Sunday School Lesson – “Zacchaeus Meets Jesus” Luke 19:1-10

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 19:1-10 (KJV, Public Domain)

Can wealth make you happy?  Many people seem to think so.  They pursue it as if this will be the answer to all their troubles.  While money in and of itself isn’t bad, one’s attitude toward it can be.  If it becomes the main focus of life and is managing you more than you are managing it, then it’s a possibility that there’s a problem.

The fact is many people every day look at money, prestige, titles and the like as a gold access card to carry them through life; depending on it to be there to fill every need imaginable.  For some, it may not be money rather it may be certain people and vices that have this hold on them.  But, when the truth of it all boils down to nothing, often the pursuer of such things still find they have an unanswered void that remains in their life.

Material things and people can only take you so far in life.  Not until we meet Jesus face to face; not until we see Him for who He is in our own lives and depend on Him for salvation and to fill that void, do we find the peace and rest that our souls so desire.

Zacchaeus was such a man in today’s lesson.  He had money.  He had a title.  But his life was not all that it cracked up to be.  On the outside, it may appear that he had everything going for him.  But, on the inside, there was something still missing; something that drew him to want to be where Jesus was on that day of their meeting.

No matter how bad a sinner someone is considered to be, or the negative way people view them when they meet Jesus with a surrendered heart, their life can be changed.

Lesson Summary

Luke 19:1-4 “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.”

Being a “publican” (tax collector) is a title that left an awful aftertaste in the mouth of the ancient Jewish people.  Due to their role in extorting monies from their fellow countrymen and working side by side with the occupying forces of the enemy Romans, this made them especially despised in the eyes of their own people.  And, he who would dare to be considered “chief” among these could be looked on possibly as a chief sinner as well.  His sins against his people were even greater considering he most likely came to that position through bidding with the enemy for the right to tax his own people and to hold back monies for himself adding to his “rich” status.

Yet, it is the same man such as the one described above who hears of Jesus coming to town and wants to get a better view of Him.  The Bible doesn’t specify his cause for wanting to be near to Jesus when He comes, but the fact that he went through great lengths to gain a bird’s eye view is nothing to sneeze at.  Something (as we say, but know it had to have been the Lord), was working on the inside to draw this man closer to where the Savior would be for a divinely appointed encounter that would change his life forever.

“He sought to see Jesus who he was.”  At this point in His ministry, Jesus is coming to the end of His course on this earth.  By now many people in many cities have seen or at the very least heard of this man who teaches with such power and authority; a man who raises the dead and opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.  Some identified Him as a man who restores the lepers to a whole state and frees people from spiritual bondage.  Some thought of Him as John the Baptist come back to life or Elijah or one of the prophets (see Mark 8:28).  Very few saw Him for who He really was – the “Christ,” the Son of God (see Mark 8:29), who came with a divine mission to save mankind from his sins.

With such a reputation preceding Him it is not surprising that when He comes to town people want to clamor to at least get a glimpse of Him to see “who he was,” even this publican.  Was it mere curiosity or was there something more going on in the heart of Zacchaeus?  We may never know what started his pursuit to be near Jesus, but we are sure told how the story ends – and that, my friends, is the best and most important part of it all.

With the crowds forming Zacchaeus’ size posed a problem in his desire to see Jesus better.  It is recorded that he was “little of stature,” meaning he was shorter than the average males present there.  We are not told exactly how tall he was, but it had to have been significant to point out as a hindrance to see Jesus.

With that, “he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.”  Although I am a girl, climbing trees used to be one of my favorite things to do as a child.  I mean, literally, almost every day we were climbing trees.  We would pretend this tree was my house and that one was yours and so on.  Oh, for the imagination of youth…

Yet, it was not imagination that drove Zacchaeus, but a real-life desire.  Determined to not let anyone or anything get in his way, in the most undignified fashion imaginable for a grown man who had the status of “chief publican”, he acted as a school-aged boy and climbed a tree just to see Jesus.

What lengths do we go through to be near Jesus?  Our western culture offers us opportunities that others may not be privileged to, and yet how do we use our unrestricted access of the Lord?  Perhaps if we were forced into hiding just to worship, we would understand the simple desire to climb a tree to see Jesus.

A clear vision of Jesus, no matter where we find ourselves in life, is imperative to our Christian faith.  It requires determination and commitment to be where He is.  The question is, “How bad do you want Him?”

Zacchaeus didn’t know Jesus personally, yet, but from what he heard he, a sinner, had a made-up mind to find out more, even if it meant suffering the scoffing of others.  Not caring what they thought, he mounted the “sycomore tree” branches that went out some, giving him the perfect place to perch himself for a better vantage point to see Jesus.

Luke 19:5-6 “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.  And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”

Jesus has always had an amazing focus for people.  He had a perspective of souls that others couldn’t possibly see on the outside.  When they looked at Zacchaeus all they saw was his sins and with condemning attitudes brushed him off as not being worthy of their time.  After all, he consorted with the enemy, so why should they.

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t see him or us that way.  Outward markers that try to identify us are not what He’s most concerned with.  I have always said that He is more interested in what goes on inside.  Jesus pays attention to the needs of the inner man that the whole man might be saved.  Inside every real person is a real soul that needs to be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.

What would it have been like to be the most unwelcome guest at the party, but the honoree comes along to point you out and elevate you above all others in attendance?  Sweet!   This is something akin to the way I believe Zacchaeus must have felt when, despite the crowds of “worthy” people in the press, Jesus centered on him alone, saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”

I love this because it really personifies what Jesus taught when He told the parable of the lost sheep saying, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” (Luke 15:4).  This was a picture of Jesus caring enough about each individual to go after that one soul.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus cares about you personally.

It was simply unheard of for a rabbi or a holy man to go to the house of a sinner such as him.  Being the Savior that He was, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of other’s opinions in a desire to draw people closer to Himself.  This was not the first time His actions upended other’s views.  Earlier, explaining His choice to eat with sinners, Jesus taught, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick,” (Luke 5:31).  Jesus was not, and has never, and never will entertain sin.  Please get that right.  However, Jesus knows that people from all manner of life need a Savior regardless of how the rest of the world views them.

Sticking to His guns, as we would dub it modern terminology, Jesus invites Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.  Zacchaeus surely knows how people viewed him.  He probably would have never thought to ask Jesus to come but Jesus has opened the door and called to him out of the crowds.  Quickly he came down from that tree and “received him joyfully.”

He had something to be happy about.  Jesus chose to be with him out of everyone else.  The world had written him off as a no good, no good.  But, not Jesus.  There’s a phrase that most are familiar with called “carpe diem,” which many interpret as “seize the day.”  It means don’t let this moment go by.  Take hold of what is presented before you before it slips through your fingers.  It may never come around again.  He must take a step of faith now.

Zacchaeus saw Jesus before him.  Zacchaeus received Jesus’ beckoning to allow Him to come to his house.  There are a lot of spiritual underlying references here.  The Bible tells us to “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near,” (Isaiah 55:6).  The time is now.  The day is at hand.  For anyone who wants to be saved, tomorrow is not promised.  When Jesus knocks at the door of your heart, right now is the time to open it and let Him in; to receive Him joyfully.

The Bible also lets us know, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (John 1:12).  What would have happened if Zacchaeus would have denied Jesus’ request?  Little did he know that Jesus was making His way closer to the cross to be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind past, present, and future.  Jesus would not come through here again.  This was the time to receive Him.  It was not going to come around once more.  He would have missed out on the best life-altering experience there is.  Don’t let it be said too late.

Luke 19:7 “And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”

The others in the crowd complained when they saw the interaction between Jesus and Zacchaeus.  It is amazing, that despite the grace of God in each individual life, how we can get selfish and nick pick when God wants to do something for someone else.

People talk about what they don’t understand.  God said in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD,” (55:8).  They couldn’t understand why Jesus would want to even talk to the likes of this tax collector, better yet, why He would want to go to his house.  They couldn’t understand that Jesus looks beyond what people are right now and sees what they can become.  They couldn’t comprehend that love, grace, and mercy were at work there that day and every day to any and all who would receive Him joyfully. He might be classified as a “sinner” right now, but before this event is over with, he shall be called a child of God.

Luke 19:8-10 “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

A changed heart is reflected by changed actions.  What people witness in your life will resound more than the words that are coming out of your mouth.  Something remarkable transpired there that day between Zacchaeus and Jesus.  We don’t know exactly what, but at the end of the day, Zacchaeus was a new man.  The art of greed and getting over on people to make a quick buck were no longer his priorities.  His priority now was living right before the Lord.  And with that, he seeks to pay back some of the wrongs he has committed toward his fellow man.

He offers, of his own accord, to give half of his goods to the poor.  This was not something that was required but wholly testifies to the new nature his heart has undergone.  You can never be saved by your works, but faith without works is dead (James 2:17,20,26).  What has transpired on the inside should be made manifest on the outside.

For this man, who gained his wealth by stealing and extortion, sought means along those same lines to recompense his wrongdoings.  Therefore, anything he had taken from any person through the means of “false accusation” Zacchaeus promised to “restore him fourfold.”  He was ready, and his heart was in proper position, to go above and beyond what was necessary to work to undo some of the wrongs he had done.  

Jesus, the true teller of a true heart transformation proclaims, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”  True repentance is an inside job.  Faith is personal and Jesus knew, not from his giving, but because He is the only one who can see where man can’t, that this man is a new creature with a new nature.  Jesus knows this man is fit for salvation, and as Zacchaeus received Him with joy into his home, Jesus gladly welcomes this repentant man into the family of faith.

Isaiah tells us, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” (55:7).  And, this is what we see play out in Zacchaeus’ story.

God has from the beginning always sought the side of pardon.  Man has often gone in the opposite direction.  But, when one wants to make that spiritual U-turn in life and gets back on the right path where He is, God does not reject him.  God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9).  And, “He that believeth on him is not condemned,” (John 3:18).

The murmurers and complainers had condemned him already, but Jesus saw more.  He was still a child of promise, the seed of Abraham (compare to those of us who are now in Christ, who through faith are now the seed of Abraham as well – see Galatians 3:7,16,26), just as they were, and if he was truly repentant, he deserved another chance. Earlier Jesus taught, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” (Matthew 9:13; compare to Paul’s personal testimony in 1 Tim. 1:15).  And, judging by Zacchaeus’ outcome, I’d say, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Changed hearts and changed lives are what Jesus’ ministry is all about.  He didn’t wash His hands of him and consider him out of the game.  Rather, He sought for that lost soul, stating, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

Jesus’ life was marked with the undeniable cause to save men from their sins; to redeem a people unto God.  The ministry that He operated in would heal; bring peace and deliverance, eventually fulfilling all through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross.  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” (John 3:17; see also 1 John 4:14).

Conclusion

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”  Zacchaeus joyfully received Jesus with faith.  Will you?

