Steve was a house painter from England vacationing at a beach in the Philippines with his family. I happened to be staying at the same resort. One day during a conversation that began to turn toward spiritual things, Steve said, "I've talked to numerous religious leaders but they've never been able to answer my questions satisfactorily. So I've given up on religion and am trying to live a good life."
"What were your questions?" I asked.
"The main one is, why is the world so unfair? Why is there pain and suffering and why doesn't God, if there is a God, do something about it?"
"Could I have a go at sharing something I've learned about these things using a story from the Bible?" I asked.
"I don't believe the Bible."
"That's no problem. I hope you'll find the story helpful anyway."
We started with Genesis 1 and God's intentions for his world. The story concluded, "Then God said, 'Let us make people in our image. He made a man out of the dust of the earth and God breathed his spirit into the man. So Adam became a living being. Later God put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs and made a wife, Eve, for him. God said, 'Rule over the animals … multiply and fill the earth.' Finally God looked at everything he had made and blessed it. He said, 'It is very good.' On the seventh day God rested from his work because he had completed the work of creation."
Soon Steve's two children and his son's girlfriend casually drifted over to listen. I filled them in on the story so far and continued by explaining the beginning of pain and trouble in the world from Genesis 3. I mentioned the story's strange hint of hope when God says to Adam and Eve, "The snake and the descendants of the woman will be at war. The snake will strike her descendant's heel, but one day a descendent will crush the head of the snake."
During the discussion one of my listeners said, "I know you're going to say that Jesus is the one coming to crush the snake's head, but how will he do it?"
"Can I tell you a few more stories before Jesus?" I replied. "That will make everything clearer."
So we continued on through the stories of Abraham, the exodus and the rest of the Old Testament. Each story set up the one that followed it so my audience would understand the nature of the human problem and how desperately we needed a Savior. My listeners peppered me with questions, and we discussed them one by one. Most often I asked them a question in return, and they found themselves answering their own questions based on what they'd already learned. Sometimes I said, "That will be answered in an upcoming story."
Finally, after about an hour, we reached the end of the Old Testament. "Come on," they begged. "Don't leave us in suspense. Tell us how Jesus saves!"
Outside our open-air dining room, the beach beckoned. It was a perfect day for snorkeling, and this family had come from winter-bound England to play in the sun. Their holiday was almost finished—but today the beach might as well not have existed.
We continued through Jesus' birth and ministry. Finally we reached his death and resurrection. "Do you remember what the temple curtain in the Old Testament symbolized?" I asked.
"The separation between God and people," said one.
"What was the only way people could be forgiven and continue to be friends with God?"
"A representative had to prepare himself carefully and then kill a perfect sacrifice and take its blood through the curtain," another responded.
"So what did it mean when the temple curtain split from top to bottom just when Jesus died?"