The great irony of children’s literature is that the simplest stories often convey the most complex ideas. Without a doubt, the world’s most compelling philosophy is found, not on the professor’s bookshelf, but in the children’s section of the local library. As every adult quickly recognizes, Dr. Seuss is about more than mind-boggling rhythm and rhyme and Richard Scarry’s Busytown has its finger on the pulse of the human condition. Children’s books are not afraid to tackle existential angst. In The Velveteen Rabbit, nursery room toys ponder what it means to be “real.”
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
In a world where masks are common and authenticity is rare, the wisdom of the Skin Horse is powerful. We often view our heroes and role models through idealized caricature. Yet, as they take on a mythic quality, they become more irrelevant and less real. The mythic figure may influence, but the one who is real makes us who we are.
This is especially true when it comes to the Bible. There is a subtle temptation to mythologize its stories, particularly the stories of Jesus. When we consider the stories of Jesus’ nativity only at the holidays, it is easy to conceive of Jesus as just another character in a seasonal story or as an ideal, allegorical man. But just as the Bible contends that Jesus was fully God, it contends that he was fully man – a real man, flesh and blood, body and soul. Real in every sense of the word. He passed through every experience and temptation of human life, except sin. That fact that He is real makes us who we are. The author of Hebrews writes.
Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:16-17
The Heidelberg Catechism, a time-tested set of questions and answers drawn from Scripture to teach the basics of the Christian faith, goes even further, pointing beyond the fact or Jesus’ humanity to the necessity of it.
Q16. Why must [Our Redeemer] be a true and sinless man?
Because the justice of God requires, that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin; but no man, being himself a sinner, could satisfy for others
Join us this Sunday, December 1 as we examine Hebrews 2:10-18 and consider the necessity of Jesus being a real man. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.