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Zacchaeus Meets Jesus

Suggested Activities:

Object Lesson: “Gum and Money Object Lesson” video 

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Jesus Christ is a Personal Savior

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Jesus Christ is a Personal Savior

Blank Journal Pages:  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Word Search: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Word Search  Answers: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Word Search Answers

Crossword: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Crossword  Answers: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Word Scramble  Answers: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Memory Verse

How Many Words: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus How Many Words

“A Little Man with a Big Problem”

“Tree Paper Craft”

“Jesus and Zacchaeus Bible Lesson”

“Zacchaeus is Found”

“Zacchaeus Come Down”

 

 

Advertisements

Sunday School Lesson – “Parable of the Great Banquet” Luke 14:15-24

Photo: Pixabay/FotografielLink

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 14:15-24 (KJV, Public Domain)

15) “And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

16) Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17)  And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

18) And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

19) And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20) And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21) So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22) And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23) And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24) For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Introduction

“We Request Your Presence,” “You’re Invited,” “Let’s Party,” and “Join Us” are just some of the ways an invitation may express that you are welcomed to come to this special event.  Not everybody is allowed, but you are because you received an invitation.

That’s the wonderful thing about invitations, they make you feel special because the event you were invited to is special.  Once one responds with an affirmative answer that they will be there, the host of the event can start preparing for the number of people who promised and are expected to be in attendance.

But then the day arrives and those who said they would be there, aren’t.  Rather, excuses are made to why each couldn’t follow through on their commitment to the invitation that was given, how is the host supposed to respond or feel about this sudden change of plans?

You see, excuses are exactly that, excuses.  Barring any valid emergency or tragic calamity, most excuses are just reasons that people make up for not doing something they don’t want to do.  Although they obligated themselves to be there, now they wish they didn’t, and want to be excused.

How many today is allowing their eternity to hang on the hinges of excuses?  They have a lot of reasons why they can’t respond to God’s heavenly invitation through our Lord Jesus Christ, but eventually, the day will come, and that heavenly celebration will begin.  All those who refused the invitation will not even get a taste of what it will be like at that glorious time in that heavenly feast.

Eventually, the time of all excuses will run out.

Lesson Summary

Leading up to today’s lesson text, Jesus finds Himself dining at the house of a certain chief Pharisee (Luke 14:1) on the Sabbath, where His actions were under a microscope (especially in regard to healing on the Sabbath – see Luke 14:2-5), as this was usually the case when He was in the presence of these men.  They watched Him and looked for their own reasons of why Jesus could be dismissed and disregarded about whom He claimed to be.

It was during this particular dinner when Jesus noticed how ambitiously people sought to sit in the greater seats of notoriety and position.  How they wanted to be noticed and therefore fought to be the ones seated in the “chief rooms” (vs. 7).  From that, He teaches a parable on humility (see vss. 8-11) and who exactly they should invite to a dinner or supper (vss. 12-14) and that anything they do for others, they would be “recompensed at the resurrection of the just,” (vs. 14).

Listening to Jesus’ illustrations about proper dinner etiquette and protocol, one in attendance couldn’t help but wonder and voice his opinion of what it would be liking dining this way with a heavenly perspective, “at the resurrection of the just.”  He said, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”  Did he automatically assume that he, as well as those present at this dinner, were to be shoo-in residents of the “kingdom of God” because of their social status and natural heritage?  Was this why he remarked in such a way?  If that were the case, Jesus would shortly set his thinking straight.

Regardless of his motives for the statement, surely, he was right.  The Bible explains repeatedly the rewards and blessedness of those who are in the kingdom of God.  1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” and Matthew 16:27 tells us, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works,” (in addition to many, many more biblical references).

In other words, that will definitely be a very blessed time for all who are invited to and attend that heavenly feast.

But who exactly will be there?

Using another parable, Jesus explains who it is that will be attending that heavenly feast.  He says, “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.”  There was a great occasion on the horizon and “many” people were invited to come, which meant that this would be a grand affair.

I know you’ve heard the expression, “The more the merrier,” and it’s usually true.  When one is celebrating, they want as many people possible in attendance.  People want these special occasions to be full of fun, full of joy, and full of well-wishers, and that happens when the party is alive with people.

To invite so many meant there were also just as many preparations that had to be made.  After all, a good host wants to make sure that when their guests arrive, there is enough food and places to accommodate everyone.  To slight anyone in this area after they committed to come to your dinner would be wrong.

Therefore, when he originally “bade many,” that can be viewed at the first invitation.  This is the one that would have been sent out plenty of time before the event was to take place.  This is also the one that the proposed guests would have responded to, assuring the host of their commitment to come.

In this parable, after all the necessary preparations had been made according to how many people previously said they would be there, the host sent “his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.”

The day of the grand affair was now upon them.  It was time for the “supper” to begin.  The feast is in order, and now all that is needed is for the people “that were bidden, Come.”  The only thing missing from this glorious event were those who previously received the invitation and promised to be there.  With that, the servant was instructed to go out and collect the guests and let them know it’s time; let them know “all things are now ready.”  The work has been done.  The preparations have been a success.  There is a seat for everyone.  There is enough food and fun for everyone.  It’s time for the celebration to begin and now all we need is you!

Can you sense the excitement in the air the host must have been feeling waiting for that first guest to arrive; that first knock on the door?  But they didn’t show up.  No one who said they would be there was there yet, and he was about to find out why.

“And they all with one consent began to make excuse” (compare Matthew 22:6).  To put it bluntly, they all refused to respond positively to the second invitation that asked them to come because the time was now ready.  Now that, my friends, was a serious social faux pas that had some serious consequences to it.  Illegitimate excuses will take one out of step of what they were designed for or committed for, causing not only insult to the one who was welcoming them in, but it also breeds an opportunity for missed blessings as the latter part of our lesson will tell.

In regard to excuses, especially when dealing with our spiritual walk, the Bible reminds us, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment,” (Matthew 12:36).  Every excuse that flows from our lips will be answered for.

I don’t know the true, inner thoughts and reasoning of these excuses we are getting ready to explore, but regardless of what was behind their motive of not staying committed to the answered invitation, their reasoning was wrong and fell flat on the floor of useless excuses as they all had one mind, “one consent,” that they were not going to attend.

Excuse#1: “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it.”  The purchase of property is expensive, to say the least.  In ancient days, as well as in ours.  And, with the purchase of any property, there are questions that will have to be answered.  Is the land good for building, planting crops, or whatever purpose he was looking for when considering buying that property?  Is it near an area that one can readily reach resources that are needed such as water?  Are there concerns with the property that he needs to be aware such as enemies, animals, thieves, etc.?

These and many more questions would have and should have been answered BEFORE even considering purchasing a piece of property.  The best way to make sure the property has all you need before laying down a sizable amount of money on it is to go and examine it carefully PRIOR to purchase.  To purchase sight unseen is not good business.

But, this man, with his excuse, tried to convince the servant that it is imperative to go and see land and examine it AFTER he already purchased it.  This was a ridiculous concept and the mere thought of it falls flat on the floor of bad excuses as he refused the invitation: “I pray thee have me excused;” please let my poor reasoning be found sufficient in your sight.

Excuse #2: “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them.”  Although in our modern day it is possible to buy a car without actually test driving it, it’s not a concept I’m comfortable with.  Even if the car has everything it says and does everything it advertises, until I get into the driver’s seat to feel the fit of it on me, I won’t really know if it will do.  I need to test drive it first.

The same concept is behind proving the oxen.  This excuse teller is laughably stating that he hasn’t “test driven” his oxen before buying them, so on this day of this auspicious occasion, he must do so right now and cannot come to the affair that he had committed himself to attend.  Thus, he refused the invitation responding as the first, “I pray thee have me excused;” please accept my excuse for standing you up.

Excuse #3: “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”  Now, unless this wedding was an unusually hurried affair, this should not have been a problem.  Just like the feast he is invited to, the groom and the bride would have spent a considerable amount of time planning and preparing for their nuptials.  Ergo, this groom would have been aware of, way in advance, if his impending or new marriage and whether or not it would hinder him from attending a planned event he already committed to.

Again, we must remember, that in each instance given, they already accepted the original invitation which means they knew they would be free from other obligations that may have been a hindrance from attending.  If that were the case, he and they would have or should have responded that they wouldn’t be able to attend this time at the receiving of the first invitation.

Rather than praying to be excused as the first two responded, this third excuse user simply said, “I cannot come.”  He just wasn’t going to do it.

But now the that the time is at hand all of a sudden each has found a “reason” of why they can’t come at the host’s bidding.  Everything mentioned could have been taken care of after the feast and was not a legitimate cause for missing this engagement.

Rather, they let other people and other things became a distraction against their commitment.  These things vied for the attention of the men then, and people every day today and too often they win out, temporarily that is.

When the “servant” returned, he came bearing bad news: no one was coming.  It’s didn’t matter that the host did everything He/he promised.  It didn’t matter the care that went into making this day special beyond belief – they refused the invitation and they were refusing to “come.”

Upon hearing the news, the master of the house became very “angry.”  It’s not even totally about the amount of time and money that went into getting such an event together, but it’s about the disrespect for the host, for the master of the house, when his kindness was thrown back in his face at their refusal to come.

So, he commanded, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.”  “Quickly” speaks of the urgency to find guests who would be willing to come because remember, everything was now ready.  Time would not wait.  Preparations would not wait.  The party and all its trappings would deteriorate unless there be guests to fill the rooms, eat the feast, and partake in the event.  And, since those who were previously invited refused, others would be more than willing to take their place.

This grouping of individuals was some of the same whom Jesus previously stated (see verses12-14) should be invited to the banquet despite their inability to repay. This grouping of individuals all had something wrong with them (boy, doesn’t that sound familiar).  They weren’t of the pious social order and they were definitely in a different social class then the previous invitees, therefore they would have been overjoyed at finally knowing what it’s like to be behind the doors of such an occasion; of being a part of and feeling like they belong.  The others who refused the invitation were being replaced by people who had a receptive heart.

Please Note: Some believe or represent Christianity as some starchy, perfectly pressed people with nary a deficiency or mark on their record.  This is so far from the truth.  In God’s house, all are welcomed and invited to come.  The rejects, the castaways, the last to be picked are all invited.  Those who are not perfect, but have some faults are invited.  Those who may not have been original members of the family but have now been grafted in are invited.  Background, socio-economic status, race or ethnicity – none of that bars a receptive heart from being invited.

So, to the “streets and lanes of the city” the servant was commanded to go; to the places where the undesirables and the unlikely were usually found, he was to go and invite guests to this great banquet.  YOUR ADDRESS ON EARTH WILL NOT STOP YOU FROM GETTING AN ADDRESS IN HEAVEN WITH THE RIGHT HEART.

Once the servant did as he was commanded, it was found that there is still “room” for more guests.  The supper is not yet full.  Then, “the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”  Go beyond the borders of the city, go beyond the borders of this people, and find others who are willing to come, who are willing to be receptive to the invitation the Master is giving.

Please Note: God established a relational covenant with His people Israel.  It started with Abraham (Genesis 12-17) and traveled down through his family line.  On Mount Sinai, God once again stated through the Mosaic Covenant His desire to be their God and for them to be His people; to be in a relational covenant with them (Exodus 19).  He said, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all the people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation…” (Exodus 19:5-6a).  They accepted the first invitation and heard for centuries through the prophets to be ready for the second one; to be ready for when Christ comes on the scene.  And, when He did, they refused the invitation.  They refused Him and would not come.

