Greetings, all! This is a short story I wrote for the Easter season. For those who haven't already read it, I hope you enjoy!
“Don’t breathe on it!”
“’Cuz you’ll kill it.”
Tabitha lowered her head closer to the top of the glass dish and nudged him aside with her shoulder. “Will, too.”
“Who says?” Adam frowned at his sister and leaned back in, vying for position over the corner of the tiled garden table.
She rolled her eyes. “Everybody knows that.”
The twins peered at the square of pink sponge lying in a puddle of water at the bottom of the dish. The morning sun filtered in through gaps in the lace curtain scrim, splaying a swirling pattern of angles and lines across the pockmarked rubber surface. A thin ray of sunlight glowed pale off a single bean seed lying naked at the center of the sponge.
Adam squinted at the tiny kernel. “See anything?”
“No.” Tabitha pouted and leaned back from the dish. “I don’t think it’s gonna work.”
It had been two whole days—two whole days, mind you—since their mother helped her six-year olds with the project. It was a simple task: a glass saucer, a small piece of sponge cut with the kitchen shears (Tabitha got to do that part) and one seed from the pocket of a paper package mother kept next to her cloth gloves on the table shelf. Adam tipped the measuring cup over the edge of the saucer and they watched the sponge grow and darken as the water wound its way through the fibers toward the top.
“I get to put the seed on!”
“Mommy said I could!” Tabitha threw an anxious look up at her mother.
Rachel smiled. “You both can. Adam, you dip the bean in the water on the bottom of the saucer to get it wet, and then give it to your sister. Tabitha, you can put it on the sponge.”
With the greatest care—and more time than he really needed to take—her young son lowered the dry seed into the puddle and rolled it around until it was drenched. Then he rolled it around some more. Then—
“Adam, that’s enough. Give the bean to Tabitha, dear.” Rachel raised her eyebrow, but the smile remained. “Good boy."
Her daughter laid the seed gently on the saturated sponge and turned it around twice, just to get it right.
“That’s all?” Adam looked up at his mother.
“That’s all. Now we wait.”
Tabitha looked skeptically at the soggy brown bean. “How long?”
“God will decide that. We’ll keep watch together, okay?” Their mother hugged them both around the shoulders and rose to prepare dinner. The twins sighed and, after inspecting the seed one more time, scrambled to their feet and ran off to play.
Two days. Still nothing.
“I think God forgot.” Adam propped his elbows onto the low table and rested his head in his hands.
Tabitha frowned. “I think it’s dead. You probably drowned it in the water.”
“Did not.” Adam creased his brow. “Poppa says seeds have to die before they can start a new plant.”
“That’s silly. If it’s dead, how can it come back to life?” His sister shook her head.
Adam pouted. “I don’t know, but that’s what he said. Ask him!”
“Ask me what?” Josh squatted down behind his children and peered over their shoulders at the pale bean.
“Poppa, Adam said seeds have to die before they can make a new plant.” Tabitha crawled onto her father’s knee as he settled to the floor. Adam squirmed onto his other knee.
“That’s true, sweetheart. Did you know that Jesus said that once, too?” Josh stroked his daughter’s hair. “He spoke of a grain of wheat falling to the ground where it would die. Only if it did that would it produce much, much more wheat.”
“Why would he say something like that?” Tabitha laid her head against her father’s chest and stared at the lonely bean through the side of the glass dish.
“He was talking about himself. It was nearly time for him to die, to give his life so that many, many more men would live.”
Adam frowned. “I don’t like that he died.”
“Ah, but he had to, son.” Josh smiled and mussed his son’s hair. “Just like the grain must die to give life to more stalks of wheat, if he hadn’t died, none of us would have any chance at life, the true life that God wants us to have. Jesus’ death meant our life. It was meant to be. It was God’s plan.”
Tabitha raised her head. “Why would God plan something like that?”
Josh’s eyes went distant. “Many, many years before Jesus came, God made a rule. He said, ‘unless blood is shed—or, unless something or someone dies—sin can’t be taken away.’”
“What’s sin, Poppa?”
