We are holding Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week and last night there was a very special moment near the conclusion of the session. There was a skit that featured a song in which the most prominent line is the refrain "Come to Jesus." As the song began Jesus came walking down the center aisle of the sanctuary.
Okay, it wasn't really Jesus. It was a man named Rick portraying Jesus. He has long hair and he let his beard grow out for the skit so he looked much like popular portraits of Jesus. Rick also wore a costume like Jesus might have worn. He really looked the part.
The skit was included in our VBS material and it featured "Jesus" hugging and helping various people who were previously selected to come forward as recorded singers continued singing "Come to Jesus." That's the way it was supposed to happen, but things didn't quite work out as planned.
As "Jesus" came down the aisle many of the children could be heard whispering loudly. "It's Jesus!" When people began coming forward and getting hugs from "Jesus" several children who were not part of the script also went to receive hugs from him. Rick handled this very well, staying in character he hugged all comers.
When the program was over Rick was still in costume and he and I were talking at the back of the sanctuary away from the children. But a crowd of kids came and huddled around him asking many questions. They wanted to know if Rick was really Jesus. Again Rick handled the situation with Spirit-led ease. He explained the he was not Jesus but that Jesus was with them all the time. The children wanted to know if his long hair was real and Rick let them tug on it.
Perhaps the highlight of the experience was an energetic little girl named Chloe who is three years old. When her father arrived to pick her up, Chloe just about dragged him into the sanctuary repeating over and over, "Daddy you've got to come and see!" The confused father went with her.
While her father stood near one side of the sanctuary, Chloe ran toward "Jesus" who was now front and center of the sanctuary chatting with some folks. "Jesus" looked at Chloe as she rushed toward him and she motioned toward her father and said, "This is my Daddy!"
Rick smiled and said, "What's your Daddy's name?"
"Daddy." Chloe responded and we all chuckled. Then, still looking at Jesus, Chloe said, "Give him a hug."
Rick said, "Sure." Then he walked toward the man with his arms spread and the two met in an embrace at the front of the sanctuary. Chloe looked very pleased and there were numerous damp eyes around.
Later Rick said that he is going to have to be extra careful about his behavior whenever he is out and about because some of those kids might be around looking at him like he is Jesus.
Tonight VBS workers were still abuzz about the skit and the response of the children, especially Chloe. I started thinking what it would be like if Jesus really did show up like that and I got a chance to hug him and be hugged by him. Joy and thankfulness began to well up inside me and I realized that I really do love Jesus. Sure I have loved Jesus for a long time and I have tried to encourage others to love him too. But Rick and Chloe and some other children who spontaneously rushed to "Jesus" helped me to grasp my own love for Jesus just a little more deeply and for that I am very grateful.