Also, Please Note: This in no ways implies that God is officially and completely done with His chosen people because He is not.  And, as was spoken to Abraham way back then, God always had a plan that all the world be reached (Genesis 12:3).  So, let us not focus too much on the Jew/Gentile difference, rather let us focus on any, and all hearts, that say yes to Him and respond with a committed life.

So, we see in our lesson the servant reaching out to those who dwell beyond the borders.  Many see this as the inclusion of the Gentiles who respond to the invitation with a receptive heart through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“That my house may be filled.”  There is still room for more.  Go out and convince and preach that others may accept the invitation and fill the streets of heaven (compare Matthew 28:19-20).

Those who were previously invited and refused the invitation “none… shall taste of my supper.”  They will not partake of that heavenly feast.  They have rejected Me, and now they are rejected, and those who put other things and people before Me shall lose out on their reward (read Matthew 10:33-42).

Conclusion

The invitation is still opened and, on the table, today.  Won’t you come?

It won’t be opened forever.  Today is the day to say yes to Jesus!

There is going to be a feast in that coming day; a great celebration for those who answered the invitation and responded with a commitment.  There will be a celebration of the redeemed!

The idea of a feast correlating with the celebration of God’s people in a future heavenly home is nothing new to us.  When Jesus said, “That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 8:11) He was referring to a heavenly feast (see also Luke 13:29; 22:30).  In Luke’s account, one who sat by said, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God,” (Luke 14:15; as today’s lesson notes).

John brought a similar picture to us when he revealed to us his vision of the marriage supper of the Lamb wherein, he says, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb,” (Revelation 19:9).  One after one, those images show the everlasting reigning of our God and the celebration of the saints with Him.

WOW!  Saints of God, we have something very wonderful to look forward to.  Jesus, through His death and sacrifice, has already made all things ready.  All we have to do is respond properly to the invitation given.

I implore you, if you have not already done so, answer the invitation with a life of commitment today!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Parable of the Great Banquet

Suggested Activities:

Draw the Scene: Parable of the Great Banquet Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Parable of the Great Banquet Memory Verse

Word Search: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Search Answers: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Search Answers

Crossword: Parable of the Great Banquet Crossword Answers: Parable of the Great Banquet Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Scramble Answers: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Scramble Answers

Blank Journal Pages:  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

From a previous lesson: “No Excuses Church Fan Craft”: No Excuses Church Fan Template (Use this PDF for accurate printing) Print out on cardstock or glue to construction paper, cut, color, decorate, tape or glue to a craft stick, and enjoy! Although this is from a different verse, it highlights that we are to have no excuses unlike those in today’s lesson.

 

 

“The Parable of the Great Banquet”

“Parable of the Feast” 

“The Parable of the Great Supper” (With directions for an easy, handmade craft that only requires paper and crayons or markers, that highlights the excuses that were made in this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Don’t Make Excuses Feat Pennant”

“Excuses! Excuses!”

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus: the Great High Priest” Hebrews 4:14-5:10

Photo: Pixabay/geralt

VERSE DISCOVERY: Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (KJV, Public Domain)

If one allows something to occupy space and time in their lives and in their hearts, it shouldn’t be mediocre or average; rather, it should be great.  Jesus Christ is not only the greatest person in life, but He is the greatest inspiration whereby one should base their faith.  Great always outranks all others.

For every reason, way of thinking, or possibility one would think to leave their faith in Jesus for and return to the old order of things, the writer of Hebrews continues to show that Jesus Christ is greater than all, even the high priest.  Let Him be your inspiration to hold on and believe through it all.

Jesus, Our High Priest, Knows What We’re Going Through

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

The writer of Hebrews, to which no one can surely claim authorship, opens his book with the exaltation of Christ as being over all, and declared that God “hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,” (Hebrews 1:2).

“Therefore,” Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

Many believe the recipients of this letter are Jewish Christians whose faith has come under attack and they needed encouragement to hold on to the words of Christ; hold onto the gospel message lest they “let them slip.”

When one “slips” it is usually a backward path into old ways, and this is what was threatening their current faith.  That was the fear plaguing the faith of these new converts.  The old ways; the old religious system that came before Christ was trying to prevail and draw people backward.  The writer of Hebrews continues to explain that Christ is greater than the old way.  He is greater than Moses and greater than the old religious system and priesthood, the angels and all that came before Him.  He is simply greater in every way.

I know old is comfortable to some, but he was trying to push them out of their comfort zone and step out on their new-found faith and believe that Christ is the greater choice.

Our rest, he states, is now found in the promises fulfilled in Christ (Hebrews 3:18-4:3).

With that our lesson opens, stating, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest.”  Back in Leviticus 8:12 we see Aaron being anointed as the first high priest.  From then until Christ, the old religious system of sacrifices, ritual laws, and offerings was in place and the high priest stood as an intermediary between God and the people.

The fallacy in those who wanted to revert to this old system is that now “we have a great high priest.”  Adding the word “great” shows that He is more excellent in every way compared to the high priestly system to which they wanted to go back to.

What made Jesus a “great high priest?”  Not only did He fulfill the role of high priest on a natural level, but he is the only priest/prophet/King/sacrifice that fulfilled everything on a spiritual level.

Jesus stood in the gap where the common man cannot.  He became a “merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, and to make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” (Hebrews 2:17).  So, not only did He offer sacrifices (as the role of the high priest), but He Himself would “make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” by His own blood.  Colossians 1:20 reaffirms this by telling us, “And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things on earth, or things in heaven.”

For the people, the danger of falling back into the old system would cause them to act in unbelief of what Christ accomplished on the cross.  This, in turn, would cause them to forfeit the promise, as did their ancestors when they failed to believe God and enter their promise (see Hebrews 3:12, 18-19; 4:1-3, 9, 11).

Following Christ, the ultimate high priest is the only way to enter that “rest.”

Other high priests were only able to enter the most holy place after much sacrificing for their own sins.  But Christ went even further.  He “passed into the heavens.”  As the “Son of God” He was able to go above and beyond what any mere man or normal high priest could do.  As a matter of fact, Hebrews 7:26 states that He, as high priest, was made “higher than the heavens.”  Jesus is simply that AWESOME!

“Let us hold fast our profession.”  Because of whom Jesus is and His perfect work as the high priest for us, we have the responsibility to hold on to our faith and not let it slip away.  Don’t be easily swayed this way and that with the moving of our circumstances and our emotions and just plain old life itself.  Stay planted in your faith.  Don’t be uprooted but hold on!

Repeatedly we are encouraged to take a stand for our faith and to continue therein (see Colossians 1:23 and 1 Peter 5:9).  Later, the writer of Hebrews will reiterate the need to “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, (for he is faithful that promised),” (Hebrews 10:23).  “Wavering” is littered with doubt and unbelief.  But the one that promised is faithful to keep what He promised if we would just remain in Him and believe.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”  Most parents know what it is to see a child reaching for something harmful and in a panic yell “stop” or “no” because we know by experience the outcome of what grabbing hold of that harmful thing may be.

Experience is a great teacher of life.  Why is that?  Because, unless you really have been there and done that and gone through this, you really don’t know on a personal level how it feels.

Christ, as our high priest, knows exactly how this life feels to us.  Serving in humanity as a human also, He experienced what it was like to “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”  He experienced “in all points” the frail nature of the human body with all its passions.  In an article I previously wrote titled Jesus Knows, I said:

“Jesus knows what living in the flesh feels like.  Walking up and down the shores of Galilee, He didn’t let His holiness withhold Himself from our infirmities.  He hungered as we did.  He wept when sadness invaded His heart.  He justifiably angered at the thoughtlessness of men.  He knows.

Jesus knows.  He knows suffering.  He knows temptation.  He knows what it is to care when no one else does.

He knows what it is to be chased, used and despised.  His ears have felt the sting of gossip and have heard the song of ridicule.  He’s heard the taunting of the nay-sayers and the tsk- tsk- tsk- of the un-approving.

Aching limbs, sore feet and a thirsty tongue – He knows.  Jesus knows disappointment at the carelessness of others.  He knows desperation over the plight of the lost soul.  He knows of the crown of thorns His life is leading Him to.

Jesus knows everything because He is divine.  Jesus has experienced everything because of His humanity.” (Word For Life Says)

Yet, even in His humanity, He overcame all temptation “without sin.”  Even Pilate exclaimed during his own human inquisition of the Savior, “I find no fault in this man,” (Luke 23:4).

Other verses tell us, “For he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted,” (Hebrews 2:18).  Because of what He experienced personally, He knows how to help each one of us, in each one of our situations, personally.  No matter how hard it may appear to us, Jesus knows how to HELP!

Considering all that we have learned so far about our “great high priest;” the recipients of this letter and us are encouraged with these words: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Since Jesus personally knows and since Jesus personally serves as our high priest, our connecting link to God, we can with confidence draw near to God through prayer to seek “mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

We have access to God.  Don’t hold back your privilege as a child of God of going before the Father to get some help.  There are times of humbling; times of desperation when we all need to approach the throne of the King for a little more grace and mercy.  No, we don’t deserve it, but yes, He gives us access to come anyhow.

So, come boldly, with the confidence of the King’s kid, to find that help you need.  Jesus is there waiting, at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf.  There’s no reason not to go.  He beckons, “Come and get some help!”

Jesus, Our High Priest, Did What Others Couldn’t

Hebrews 5:1-3 “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in all things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.  And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.”

The job of the high priest was to take care of “all things pertaining to God;” meaning they had the charge and responsibility of all things in the service of God on behalf of the people, being “ordained for men.”  These tasks also included the giving of “gifts” and the offering up of “sacrifices for sins.”

If you were to do a really good study, you may find that just dealing with the system and rituals and law regarding sacrifices was quite the operation.  There were burnt offerings, heave offerings, grain offerings, wave offerings and peace offerings (each had their own specifications that had to be followed).  There were rules to be followed for the animals involved and for the people involved.  There were obligations that if not followed could disqualify one for the priesthood.  THERE WAS A LOT INVOLVED and all to make sure the services of the holiness of God and “all things pertaining to God,” would go off the right way (this is just scratching the surface of all involved in their duties).

These men, who would play the crucial role as the go-between of God and man, themselves, were “compassed with infirmity… so also for himself, to offer for sins.”  The human priesthood in place, with animal sacrifices, before Christ, served its temporary purpose.   But, to supply eternal life on the level that Christ would offer in His priesthood, they were unqualified for because they themselves suffered weaknesses and flaws of humanity and had to make sure their sins were taken care of as well (compare to Hebrews 9:6-7).  That system was just a “shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).

By the old system, “every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins,” (Hebrews 10:11).  But with Jesus as high priest, doing what man or the blood of bulls and goats couldn’t do, became the “mediator of the new testament,” (read Hebrews 9:11-15); “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 10:12) and it is from that place and position where He, as our great High Priest, remains today.  Glory!

Jesus, Our High Priest, Was Begotten for This

Hebrews 5:4-6 “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.  So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.  As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”

Aaron didn’t call himself to be a high priest and neither did Jesus.  Regarding Aaron, God instructed Moses, “Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office…,” (Exodus 28:1, emphasis mine).  God selected Aaron to serve as “priest” and God is also the one who spoke the words confirming Jesus’ role, “Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee,” (see also Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33 and Matthew 3:17, just to name a few).

