“Un peso? Un peso?” Flashing an impish grin, Isabela pushed through the crowd of tourists. A tall man with shockingly white legs dropped a coin in the girl’s hands. She darted to the next likely-looking person. “Un peso?”
The tourists thinned and Isabela grinned. It was a holiday and people were feeling generous. Leaning sleepily against a wall, Isabela eyed the Cathedral across the way as a stream of people poured out from the Easter service. It would be cool inside.
She felt shy as she pulled open the big doors. The dim interior of the church was indeed cool, and oh, so beautiful! She didn’t enter often, for somehow the huge church made her feel small and inferior.
Isabela stared at a grotesque statue of a man hanging on wooden poles, held only by cruel nails pierced into his hands and feet. Isabela had never liked looking at that man; but he was in every room of the church, and she suddenly felt curious.
“May I help you, niña?” Isabela jumped and turned to find a priest smiling at her.
She pointed to the ugly statue. “¿Quién es eso hombre?” she asked. “Who is that man?”
The priest didn’t seem at all shocked by her ignorance. “Jesus was the Son of God. God came to earth as a man, Jesus. He taught people about God and did many miracles.” The priest smiled down at her. “Jesus was a perfect man.”
Isabela frowned. “What happened?”
The priest thought for a minute. “People didn’t like it that Jesus was so good. It made them feel they were bad. And they thought a man shouldn’t claim to be the Son of God. So they killed Him.”
Isabela felt sick.
Glancing at his watch, the priest held out a small version of the statue. “I have to go. But this crucifix will remind you of Jesus. When you see it, remember how good Jesus was and try to be good like Him.”
“Gracias,” she whispered.
Pushing open the doors, Isabela found a place in the shade, sitting cross-legged to study the crucifix. Isabela knew she wasn’t good. Why, just yesterday she had stolen a papaya!
“Do you know that Man?” Isabela jumped at the unexpected voice and turned to find a woman pointing at the crucifix and smiling pleasantly.
“The priest said it was Jesus,” Isabela answered shyly. She frowned. “I don’t think they should’ve killed Him.”
“You know, the whole reason God sent His Son here was so He could die.”
Isabela was shocked. “God wanted Him to die?”
“Have you ever done anything bad?” Startled at the sudden change of subject, Isabela edged away. Maybe this woman had seen her steal the fruit yesterday!
But the lady continued, “We’ve all done bad things. But God is holy and perfect. And God says that if you do bad things the punishment is death. You must go to hell.”
Isabela sat up straight. She didn’t want to go to hell!
“But God loves us. So you know what He did?” The lady looked at her expectantly. “He sent Jesus to die instead of us!”
Isabela was confused, so the lady explained, “Say, you stole something.”
So it was a ploy! Isabela stood up, but the lady laid a gentle hand on her arm. “What if the owner of the shop caught you and yelled that you had to pay? If you didn’t, you would go to jail. But you didn’t have any money.”
Isabela looked down.
“But what if I said that I would pay?” The lady’s eyes twinkled. “That’s kind of what Jesus did. He died for us. But the best part is that Jesus rose again! He came back alive and conquered death. Now we can go to heaven! In fact, today is Easter. This is a day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead.”
Isabela looked at the crucifix with new wonder.
Reaching behind her head, the lady slipped her necklace off. “See, on this cross Jesus has risen from the dead. You can have this to remind you that He’s not dead anymore like that,” she pointed to the crucifix, “but is alive so you can go to heaven with Him and be friends with Him here on earth! All you have to do is believe Him and ask Him to forgive your sins and then follow Him.”
Isabela studied the cross. She grinned. Now she knew who Jesus was--and He knew who she was, too!
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