Jesus and the Lions’ Den by Alison Mitchell & Catalina Echeverri – A Review
Jesus and the what?!
You could be forgiven for misreading the title of this new children’s book from dynamic duo, Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri! Is it a misprint? Or maybe like one of my favourite bands, Noah and the Whale, it’s some attempt at a quirky mix up?
No, actually Jesus and the Lion’s Den is entirely intentional and entirely revealing. That said, it’s not something I think I’ve ever seen before in a children’s book…
Preaching Christ from the Old Testament
From my limited perspective the recovery of a Christ-centred view of the Old Testament has been something that seems to have gradually gained momentum over the last 20 or so years. I don’t mean to say that before that point no one thought about how the whole of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ, but I think there has been a sense in which the contemporary Western church had lost sight of that perspective (and to some extent still has).
Many churches – and ministers – seem nervous or unsure about the Old Testament. There’s a lack of confidence to preach it and a seeming lack of understanding about how to preach it in a way that engages with it as Christian Scripture, i.e. pointing forward to Jesus Christ.
The likes of Graeme Goldsworthy – and Vaughan Roberts’ God’s Big Picture (itself explicitly indebted to Goldsworthy) has done a great service in showing how the Old Testament and New Testament should be read as one story, centred on Jesus Christ. This is often called ‘biblical theology’; in other words, doing our theology through the lens of the Bible as a unified book, driving us to Jesus Christ.
I’ve written more about the importance of this here: Why Our Attempts at Solving Biblical Illiteracy Must Move Beyond Telling More Bible Stories
Teaching Children the One Big Story
When it comes to children’s literature, there have been a number of helpful attempts to capture this at the level of the Bible as one story. For example, Sally Lloyd Jones’s Jesus Storybook Bible (with it’s brilliant repeated refrain, ‘Every story whispers his name’), or David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible.
(By the way, for a fascinating article on Children’s Bible’s read this: Telling the Story from the Bible? How Story Bibles Works: by David Shaw).
However, it’s more unusual to find this in children’s books that focus in on particular Old Testament stories. Enter ‘Jesus in the Lion’s Den’!
More than Daring to Be a Daniel
This book tells the story of Old Testament ‘hero’ Daniel, and in particular his well-known act of obedient faithfulness to God that saw him thrown into a lions’ den in Babylon, before being rescued and vindicated by God. It’s a popular story in church kids’ groups the world over – and it’s the subject of much Christian artwork, many sermon series, and no doubt a plethora of ‘Dare to be a Daniel’-esque preach-able soundbites.
But where this book is different is that it seeks to show how we shouldn’t just stop at Daniel. Even this portion of the Old Testament can magnify and point to Jesus Christ.
Looking for the Jesus Moments
And so the book begins by first telling us that the Old Testament is full of ‘clues’. This is where the genius of the book really lies. Using Catalina Echeverri’s brilliant illustrations, we are told to look for bright lion’s head symbols, which are clues indicating a ‘Jesus moment’. My kids (nearly 6, 4, 2.5 ) loved looking out for these as we went through the story, told with Alison Mitchell’s trademark turn of phrase.
But after we get to what we expect to be ‘the end’, we’re then asked whether we spotted the ‘Jesus moments’. One by one, we walk back through the scenes of the story and consider how each moment points to Jesus. My oldest enjoyed trying to work out for herself how each moment pointed us forward to Jesus. And so children – and adults – are helped to see how the Old Testament is full of ‘Jesus moments’, hinting, shadowing, longing for Jesus, God’s promised king.
It’s a profoundly simple idea. Profound because it models something that is so theologically rich. Simple because it gives you a tool that you can then use when reading any other part of the Old Testament.
The combination of the two is just genius and gives an approach to helping children – and adults – engage with the Old Testament that inspires wonder and enthusiasm in place of dread or ignorance. ‘Jesus moments’ is one of those things that you just can’t ‘un-see’. It’s given us a framework to have some fun conversations with our oldest child as we’ve talked about other bits of the Old Testament and looked for those ‘Jesus moments’. As such, this beautifully illustrated and delightfully told book is a real theological gift to all the church.
To hear Alison & Catalina talk more about the book, why not listen to this episode of the Good Book Company podcast.
And here’s a teaser trailer of the book:
You can pick up a copy of Jesus and the Lion’s Den here.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review.