The old line of priesthood was through Aaron (the tribe of Levi), but now the new was established in Jesus.  The priesthood was changed (Heb. 7:12), by “the bringing in of a better hope… by the which we draw nigh unto God,” (Heb. 7:19).

Perfection could not be achieved through the Levitical priesthood and there was a need for something better (Hebrews 7:11).  In comparison, the priesthood of Christ would be marked by the same characteristics of “Melchisedec” in that like Melchisedec, Jesus would serve as King and priest (see Genesis 14:18), and also like Melchisedec, His priesthood would be enduring and “for ever” (Heb. 7:17).  There is no recorded beginning or ending for Melchisedec but “made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually,” (Heb. 7:3).

Jesus’ priesthood would be marked by the “power of an endless life,” (Heb. 7:16) which is in sharp contrast to the Levitical priesthood where they could not “continue by reason of death,” (Heb. 7:23).  Thereby, Christ has an “unchangeable priesthood,” (Heb. 7:24), “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them,” (Heb. 7:25).

Jesus, in His priesthood, lives forever to save because He is the great High Priest.  There is none better.  None that came before Him could do what He did.  That’s why this lesson is marked by the word “great” which implies strongly Jesus is “more than” in status, power, and glory.  And, there is none after Him.  He is it.  He is the great High Priest whom the former was just a shadow of.

Jesus, Our High Priest, Suffered for our Salvation

Hebrews 5:7-10 “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”

Jesus “suffered.”  Can we wrap our minds around that?  There are some with a false supposition that Christ could endure all that He did because He was the Son of God.  They make it sound like it was nothing for Him to go through what He went through.  Boy, are they wrong!  Jesus suffered because He was the Son of God!  “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” (emphasis mine).

Let’s go back to the Garden of Gethsemane.  There Jesus prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42).  Sometimes I believe we hear this verse so much that we become desensitized to the agony behind the prayer.

If you continue to read it states, “Being in agony he prayed more earnestly,” (Luke 22:44a; emphasis mine).  He was already feeling the trauma of what was about to take place and it was wreaking havoc on Him.  He was in agony!  The pain was pressing on Him.  He was tormented at the thought of what was soon going to come to pass.  So much so, “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” (Luke 22:44b).  Look at what His body was going through, and He wasn’t even on the cross yet.  He “suffered” and “he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death.”

He didn’t have an easy time getting through the suffering because He was the Son; rather He suffered harshly because He was the Son.   Even Isaiah prophesied of the pain of His suffering: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken,” (Is. 53:7-8).

Jesus would fulfill His role as our King and our priest, but it would be at the expense of His own battered, bruised, beaten and dead body.

Because He reacted and responded in “obedience,” and endured the shame and the suffering of the cross, He “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him,” thereby making Him the greater.  Jesus became the “source” of our salvation and eternal life.  When He obeyed unto death and entered the holy place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, the Bible declares, He “obtained eternal redemption for us,” (Hebrews 9:12).

“Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”  Once again, the writer of Hebrews reiterates that this calling was not of His own doing; rather, He was “called of God.”  God preordained this to be so.  Psalm 110:4 says, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”  That word “order” gives the impression of one being in the same style.  Once again, He would serve not only as King, but He would fulfill priestly duties as well.  And, forever He did and does it greater!

Turning to Jesus Christ is the best decision one can make in life.  He is greater than anyone and anything, and faith in Him will not disappoint.  He is the source of our salvation.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Jesus The Great High Priest

Suggested Activities:

Bible Review Game: “Bible Baseball” (Click on the link and follow to that site.  Follow the directions given and I’m sure your students will enjoy.)

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Holding Fast to our Faith

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Holding Fast to our Faith

Blank Journal Pages:  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Word Search: Jesus: The Great High Priest Word Search  Answers: Jesus: The Great High Priest Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus: The Great High Priest Crossword  Answers: Jesus: The Great High Priest Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus: The Great High Priest Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus: The Great High Priest Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Jesus: The Great High Priest Draw the Scene

jesus-the-great-high-priest-draw-the-scene-001

Coloring Page: Jesus: The Great High Priest Coloring Page (Try new ideas to turn your coloring page into a fun activity.  You can have students use colored chalk or watercolor paints instead of crayons.  You can cut it up into puzzle pieces to put back together again or cut out words and the picture to glue onto construction paper to make a neat poster.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy!)

jesus-the-great-high-priest-coloring-page-001

“Our Great High Priest” (Coloring and printable activities. Enjoy!)

“Our Great High Priest”

“Jesus Crafts for Kids” (Incorporate any one of these activities to fit with our lesson.  I particularly like the “Standing Jesus Pic,” instead of writing Jesus loves me, you can write “Jesus is My High Priest.”  Enjoy!)

“How to Draw Jesus Christ” (This one is geared to the younger students and I think they will enjoy it greatly.  What fun your students will have when they find out they can draw a picture of JESUS themselves.  Awesome for this lesson or just about any lesson.  Also comes with a “print friendly” version.  Enjoy!)

“Jesus Toilet Paper Roll Craft”

“Jesus Loves Me Craft” (Easy construction paper craft. Enjoy!)

“Name of Jesus Coloring Sheet” (Not a color-by-number, but a color-by-color sheet.  Enjoy!)

Sunday School Lesson – “Make a Joyful Noise!” Psalm 95:1-7

VERSE DISCOVERY: Psalm 95:1-7 (KJV, Public Domain)

Once, I had the privilege to attend a Christian concert.  Oh, what a blessing and a joy for me to experience some of my favorite performers live in worship.  It was a really awesome time.

Good, Christian music can have that effect on you.  It may not change your situation, but it can change the atmosphere and how you feel about a situation.  Christian music draws you in a realm of worship that can’t be experienced anywhere else.

Apparently, scrolling through my site I found that I have written quite of few things that involve singing, but one of my all times favorites that I have written is simply titled: “Sing!” and it goes like this:

“And I saw as it were . . . them that had gotten the victory . . . and they sing the song,” Revelation 15:2-3, KJV

Songs.  Movements of the heart and soul.  I don’t know how they come about.  Do they start with words that won’t let the mind rest until the lyrics are expressed?  Or, is it a tune, a melodious humming in one’s being that beckons to become more?

Songs come and go at any time and there’s one for every occasion.  Most great songs come from one’s life experiences.  Whether in good times or bad, happy or sad, the man inside calls for a tune to join the ceremony.

Songs express joy and times of rejoicing.  A good song motivates one when it’s hard to push forward in life and lifts one out of times of sadness.  We see the power of this type of inspiring music in 1 Samuel 16:23, when David played the harp before Saul and the evil spirit left him.

Music is no doubt powerful.  The most precious and heart-felt songs come after times of hardship and struggles.  When we have gone through the wringer of life, made it to the other side, and have squeezed out a heart that expresses gratefulness to God.  Music that tells the world that yes, it was hard, but I made it to the other side.  After crossing the Red Sea did not Miriam put a tambourine in her hand and say, “Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously,” (Exodus 15:21, KJV)?

In the book of Revelation, we see songs of deliverance going up before God.  They had overcome “the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having harps of God,” (Rev. 15:2, KJV).  And, what did they do?  “They sing!” (Rev. 15:3, KJV).  Their praise cannot be constrained any longer.  They have never felt freer then when they had overcome.  That kind of joy starts to seep out every crevice of one’s being until it pours over in song, releasing praise to God!

Music and songs are wrought throughout the Bible.  The psalmist exhorts us to “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.  Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing,” (Ps. 100:1-2, KJV).  When the Assyrians were prophesied to be destroyed, Isaiah 30:29 emphatically declares, “Ye shall have a song!” (KJV).  When Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises, the earth quaked and prison doors were opened (Acts 16:25-26).  After the Last Supper “they had sung a hymn,” (Mk. 14:26, KJV).  James said, “Is any merry? let him sing psalms,” (Ja. 5:13, KJV).

Sing!

Sing!                     

Sing!

I don’t have the best voice, but I have a praise in my soul that I have to let out!

Sing!

I’m shy in front of other people, but I’m living to please an audience of one!  It doesn’t have to be in front of a crowd (yikes!).  A praise can wring out of your spirit at any time and in any place.

Just, Sing!

Give your heart – your spirit – your soul permission to rejoice.  God has been so good to us – so, Sing!

You are an overcomer also.  “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,” (Rom. 8:37, KJV).

So, SING!

Those in Revelations had every right to sing, and so do you.  Just sing!  He’s worthy of it today!” (www.wordforlifesays.com).

The focus of that article was singing and rejoicing; worshiping Him because He is worthy; because He has done so much for you and me.  In it, you find the same call as today’s lesson to “Make a Joyful Noise!” coming from Psalm 95.  If nobody else honors God, we the people of God should readily “Make a Joyful Noise!”

Make a Joyful Noise

Psalm 95:1 “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”

“O come,” to me, rings out an open invitation for all to participate in the worship of God.  “Come” is beckoning the hearer to come nearer; to approach God in the manner specified in today’s lesson.

And, the manner specified is through song and “a joyful noise.”  Yes, your prayers matter to God and your service also; but God is also attentive to your worship.  A well-rounded Christian is active and alive and moving in all these areas.

Psalm 98 gives the same command to “make a joyful noise” and shows how that can be done through the voice and through instruments:

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King,” (Psalm 98:4-6).

Repeatedly in the Bible, we are commanded and shown that God alone is worthy of all our praise, honor, and glory.  He deserves this and so much more.  Praise and honor through song is something He expects from us and looks forward to.  It’s like a love letter from us to Him.  What an awesome perspective!

Now, I have written about the need to “make a joyful noise” enough in the introduction.  Here, I want to focus on the word “unto.”  “Unto” gives us direction to where this worship is to go.

There are many types of Psalms in the Bible.  Some speak of confession and some of wisdom.  Some tell history and some cry out against injustice.  Some prophesy of the future Messiah and some, like today’s Psalm is considered a Royal Psalm.  It is titled such because it declares the kingship of God.  It is “unto” Him; it is “unto” the King, “the LORD” which we are commanded to “make a joyful noise.”

He is “the rock of our salvation.”  “Rock” represents strength.  It pictures one standing on a sure foundation that will not fail.  I’m sure many are familiar with that old hymn that states: “On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand,” (“My Hope is Built,” Edward Mote, 1834; Public Domain).  2 Samuel 22:32 asks, “For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?”  God is “the rock of our salvation” and He is worthy to be praised!

Psalm 95:2 “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”

“Come before his presence with thanksgiving” shows a grateful heart in action.  One who knows not to take the goodness of the Lord for granted.  One who dares not enter the place where He is or draws nigh unto Him without reverence for all that He has done for one in their life.  Thanksgiving is not a holiday, it’s a lifestyle.  It’s a life that knows apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5); a life that recognizes their need and dependence upon this great Salvation and can’t help but to say, “Thank You!”

