In youth group last week, we got sidetracked into a discussion on why the wealthy and powerful people were out to get Jesus.
This was happening in the Sunday School room after church, and the feltboard pieces from Sunday School were still on the board. We'd done the story of the Sermon on the Mount, so Jesus was in the centre, surrounded by Disciples and the Crowd, and with the devil in the upper right-hand corner.
"Well," I said, "look at all those people around him. The people were following him and listening to what he said. And the wealthy and powerful people were afraid he was going to take away their power."
"So," said Ted, "if all those people were around him, and supporting him ... how come the soldiers were able to arrest him? Couldn't he have just raised an army and fought back?"
"Well," I replied, "two things. One, that's not the type of power he was talking about - if he'd done that, he might have killed a few Romans, might have ended up as a footnote in a history book. But the power of dying and rising again defeated death itself. Two -" and here I swept all the figures off the board except for Jesus, the devil, Mary Magdalene, and John the Evangelist, "when it got tough, and really dangerous, most of these people abandoned him. Yeah, it's easy to follow a person, to listen to what they're saying ... but if you had to DIE for it ... well, that's a harder thing to ask, isn't it?"
Earlier, most of these kids had been in Sunday School, where the Sermon on the Mount, with some prodding from me, had turned into a discussion of when it is and isn't acceptable to meet force with force. The kids generally agreed that in the case of Hitler, force was necessary but weren't sure about other times. They wanted to know how Hitler had become bad, and why he did what he did. One said it was because he wanted money and power. One said it was because Germany had been so humiliated in the Treaty of Versailles it made him mad. One said that part of him was good because he was so talented and charismatic at leading people - I asked "what would have happened if he'd used those talents for good instead of evil?"
Then the 5-year-olds started getting bored, and we were running out of time, so I'd had to cut the conversation short. But it was clear in youth group later, they were still thinking of these sorts of questions.