Josh smiled. “You know what happens if Mommy tells you to clean up your toys and you don’t do it?”
His daughter frowned. “Yes.”
“And you know what she says when you don’t put your dirty clothes in the hamper, even though you know you should?”
Adam pulled at the hairs on his father’s arm and hummed a quiet tune.
“Sin is like that, Tabby.” Josh tipped his daughter’s chin up and looked into her light hazel eyes. “It’s a bad thing we do, something we know God wouldn’t like. It’s also not doing something we should do that we know he would like. When we do those things, we deserve to be punished, too, just like you are when you disobey Mommy.”
“Do you mean God spanks us?”
Josh laughed, but then he grew very serious. “Adam, are you listening, too?”
His son nodded and smoothed the hairs on his father’s arm.
Josh continued. “We sin and that keeps us from ever being able to be with God because God won’t ever allow sin in his presence. Sin is final, and so whatever replaces it must be final.” He wrapped his arms around his children and pulled them close. “Spanking is not final, because you can always sin again after you stop hurting. Death is the most final thing man knows.”
Adam’s eyes misted. “You mean like when Grandma died?”
“Yes, Adam. Like when Grandma died.” Josh squeezed his son’s shoulder.
Tabitha tugged at her father’s sleeve. “But why Jesus?”
“Because God also made a rule that whatever took away sin by shedding it’s blood—or dying—must be perfect, that there would be nothing wrong with it. Back when he made the rule, they chose animals that were perfectly formed, that showed nothing wrong on the outside, to take away sin. But that only took away their sin until they sinned again. It wasn’t forever.” Josh brushed an errant wisp of auburn hair from his daughter’s forehead.
Adam craned his neck up and looked at his father’s face upside-down. “And Jesus took sin away forever when he died?”
Josh grinned at his son. “Exactly, son! Jesus was forever perfect, and so his death was a forever cure for our sins. He gave up his perfect life to do just that, in obedience to his father in heaven.”
Tabitha cocked her head. “For everybody?”
“For everybody who would believe, Tabby.” Josh kissed her lightly on the forehead.
Adam wrinkled his brow. “Why wouldn’t everybody believe? It’s so easy.”
“It’s not as easy as you might think, sweetheart.” Rachel kneeled on the floor beside her husband and stroked the hair over the nape of his neck with her fingertips.
She pursed her lips. “Pride, mostly. We like to think we know more than God does, or that we don’t need God’s help—that we can do it all by ourselves. But we’ve never been able to be perfect, not in the whole history of man. So, some have changed the rules and decided you just have to be ‘good enough’.”
“How good is that?”
Josh winked. “That’s the problem, son. If we just had to be good enough, we’d never know what good enough was. How would we ever know whether we’ve done just one too many things wrong—sinned just one too many times? That’s a scary thing to think about when it comes time to stand before God and account for our lives. It’s his heaven and he decides who stays and who doesn’t. Not we.”
Tabitha frowned. “So God didn’t change the rule, then?”
Josh shook his head. “No, sweetie, he didn’t. He hasn’t changed his mind about a thing.”
Wordless moments passed. The only sound breaking the stillness was the tick-tick of the cat clock over the stove. Rachel leaned her head against her husband’s and kissed him through his mop of curly brown hair.
Adam shifted on his father’s lap. “So, Jesus died, then. I thought we were going to see him in heaven.”
Rachel smiled. “We will, Adam. You see, Jesus didn’t stay dead. God brought him back to life on the third day after he died. He lives in heaven where we will see him when we die. That’s what he meant by the seed must die to bring forth life. He came back to life on Easter and he will bring many more—those who have believed—to life in him when he decides it’s time. We call that ‘resurrection’.”
Tabitha swung her head up toward her mother. “Hey, this is the third day since we planted the bean. Maybe it will come back to life—“
“You mean like that?” His family’s eyes followed Adam’s gaze to the little glass dish glistening in the fading sunlight of the late afternoon.
Sometime during their conversation, the minute seed had split at the top. Peeking through the thin veneer was a pure green sprout arcing to free itself from the seed’s cramped womb.
“Yes, son. Like that.”