him and do what he says, and in so doing, be like a wise carpenter who starts with a solid foundation (7:24-27).
And there you have it! Jesus proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. But keep reading. Matthew 8-9 is a bold demonstration of the Kingdom of God. You may not have read this…
- Matthew 9:27-31 – A couple blind guys were following Jesus around crying out for mercy from the “Son of David,” secret code for Messiah. So he, Jesus Messiah, touched their eyes and healed the two blind men.
- Matthew 9:1-8 – Some people brought Jesus a paralyzed guy. Jesus looks at the man and says, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” Anticlimactic? Nope, still building. Then Jesus calls out the mumbling religious skeptics in the corner and tells the guy to walk; completely heals the paralytic.
- Matthew 8:1-4 – After his sermon in Matthew 5-7, Jesus is heading down the mount with “great crowds” following him. Along comes this guy with leprosy declaring Jesus’ ability to heal him. The crowd gasps and backs away from the diseased man. In a moment of tense drama Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him,” and cleansed the leper.
- Matthew 8:14-17 – Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever, people notice, and well into the evening Jesus proceeds with little more than words to heal the deaf and the dumb and demon possessed; to take away illnesses and bear diseases.
- Matthew 9:18-26 – A local ruler came and knelt before Jesus and pleaded with him: “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus went and, though hindered momentarily by a bleeding woman whom he also healed, attended the girl, “took her by the hand, and the girl arose” from the dead.
Town by town Jesus went, “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people,” showing and telling the good news of the Kingdom of God…and folks didn’t miss it. They heard and they saw every bit of it. Particularly his disciples, who, in chapter 10, he sends out to do the very thing – showing and telling – that he’d been doing. But Jesus’ disciples weren’t the only disciples listening in and looking on.
In Matthew 11 there is an occasion that we have probably missed a hundred times, but we oughtn’t miss again. After Jesus’ disciples launch out on their show and tell missions, along come the disciples of John the Baptizer. John hasn’t been doing much baptizing. In fact, he’s been in prison and he’s eager to be confirmed in his pursuit of hope in Jesus as Messiah. And the thing of it is, that is exactly what many people in our present day culture are longing for; some kind of confirmation on who Jesus is. He’s not a secret anymore. But apparently He’s a mystery. And either folks are wrong or they are right in their suspicions of him, but their imprisonment of conscience is crippling them and they’re looking and listening for something that might help them in their pursuit of some hope. They’re looking at and listening to Christians like me…
So John sent his disciples to Jesus to find out if Jesus is in fact the “one who is to come” or if they ought to keep their eye out for someone else. And do you know what Jesus tells them? You’re going to flip when you see this. I did when I first saw it. He turns John’s disciples around. Tucks them under his arm, pulls them in like old pals so they can hear his hushed tone and points down the long dusty road: “Go and tell John what you hear and see…” (11:4). HA! Don’t you love that?! That’s it, really. Go and give a report on show and tell time.
“You guys head back to my good friend and cousin and, you remember all those things I said and did that you met with wide-eyed wonder and sincere impression, like kindergartener’s at show and tell time, well you give him a report of it all – everything I’ve done in you and everything I’ve done around you. You tell him all about the Kingdom of God I proclaimed on the mountain top. You tell him ‘the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up.’ And you tell him that he is richly blessed if he is not offended by me, but rather is impressed – pressed in or imprinted upon or lastingly stamped – by me.” (Matthew 11:4-6; in my own words)
And so maybe I don’t have to go to my son’s kindergarten class to take notes on show and tell time. Maybe instead I need to be more attentive to all the things Jesus has said and done; listen more curiously and watch more carefully to all He does in me and around me that floors me with wide-eyed wonder and sincere impression…and then report back to people I meet. I wonder then if they’d be impressed – pressed in or imprinted upon or lastingly stamped – by my Savior and Lord, Jesus Messiah, maybe ever unto giving a show and tell report themselves.