In a previous article titled: “What Ever Happened to Thank You?” it was noted that “There is a great danger in forgetting to be thankful, especially when it comes to recognizing the great work that God has done in our lives…  When one fails to appreciate what is done for them they, of themselves, can begin to get prideful.  Simply refusing to acknowledge that there was outside help to raise them out of a situation can make one think they have delivered themselves of their own accord and power.  Being thankful means being grounded.  It is recognizing that we don’t have it all together as we think we do, and we need the assistance of another to help along the way.” (www.wordforlifesays.com)

When we enter His “presence” we are to do so with a grateful heart that doesn’t take His goodness for granted.  The article goes on to say, “God is so gracious to us; let us not take Him for granted.  We may slight our fellow man once in a while (which we also need to continually watch out for and learn to do better), but don’t slight God.  Give Him His due.  Is it really that hard to simply stop during the busyness of our day and say, “Thank you?”  Does it really cause us that much extra work to simply acknowledge what has been done for you and me with an attitude of gratitude?” (www.wordforlifesays.com)

With that heart of gratitude, we are exhorted to once again “make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”  Many know that “psalms” means songs.  It shows us the real impact of God-honoring music during worship: He loves it!

For Our God is Great

Psalms 95:3 “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”

Deuteronomy 10:17 mightily declares, “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.”  God is the real thing!  There are a lot of false and destructive forces that try to sway man away from the truth of God and His deity over all creation, but the fact of the matter is, He is the real deal.  Everything begins and ends with Him.  He is the authority over all.  Therefore, He is the one worthy of praise.

Too many go through their day without ever considering the fact that hey, He is God, and He should be before all others. With that realization in hand, I want my life to reflect that great truth. I want every word, every action and every thought to magnify the greatness of who He is and all His glory. When I go about my day, I want people to see Him in me. Do I make mistakes? Oh, yeah! But I have a goal. I aspire to do better and to be better every day. God has been so good and wonderful to me, and I feel that as His child the least I can do is showing Him the honor due Him.

“Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” (Ps. 29:1-2). These two verses have been among favorites of mine for many years now. When you think of “giving to the Lord” one realizes just how futile our efforts can be because of His vast greatness. But, something that each of us can give is honor and praise because He is God!

Psalm 95:4-5 “In his hands are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.  The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.”

Another of the Royal Psalms that really emphasizes the truth of this verse is Psalm 24 that opens declaring, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods,” (vss. 1-2).  He “founded”, and He “established” along with the phrase from today’s lesson “he made it: and his hands formed” really expresses His all-powerful supreme rule over all creation.  The word “his” showed here four times, along with the word “he” declares His ownership over all.  He did it, not we.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1).  Therefore, He should be praised and honored.

We, His People, Worship Him

Psalm 95:6-7 “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.  For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand…”

Here, the psalmist reemphasizes the call to “come, let us worship.”  Worshipping God is something that cannot be overemphasized.  It’s something that we can’t exhaust.  It’s something that we better get used to because it will be happening all over heaven for all eternity.

To “bow down” and “kneel” shows honor to the one who receives this form of respect.  We often see this in the realm of royalty and would aptly be applied here in a Royal Psalm to Him that is King above all the world and all kings of the world.

Oh, how quickly we tune in when we see royalty on display.  Events revolving around those who belong to royal heritage gain our attention when we see their pageantry on display.  As people come out in celebration and crowds gather around their televisions worldwide, we take a peek into the lives of those whom we know only afar off, and we watch their beautiful display of majesty on parade (at least on a human level).  The celebrations are grand as the people cheer and look on with fascination.

The pageantry that God deserves is far greater “for he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”  We belong to Him and should want to celebrate Him in a manner that is higher than any earthly royalty could ever experience.  He is the one who watches over our affairs.  He is the one who comes to our rescue when we need help.  He is the one who cares enough to let His only begotten Son die on the cross because of our mess-ups and mistakes.  He did that for us all.  Celebrate Him! “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth,” (Psalm 74:12).  Celebrate Him!  “O come, let us worship!”

“We are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”  God has often been identified as our Shepherd.  Psalm 23:1 says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  He is the only one who can care for His people as He does.  God loves you and you belong to Him.  He is in love with His flock and declares them as His.  “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the LORD GOD,” (Ezekiel 34:31).

If you are not a member of His flock, I urge you to make that change today.  Don’t let another opportunity go by without Him as your protector, your provider, your salvation and your Shepherd.  There’s too much at stake.  “He is our God” and He can be your God today as well.  Turn to Him, give Him praise, and make a joyful noise before your God!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Make a Joyful Noise

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Psalm of Praise

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Psalm of Praise

Blank Journal Pages:  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Word Search: Make a Joyful Noise Word Search Answers: Make a Joyful Noise Word Search Answers

Crossword: Make a Joyful Noise Crossword  Answers: Make a Joyful Noise Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Make a Joyful Noise Word Scramble  Answers: Make a Joyful Noise Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Joyful Noise Draw the Scene

“Make A Joyful Noise Microphone Craft”: Here is a craft that will surely inspire your younger students to sing and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Basic craft instructions can be found here, although there are many versions out there.  After following the basic construction of the craft, print out the PDF: Make A Joyful Noise Toilet Paper Roll Cover.  Have students color, decorate, and attach to the toilet paper roll.  Ball up aluminum foil into a tight ball or use a Styrofoam ball covered in glitter  (can be done in advance) and attach to the top of the roll with regular or hot glue, or tape.  Below is a version I did.  Enjoy!

“Printable Microphones:” If you like the idea of using a microphone theme but don’t have time or resources, use this printable for students to cut out and decorate (cardstock works best or glue cut out to construction paper, cereal boxes, or cardboard).  Attach the memory verse to the back and your students are ready to rock out for God.  Enjoy!  PDF: Printable Mircrophones (Use this link for accurate printing)

 

“Making a Joyful Noise Instruments” Though our lesson focuses on singing, making a joyful noise is made with instruments in Psalms 98:6 it says, “With trumpets and the sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.”  Below are ideas to praise God with instruments.  Enjoy!

“Homemade Kazoo Craft” from Preschool Crafts for Kids (Below is a sample done by my daughter 🙂 ):

IMAG0871-1

“Water Bottle Shakers” from Thecraftingchicks.com (Decorate outside any way you wish and fill with beads, beans or whatever.  Very easy project to help the children “Praise the Lord!”  Again, done by my daughter 🙂 ):

IMAG0872

“Straw Pan Flute” from Classic-play.com

“A Heart of Worship” from Ministry to Children

“Let the World Praise the Lord” from Ministry to Children

“Praise the Lord” from Childrensministry.com

“Why Do We Praise God?” from Kidssundayschool.com

“Praising God with Your Hands” from Ezinearticles.com

“I Will Praise God” Coloring Page from Twistynoodle.com

“Sing Praise to the Lord” Coloring Page from Lessons4sundayschool.com

“Sing Unto the Lord” Coloring Pages from Childrens Gems in MY Treasure Box

“Praise the Lord” Coloring Page from Church House Collection

“When We Praise God” Coloring Page from Hem of His Garment

Sunday School Lesson – “The Prodigal Son” Luke 15:11-24

Photo: Pixabay/pumukel

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 15:11-24 (KJV, Public Domain)

Man’s failure and God’s redemptive work is the whole story of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation; from the Fall to last words of Christ in the Bible that state, “Surely I come quickly,” (Rev. 22:20), God has sought a relationship with mankind that would eventually lead into eternity.  No other story in the Bible demonstrates this sought for relationship better than that of the Prodigal Son.

In it, we see the rebellion of man.  But, also in it, we see the love of the Father looking for His lost child.  One’s eternity will be predicated on if one made the same choice as the Prodigal – to turn back to the Father, repent and rest in His love, and let Him restore.

The Prodigal’s Request

Luke 15:11-12 “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.”

The Pharisee’s had a propensity for thinking they knew better than Jesus.  Many of Jesus’ actions were frowned upon by them.  Little did they know His mission was to seek and to save them that are lost, (Luke 19:10).  To do this, He often stepped out of the box most in His time would not.  Their comfort zone didn’t allow them to spend time with the baser sorts of the world and when Jesus did, He was talked about and misunderstood.  His motives were of pure love and showing mankind there was a better way.  He didn’t mind teaching to any who had an ear to hear including “publicans and sinners,” (Luke 15:1-2).

His focus was to teach them, as well as the religious elite, the Father loves the world (John 3:16) and the salvation He seeks to give and the relationship He wants to have is extended to all mankind.  Every human life is valuable to Him; therefore, He will rejoice when even just one of those lost ones becomes found.

To demonstrate this, He told stories we have come to know as parables.  These heavenly nuggets of truth illustratively depict the Father’s desire to be in constant communion with us.  When that bond between Father and creation was broken by sin, His love was not, and He celebrates with all of heaven the one who turns back to Him.

Before reaching the story of the prodigal son, Jesus told two lost and found stories regarding sheep and a coin (see Luke 15:3-10).  These are things, property if you will, who have no eternal value in them.  Once they have expired their use here on earth that’s all there is.  There is no soul to worry about in these “objects” for eternity.  Yet, people get really upset when property is messed with; when things that can be replaced disappear.

Jesus knows His audience.  He knows the value they put on these “things.”  He knows when a disappeared object is restored and found happiness soon follows.  To bring it all into perspective He adds in Luke 15:7, 10 the joy that all of heaven experiences “over one sinner that repenteth.”  Some get happy over found objects, but heaven rejoices over found people.  Unlike those objects, people have eternal value.  They do have souls to worry about and when one is restored in proper fellowship with the Father – oh, what a day that will be!

Priming the pump, if you will, with those parables, Jesus further explains in more detail using human relationships, something not as easily dismissed as a story of a sheep or a coin.  He tells of a father and his two sons, one of which is dubbed forever as the prodigal.

What made him a prodigal?  His reckless lifestyle of squandering money and resources to please his immediate pleasure of the flesh to live lavishly made him so.  Not wanting to wait until his father died, one day the younger of the two boys, the prodigal son, went to his father and said, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me,” (Luke 15:12a).  To some modernist, this may not seem like a big deal.  Nowadays, some like to give out portions of inheritance so that they can see their kids enjoy what would have been left to them.

But, in Jesus’ day, this was an insult.  His father was apparently still alive and very vibrant in health.  He had many years ahead of him and was nowhere near to being on his death bed.  But this selfish son couldn’t wait that long.   He wanted his portion now.  Pushing forth in this manner was not only a disrespectful sentiment toward his own father, but he was seeking to usurp the tradition of the older son receiving first.  According to law, the older son would also receive a double portion because of his firstborn status (see Deut. 21:17).

The Bible doesn’t go into detail about the father’s reactions.  Was he taken aback by the younger son’s request?  Did something in his behavior lead the father to believe this day was coming?  We don’t know.  But we do know surprisingly the father agreed to the request and “he divided unto them his living,” (Luke 15:12).  With the word “them” included, we can only assume that both sons at that time received their inheritance.

The Prodigal’s Riotous Living

Luke 15:13-14 “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.”

Not wasting much time, “not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living,” (Luke 15:13).  As if his original demanding of an early inheritance was not offensive and dishonorable enough, this rebellious son took all that was now his and left.

He took his father’s hard-earned money and resources which he spent a lifetime accumulating and put a huge distance between himself and his family.  Instead of loving the father more for what he had received and cleaving to him, he sowed seeds of division.  Acting like a spoiled brat (as one would call him today), he separated himself from the reach of his father and his jurisdiction, and off he went “into a far country,” (Luke 15:13). 

Reading the text, we see this younger son’s wrong lifestyle and choices caught up with him.  Judging by the robe, ring, and feast later given at the end of the parable, I am supposing his father to have been a man of considerable wealth.  Meaning his portion of inheritance was no chump change.  He had to have arrived at that far country with a considerable sum of money.  With one wrong decision leading to another, and then another, extravagantly spending here and there, he squandered his money and “wasted his substance with riotous living,” (Luke 15:13). 

His irresponsibility went far beyond just misspending and purchasing items without regard.  His lifestyle knew no restraint.  The son exposed himself to a free for all, anything goes pattern of behavior, he was not privy to under his father’s roof.  He may not have to answer to his father any longer but, life and the choices he made, will demand one.  Eventually, what he sowed he is going to reap (Gal. 6:7) and he will begin to understand the real impact of his actions.

With a famine befalling the country and no longer with the privilege of money and friends at his disposal, “he began to be in want,” (Luke 15:14).  Never in his life did he ever have to go without, but now just the basics of life eluded him, and he was destitute.  He was poor beyond measure.  One can lack money and still have some sort of familial support or a soul to confide in and depend upon.  He had none. His lifestyle didn’t promote the faithfulness of human support to see him through his difficult ordeal.  Any friends he had probably came and went with his money.  Now, his situation is about to get even more desperate.

The Prodigal Hits Rock Bottom

Luke 15:15-16 “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.”

And, as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”  With that, “he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine,” (Luke 15:15).  Becoming a citizen of a country means you agree to be one of them now.  You agree to abide by and uphold their laws and traditions.  Depending on the country you could be asked to totally acclimate to their culture and give up all previous markers of identity that made you, you.

In his desperation, he felt he had no choice.  He was starving and without residence and he needed to secure employment just to live.  Being in no position to negotiate, he had to take what he could even if it was something totally against his upbringing.  He had to feed the swine (Luke 15:15).  The Jewish people do not eat or deal with anything pig related.  To them, these unclean creatures were the lowest of the low, and yet his employment now causes him to care for them.

If his situation couldn’t get any lower, we read his desperation was teetering on the side of despair and total hopelessness.  With no dignity left, and without regard to propriety, he began to desire the slop the pigs were eating: “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave until him,” (Luke 15:16).  This is what one calls a rock-bottom scenario.  He was about as down as down could get.

How was he to come out of this?

The Prodigal Returns, Repents and is Restored

Luke 15:17-24 “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

After the reality of a situation so bad he was willing to eat the slop of pigs, the prodigal son was hit with an even bigger dose of reality.  His destructive lifestyle had taught him a lesson or two the hard way: 1) The grass is not always greener on the other side, and 2) What he had, to begin with, was not so bad after all.  This is one of those moments when the obvious is made clear and people say if it was a snake it would have bit you.

Therefore, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to eat and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants,” (Luke 15:17-19). 

It’s amazing how a humiliating and humbling experience can open one’s eyes to true blessings that were already there.  In his coming to himself moment, his eyes were opened to many things: 1) His eyes were opened to the fact that even the servants in his father’s house were better off than him right now.  While living there did he ever stop and think about their work or appreciate the fact that he had servants to help care for his home and livelihood, dependable people who worked hard to make sure everything was cared for?  He knew that right now they were not in want as he was.  He was perishing with hunger.  Though a son by birth, they fared better than he at this moment; 2) His eyes were opened to his sin.  He realized, not just for the sake of needing food and roof over his head, that he had wronged his father.  His foray out into the world made him realize his blunder.  Notice also, he readily admitted that he had not only wronged his father but heaven as well.  Sin impacts one’s relationships with people and God; 3) His eyes were opened to his now unworthy state.  Claiming his early inheritance and distancing himself from his father meant he wanted no more dealings with him.  He knows he could be disowned from the privilege of being called “son.”  Yet, he is willing, if his father is willing, to secure employment there and work as a “hired servant.”

He sought a complete turnaround in the life he messed up.  With great resolve to get back to where he belongs, “he arose and came to his father,” (Luke 15:20).   Little did he know, despite his selfish behavior his father never stopped loving him and never stopped looking for him.  “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him,” (Luke 15:20). 

This is that type of rejoicing we see in the two previous parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin made even more alive by the returning of the lost son.  The father who is representing our heavenly Father has compassion and rejoices over the repentance of the lost.  As I stated at the beginning of this article, this has been the whole story of the Bible.  Man’s lost state meets with God’s compassionate redemption.  Wow!!

Every time someone leaves the world of sin behind and comes back to the Father, He is overjoyed.  Heaven is singing and shouting praises.  People matter to God.  Lost people are loved by God.  His strongest desire is to see them come back home in His loving arms where they belong.  What an eye-opening picture this parable presents.

The son readily admitted his failure to his father and confessed his sins (see Luke 15:21).  Thinking to come back as a servant, how big his eyes must have gotten when he heard the command, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry,” (Luke 15:22-24). 

Instead of disowning him and putting him to work, the father received him with joy and restored his position as his son (signified by adorning him with the best robe, ring, and shoes – all markers of his position in the family).  This went way beyond his farthest dream could imagine when he was hungering and wishing for at least some pig slop to eat.  He was totally restored!

This is God’s end desire for all, including the lost.  He wants to welcome them home and put on them the identifying markers that they are His child and they are restored.  Those that are spiritually dead He wants to make alive once more.  If one finds themselves currently in a prodigal state of living, without hesitation I plead with you to turn back to our heavenly Father and let Him restore you. Experience His compassion of salvation offered through our Lord Jesus Christ.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Prodigal Son

Suggested Activities:

Object Lesson: “Three Wishes” (Here you will find a great object lesson/lesson introduction including group activities such as “Balloon Art” and “Prodigal Son Puppet.”  Enjoy!)

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Draw the Scene: The Prodigal Son Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: The Prodigal Son Memory Verse

Prodigal Son Welcome Home Party Hat: When the lost son came home his father celebrated.  Simply print the PDF (whichever version you like best  I couldn’t decide which one I liked more, so I leave it up to you: Prodigal Son Party Hat  or Prodigal Son Party Hat 2 (both options are shown at the bottom) with verse onto cardstock. Color and decorate. I added a little pom pom on the top.  Another option is to glue pom poms all over instead of coloring the stars if you wish.  The only limit is your and your student’s imagination.  Punch holes in the side and string with yarn.  There you have it.  Enjoy!

PARTY HAT 1 WITH SMALLER PIG FACE

PARTY HAT 2 WITH LARGER PIG FACE

Word Search: The Prodigal Son Word Search  Answers: The Prodigal Son Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Prodigal Son Crossword  Answers: The Prodigal Son Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Prodigal Son Word Scramble  Answers: The Prodigal Son Word Scramble Answers

Related Activities:

“Prodigal Son Activities”

“Parable: Prodigal Son” (Awesome lesson ideas and printables your students are sure to love.  Enjoy!)

“Paper Bag Pig Puppet”

“Pig Mask”

“The Prodigal Son Pig Pen Craft” (Great, demonstrative lesson idea for the students to learn more about the prodigal son’s wrong choices.  Scroll down to craft and enjoy!)

“Teaching Kids Forgiveness/Prodigal Son” (This is an easy and awesome craft idea your students are sure to enjoy that reiterates the true nature of this lesson.  Enjoy!)

“The Prodigal Son Pictures for this lesson” (These pictures help tell the story of this lesson. Enjoy!)

“The Prodigal Son Flipchart”

“The Lost Son Comes Home PDF Storybook”

Sunday School Lesson – “The Christian Race” Hebrews 12:1-13

 

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Hebrews 12:1-13 (KJV, Public Domain)

On your marks.  Get set.  Go!  Once you have accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Savior you have officially entered the Christian race.  The prize is before you and the contests are around you, and the only way to make it to the finish line is by focusing on He who paved the way before you.  The struggles may seem hard at times, but Jesus promised, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).

Endurance is the key and although troubles seem to catch us off guard, we are reminded that we are not the only ones suffering; we are not alone in our pursuit to live like Christ and yet face adversity.  Others have gone before us, including our Lord.  Let their testimony encourage the weary and faint of heart to press on through the contentions of this life that we may gain the crown of life in the next.

Our Focus

Hebrews 12:1-4 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

In the chapter prior to this, we have some of the greatest sources of encouragement recorded not only in God’s Word but in the world.  We have, as the people of God, dubbed it the Hall of Fame of Faith; and, rightfully so.  In that chapter, we see a concentrated version of God’s mighty acts performed through and for those who followed hard after Him in faith.  Their stories are amazing, and their examples are a testimony of how to do life while still holding on to the promises of God; how to make it to the end even when some personally didn’t see the fulfillment of said promises.

These people who have gone before us can testify that the road wasn’t always easy.  They can tell their story of how they tried to do the work of God and people acted adversely toward them and did not respond the way they had hoped, or the trials they faced on the way to their particular promise were heavy at times.  They can let the cat out of the bag about how they were mistreated, used and abused because their desire was to fulfill the call of God on their lives.  They are a “great cloud of witnesses” that can testify and say, “I’ve been there and done that.  Just hold on to God’s unchanging hand and He will see you through.”

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”  Most Olympians and accomplished runners in any race strive to enter the competition with as little baggage as possible.  Clothing is kept to a minimum, as much as decency will allow.  Preparations for physical strength and the shedding of unwanted weight that can prove to be a hindrance were made before one foot touches the starters block.

Why?  To give the athlete the best possible chance of winning.

Jesus wants us to make it to the end of our race.  He wants us to come in victorious as the winners He knows we are in Him.  That can’t happen if we allow people, and stuff, and sin bog us down.  The feet that were meant to run like they had wings attached rather sink as if stones were wrapped around their ankles.  Therefore, the author of Hebrews commands us to “lay aside” everything that wants to hold us back; everything that stands as an obstacle to our spiritual success; everything that works against our salvation preventing us from experiencing the fullness of joy we have in Christ Jesus.

Those in this world compete for trophies, but our competition in our Christian race is for a prize this world can’t offer.  We must do as Paul instructed and, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14).  We can’t do that carrying the extra “weight” of worries and “sin” of this world.

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”  Notice the word “us” written here.  That word is inclusive and tells us that we all have our own race to run that is “set before us.”  The track I am on may not look like yours, but we’re still in this together, each running the course that’s ahead of them.  The things I fight with may not be the same for you, but we are altogether battling against things that try to stop our progression in Christ.

This was especially true for the original readers of this letter who were suffering through times of persecution and hardship.  I can imagine some lying awake at night or hiding out in some undisclosed location wondering about the promises of God through the murkiness of the pain they were experiencing.  I don’t care what anybody tells you, nobody likes to experience troubles, but the soul that can hold on will see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It may not shine as you supposed it would, but it will be there nonetheless as a testimony to the glory of God working in your life as well.

But, to continue this course, in spite of it all, requires “patience;” endurance.  Going back to the picture of an athlete preparing for the competition, they stretch their bodies past normal limits in order to condition it for the race.  They add on extra time and additional boundaries to push past in order to get their endurance and stamina up so that they can power through the most difficult times.  They mold, shape, and work their bodies to be fit for the fight.

Here, the writer is giving us the same advice in the spiritual.  We must purposely trust God and push past some stuff we see now to build up our faith and give us the strength to make it to the end.  We will never be able to power through the competitions of this life if we don’t allow our faith muscles to be conditioned for the battle.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”  Jesus, once again, stands as our perfect example of not only how to run the race but how to endure during the process, and one thing I wrote about in a previous article was His “Focus Shift” (I encourage you to read the entire article).  Jesus, while going through the worse thing He could ever possibly endure, didn’t dwell on His current situation or even the enemies at hand, He was more concerned about the welfare of others; He gained a heavenly perspective for souls and salvation that we can only hope to emulate as we look to Him.

Through the trials and tribulations we may face in our own race, we are told to gain a new perspective as well; we are told to shift our focus from ourselves and look to Jesus.  In His life and His obedience, He has gone the road before us to show us how to live and walk in accordance with the Father’s will and never give up.

He is the “author and finisher of our faith.”  He is the originator and completer of our faith.  He is our soul’s pioneer, if you will (a word you often hear referenced when discussing this topic).  He went before us into uncharted territory to gain heavenly ground for each one of us.  Jesus Christ has secured everything we need under the faith umbrella to live this life the way God is calling us to live.

 “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”  The cross and the process of dying on the cross were ugly.  But, the results that would come from the cross were beautiful and brought joy to the heart of our Savior.  One of my favorite articles written is titled “Reap Rejoicing.”  In that I wrote:

“No one could ever put into words the pain of what it felt like to hang on that cross and bear the sins of the world.  But, as He hung there, with blood pouring down, He was in the gathering process.  That’s why He couldn’t come down because even as He was nailed and left to die, He with great sorrow and tears, was working at gathering that would eventually lead to rejoicing.

What a clear head and frame of mind our Lord kept through it all.  Most of us would have went into survival mode under such duress, thinking of self.  Jesus went to survival mode, too.  Not for Himself rather, “To seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10, KJV).”

Therefore, He “endured” the course before Him with “joy” for souls like us and becomes our prime example of how to follow the path of faith.  As the “author and finisher of our faith;” the beginning and end – He showed us how to run our race.

“Despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The cross was just not about pain, but it was about “shame.”  Jesus hung on the cross naked – shame!  Jesus took on the curse of sin for humanity – shame!  Jesus was abused, beaten, and tossed about as nobody worth considering; just another criminal – shame!  Yet, He took any and all shame that would seek to bind us.  He didn’t give in to the pull to turn tail and run.  He took it all on Himself and completed fully the work of the cross and is “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He finished His race and gained His reward and lives forever to show us how to do it.

“Consider him!”  He “endured!”  He was wrongfully accused and wrongfully abused due to the “contradiction of sinners against himself.”  Jesus spoke rightly when He said, “He that is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30), and at the time of the cross His body bore the marks of their opposition and hatred toward Him – yet, He still refused to give up.  Even when the taunting tongues said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him,” (Matthew 27:42); He held on and endured the cross until He gave up the ghost and ascended on high.

“Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”  Why are we continually told to look to Jesus, to fix our spiritual gaze upon Him and consider all that He went through?  Because His legacy becomes a testament to how one should run this Christian race.  His story becomes a well of strength from which we can draw encouragement from.  His experience becomes the energy that we need to motivate us to press on despite all the adversity that tries to mount attacks against us; that try to move us from our faith.  “But they that wait upon the LORD,” the Bible tells us, “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,” (Isaiah 40:31).  Consider Jesus that you yourselves to don’t faint in the process of running the race.

When we discussed the previous chapter, the Hall of Fame of faith, in that we see Moses’ character in taking a stand against sin: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” (Hebrews 11:25).  Standing for one’s faith usually brings about persecution and affliction such as what the readers of this letter were facing.  How far are they willing to go in order to stand for their faith?  There are many in the body of Christ who have borne the harsh ravages of persecution on their own bodies, and even their lives.  There are many who gave all to follow Jesus.  The encouragement is for these readers to stir up their minds, gain strength from the stories of those devoted lives, keep pushing forth, and don’t give up!

Our Discipline

Hebrews 12:5-11 “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

“Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him… if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.”  “Chastening” or discipline is part of what we must go through in order to grow and mature in Christ as need be.  There will be times of suffering as we continue to walk our path to go higher in Him.  There will be times when the road traveled will seem like we’re fighting an uphill battle.  There will be times of pain and hardships, but as Romans reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28).

Keep in mind, how we view something as working out for good and how God views it could look very different.  Something that may bring us sadness now, God may see a better benefit down the road for our good.  When God looks into the meat of our lives, He’s looking beyond the here and now and the tool that is often used is discipline.

Discipline is rarely seen as being pleasant.  Whether it refers to the bringing of one’s body under subjection for the benefit of exercising and preparing for a race; or, if it is for correction to set one’s course on a right path – hardship in this life is rarely a welcomed companion.

But we are told not to “despise” it as we are reminded that Jesus, the author of our faith, didn’t mount Calvary’s cross by bypassing suffering (see also Proverbs 3:11 and Job 5:17).  He faced it head-on as the Son of God who would redeem mankind from their sins.  Now, we are referred to as sons and daughters of God, and as such should we not take it all in stride when the Father’s molding of our lives involves things we would rather not endure?  Yet, endure we must for one will never reach the finish line of any competition by dropping out.  It’s pushing through despite the pain and the struggle that allows us to reach our eternal reward in victory.

For when God chastens, His only motivation is “love.”  Proverbs 3:12 verifies this by telling us, “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”  Parents don’t want to see their children hurting or sad over a situation no more than God does.  But there are some things that parents can’t allow their children to pursue because, in the end, it will be to their ruin.

God wants us where He is.  He “scourgeth even son whom he receiveth.”  He is our ultimate prize at the end of this race, but we will never get there if we allow the cumbrances of this world to deviate us off that path.  God steps in and corrects the steps we take that we may gain the richer rewards of heaven rather than settle for the less than this world has to offer.  He beckons us to follow the discipline and not to give up.  Allow it to mold you and work for your good to bring about a better end.

Did He not say in Jeremiah, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end?” (29:11). Those words of promise were spoken as the people endured the discipline of captivity.  God always, always, always has the greater good of His people in mind despite what it currently looks like.  Therefore, run the race and “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” (2 Timothy 2:3).  Subject yourselves “unto the Father of spirits, and live!”  His correction in our lives is for our good!

He does it for “our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”  Anything we face in this world cannot compare to the joy that we have in Him and the glory that lay ahead eternally.  One can only be a participator of that joy and glory if they are “partakers of his holiness.”  “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

God wants holiness in our lives and in our worship.  I love a message that pronounces blessings just as much as the next person, but without holiness, it means absolutely nothing in His sight.  We need to come back to the central theme of holiness because the LORD requires nothing less.  It is for our profit and if discipline is what it takes to get us there, then God will have His way because you and I are treasured that much that He wants you to be where He is.

No, it’s not “joyous” at the time of receiving said correction and discipline, but “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  There have been times when correction was probably necessary for our own lives, growing up or as an adult.  And no, we don’t like it but, we can thank God for where the correction keeps us from.  The paths of sin and wrong choices that could have kept us walking a road that yielded anything but “righteousness.”  It could have kept us bound in sin.

Children don’t usually rejoice due to correction and discipline.  When parents send a correction in the way of a child it is to prepare them for life up ahead.  When God sends discipline for each of us, we become like trees fit (trained, “exercised thereby”) due to pruning to prepare us to yield “fruit” that will carry over into eternity.

Our Race

Hebrews 12:12-13 “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

Be encouraged through it all!  Get in there and run this Christian race!  Don’t let defeat win.  Don’t let the hardships knock you out of place, robbing you of the goal at the end.  If you feel down, get back up, strengthen yourself, and keep on running that your soul may be “healed.”  Jesus is waiting at the finish line.

We can be so easily swayed this way and that with the moving of our circumstances and our emotions and just plain old life itself.  But Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith;” our perfect example, never let anything sway Him from the righteous path.  He never let anything drag Him off course from where God wanted Him to be.  As a matter of fact, He repeatedly let us know “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” (John 6:38).  And yes, He suffered through it all, but suffering didn’t win, and discouragement didn’t stand a chance against the will of God planted so deeply in Him, ergo He ran His race unhindered.

The writer of Hebrews is teaching his readers and us the same valuable life lesson.  Everything will not always seem to work in our favor (despite the barrage of popular messages that tell otherwise), but “make straight paths for your feet;” look past the obstacles that try to obstruct your view from the finish line and stay wholly focused on Him who is our spiritual forerunner.  Follow His lead who endured already and “ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established,” (Proverbs 4:26).

Remember, others are watching your race so run that they too may be encouraged to keep going and not be “turned out of the way.”  May they press on to receive healing for their souls as well.

Sometimes the things we deal with get hard.  Trials and tribulations are nothing to sneeze at, but we must make the decision to respond the way Jesus did and to not let it frustrate us from everything that God has for us and want us to do.  If you keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, you can make it to the end of your Christian race.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Christian Faith 

Suggested Activities:

Object Lesson: “Run the Race Object Lesson”

Video Links: 

“Running the Race Youtube Video/Skit Guys”

“Derek Redmond Inspiration Video/Never Give Up”

Adult Journal Page: The Christian Race

Kid’s Journal Page: The Christian Race

Blank Journal Pages (to cover what points you prefer to bring out):  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Draw the Scene: The Christian Race Draw the Scene

How Many Words: The Christian Race How Many Words

Memory Verse: The Christian Race Memory Verse

 

Word Search: The Christian Race Word Search  Answers: The Christian Race Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Christian Race Crossword  Answers: The Christian Race Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Christian Race Word Scramble  Answers: The Christian Race Word Scramble Answers

“Perseverance” (opening Marshmallow Toss activity)

“What the Olympics can teach us about Christianity”

“Pressing for the Prize” 

 

Sunday School Lesson – “A Sheep or a Goat?” Matthew 25:31-46

Photo: Pixabay/Zahaoha

VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV, Public Domain)

Much of our culture is self-seeking and gives evidence to a heart that is far from the heart of God.  And, as time goes by it seems to infect more and more like a disease that won’t be snuffed out.  But snuff it is what God is asking for as we raise for ourselves flags of surrender to be waved in service for Him toward others.  That we give up of us and pour out all for Him; that we show the world a thing or two about true love; true appreciation to a Savior who poured out all for us.

The Bible tells us, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works…” (Titus 2:7).  It’s time for a new pattern to be laid.  The foundation of self must dissipate, and new groundwork needs to be found on who He is the head of our life and all that He has already done.  It’s time to show the world a different lifestyle.

The Bible assures us, “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).  In that, we see that our service toward one another matters and what we do or do not do for others on behalf of our Lord  – the impact of it can even show up in our eternal reward or eternal punishment.

In this lesson, Jesus teaches the difference between the two.  He shows His disciples the difference of being classified as a sheep or a goat.

 When the Son of Man Comes

Matthew 25:31-33 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left

Today’s lesson is known to be a part of The Olivet Discourse which begins at Matthew 24:1. Throughout this “discourse,” Jesus is telling or prophesying of times to come.  He even foretold of the destruction of the temple which would occur in A.D. 70 (see Matthew 24:1-2).

I absolutely love how this portion of the discourse begins with the word “when.”  Not “if,” but “when.”  And the “when” that is being referenced is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is coming back!  Point blank.  And, one’s eternity is measured by how they lived on earth.

A large part of biblical preaching and teaching is focusing on and preparing people for the return of Christ that they might reign with Him when He comes.

When some look down through the pages of history, they don’t see the chain of events that ushered in the plan of salvation for mankind.  They believe or don’t believe based off what they see with their natural eyes and their short-sighted minds and/or ideas. They don’t see the promise of the good to come that God has already laid up for our futures. They don’t see the fulfilling prophecies that brought God’s kingdom closer to man.  When they look down through history all they see is a normal course of events.  They don’t see this beautiful, epic love story where God tries to woo mankind back to Himself.

But, rest assured, there is a future after this and Jesus says “when” the time comes, this is what’s going to happen.  The events that He speaks of are truths that are still unfolding.  We haven’t seen it all yet, but it’s coming.

The Bible reassures us, “For the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness,” (2 Peter 3:9a).  We are also told, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry,” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Know this, every word of God, for good or bad, for happy or sad, for those who believe or for those who don’t believe, will come to pass!  For right now He is withholding His hand of judgment so that as many people as possible can be saved.  For us and everyone out there, there is hope for salvation.  God’s waiting won’t add to the demise of people as in the.  Rather, His “longsuffering” is because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9b).  Will all come and accept a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?  No.  But God loves mankind so much that He wants to get as many people as possible out of the waters of sin that seek to drown them for all eternity.

And, although He has held off, eventually, judgment will come.  2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”

Here, in this lesson, we see we have a King, and the King is coming back.  A time of judgment takes place; a division from those who believe and those who don’t believe; from those who are considered righteous and those who are called cursed: the sheep and the goats, if you will.

“When” this takes place, our lesson tells us “the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”  Daniel paints a very similar picture to the one Jesus is describing.  He writes, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,” (Daniel 7:13-14).    

Here, we see Jesus obtained His dominion and declaring His reign in these verses and was found sitting “upon the throne of his glory.”  Have you ever read a story when a king rides up in battle with his armies, obtains the victory and sits down on the throne declaring his rule?  This is the picture that comes to my mind when I read this verse.  Jesus, the King of all kings, comes with His entourage of angels; His armies of heavenly hosts and sits in His place of honor where He will rule and reign forever into eternity.

He is that prophesied “righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth,” (Jeremiah 23:5; emphasis mine); and here it can be said, “Let the judging commence.”

“Before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.”  When He does return, as already stated, a judgment will commence, and this judgment should be taken seriously for in it those living for Christ will be blessed and those who are not shall be condemned.

Here, He is gathering “all nations,” meaning no one on the face of this earth will be exempt from this judgment.  Everyone will be examined, and everyone will be separated “as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” according to how He classifies them.  Psalm 4:3 lets us know, “That the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself…”

We see here, those who are classified as being “sheep” are placed “on his right hand.”  Repeatedly in the Bible, we see the phrase “at the right hand” is used.  For example, in the Old Testament, God said, “Fear not… I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” (Isaiah 41:10; emphasis mine).  And, in the New Testament Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (emphasis mine).

The “right hand” is a special place.  It gives the idea that those on the right are in a more honored and favored position than others.

The opposite occurred for those who are considered “goats” for they were placed “on the left.”  In the following verses, we will really see the impact of what being in those opposite positions means.

To the Sheep He Says…

Matthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

First, the “King” addresses those “on his right hand.”  With that, He calls them, “Blessed of my Father” and pronounces that they will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

In John 14:3 Jesus stated before His death, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  Here, we see the “King” has come back as promised and is now speaking directly to those have become inheritors of that prepared kingdom; to those that He is receiving to Himself.

Their service gave proof/evidence of the faith they claimed they possessed causing them to think outside of the box of their own little world into that of others who have needs.  But let us remember, we are not saved by our works, but our works prove to whom we belong.  “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17; read vss. 14-18).

Jesus gave the reason they were in their favored position: on a human level, they acted as He would in their care and concern for the “brethren.”  To do this means their faith was put into action, and that manifested itself through service, despite the cost to their personal being.

In another portion of Scripture Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour,” (John 12: 25-26; emphasis mine).  Here, we see them receiving that honor as the “blessed of my Father.”

Basically, payday has come, if you want to call it that.  Just as in a natural job, so it is in the spirit.  Those who work good works will be rewarded.  That’s why Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  God is pleased when we offer our lives in service and the doing of good works.  Colossians 3:23-24 supports this by telling us, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (emphasis mine).  There is a reward at the end of the services we offer on behalf of the Lord.

The “sheep” know what it is to put their faith into action and make a difference in the world around them.  Faith is not silent.  Faith is full of action.  Faith is alive.  Faith is shared through works to testify of its genuineness and sincerity.  Faith does more than move mountains; if it is lived out in the lives of the men and women of God, it can move hearts toward salvation!

When one is living a life of faith people should be able to look at their life, their actions, as signs of accreditation that we belong to God.  They should be able to tell by how we operate and carry ourselves through our display of service, that we live what we talk.

James, in his book, wrote, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15-16).

James saw the emptiness in just words alone.  Speaking “peace” without lifting a finger to physically help satisfy the present need, to him it was not true faith.  True faith believes and then allows that belief to be put to work.  True faith has heavenly aspirations that work out to show good on earth.  So, he asked, “What doth it profit” without it?  What is each of us doing now that is benefiting his fellow man and the kingdom of heaven?

Words without supplying to the physical, emotional or spiritual comfort of another in distress are what these two verses speak of.  But, all too often, how many times have we heard or spoken of what should be done to help others without putting in some work to help society move toward that goal?

Jesus gave props to those who stepped in to help others.  James mentioned two issues that Jesus also stated: naked and food, giving further verification of the call to help one another in need.

Jesus said to those who helped the “hungred… thirsty… stranger… naked… sick… prisoner,” it was as if they were helping Him.  Their care for their fellow man matters in the eyes of heaven.  They supplied for and filled needs wherever it showed up and were blessed because of it.

The “sheep” didn’t understand when they ever saw Jesus in the needs described and gave aide to Him.  But, “the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

Treat people like you would treat Jesus.  Wow!

Again, let us remember, we are not saved by works: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Rather, works give proof to the living faith on the inside: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17).

To the Goats He Says…

Matthew 25:41-46 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Now it’s time to turn our attention to those on the “left;” “the goats.”  These are spoken to and receive the opposite of the sheep because what they did, or in this case, did not do, was the opposite.

Instead of a reward of inheritance of a prepared kingdom, they were condemned to “everlasting punishment;” a place of “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”   Instead of being called “blessed” and “righteous,” they were marked as being “cursed.”

Jesus presented the same scenarios to the left residents that He did to those on the right and in each instance the words “no” or “not” stands out.  They were given the same chances and opportunities to help and make a difference, but they refused.  This is contrary to kingdom living.  That’s not who Jesus is or what He’s all about.  Them that want to be where He is should be as He is.

Does this remind us of somebody?  Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31).  Both the “goats” and the “rich man” had the opportunity to help but were not moved with compassion to do so.  Both received the same end.  Here, we already stated above what the goats received.  In the case of the rich man the Bible tells us, “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…” (Luke 16:23).

To reiterate the blessings of those who choose to selflessly serve others, Jesus affirms that the righteous will go “into life eternal.”  Awesome!

How one treats and serves people, or not, has an everlasting impact, for reward or punishment.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – A Sheep or a Goat

Suggested  Activities:

Draw the Scene: A Sheep or a Goat Draw the Scene

Activity Sheet: A Sheep or a Goat Activity Sheet

Memory Verse: A Sheep or a Goat Memory Verse

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – A Sheep or a Goat

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – A Sheep or a Goat

Word Search: A Sheep or a Goat Word Search  Answers: A Sheep or a Goat Word Search Answers

Crossword: A Sheep or a Goat Crossword  Answers: A Sheep or a Goat Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: A Sheep or a Goat Word Scramble  Answers: A Sheep or a Goat Word Scramble Answers

“Unto the Least of These” (Many activities including some for group participation and coloring page for younger students.  Enjoy!)

“The Sheep and Goats Coloring Page” (Older students)

“The Parable of the Sheep (and the Goats)” (Games, activities and even self-portraits with a twist.  A lovely idea.  Enjoy!)

“Sheep or Goats?” (Activities, group ideas, and more.  Enjoy!)

“Game: Sheep and Goats”

“Parable of the Sheep and the Goats Coloring Page”

“Retelling the Story of the Sheep and Goat with Felt” (What an interesting way to tell this popular story for little ones to understand and enjoy.)

“Sheep Storytime” (Here is a cute, little adorable, stand alone sheep that your students can make to accompany this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“How to Draw a Goat” (Though we really want to focus on being sheep, your older students may enjoy to learn how to draw a goat, step by step.  This could be a great reminder of what not to be.  Enjoy!)

“I Can Follow Jesus by Helping Others Coloring Sheet”

“The Spiritual Discipline of Serving”

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus’ Birth” Luke 2:8-20

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 2:8-20 (KJV, Public Domain)

Is there any time of the year that’s more special or rings with more sentiments than Christmas?  It stands out as iconic since the days of our youth.  It’s a time of year that’s separated from the rest.  Despite one’s belief, there is always a different feeling in the atmosphere during this time of the year.  People seem to be kinder and more patient with one another.  Many feel charitable and look at his fellow man with a more compassionate heart during this season.  This time of the year; this moment of celebration affects all.

Many are very familiar with the backdrop of this lesson.   Caesar Augustus had issued a decree for all the world to be taxed (Luke 2:1).  From there, families were to report to the place of their lineage to be accounted for.  Lineage played a key role in so many aspects of the Bible.  Even when it came time to “tax,” people had to line up and file in at the place of their birth or where their family hailed from.  One’s bloodline, one’s tribe were factors in their inheritance, land rights and so on.  These are matters that those who seek to tax would be greatly interested in.

Augustus thought in and of himself that he was responsible for sending families back to their “own city;” back to the place where their ancestors were from. When, in actuality, God was using him to line up everything according to His holy prophecies that were spoken through the years.  This is why, though to our eye’s times may seem troubling and hard to understand, yet we never know what God is doing behind the scenes.  The people may not understand the need to be forced into travel to undergo taxing, but God was lining them up for their greatest deliverance yet!

Joseph and Mary were not exempt and were forced, despite being far along in her pregnancy, to travel the approximately 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in the taxing process.

While she was there it became time for her to deliver her firstborn child.  Luke 2:6-7 states, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

It is here we pick up in today’s lesson where the role of the shepherds came into play.  They show us the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is not just a passing event.  Rather, it is a reason to stop and celebrate God and give Him all the glory that is due to His holy name.

Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds

Luke 2:8-9 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”

“Shepherds” were considered some of the lowest of people during the Bible era.  Men who spent their time with animals roaming the fields to find pasture for their flocks.  Yet, on this night they were the first chosen to hear of this good news.  They were elevated above kings to receive the birth announcement of the King of kings.

Can you imagine being in that field on that night then suddenly light shining from what seems to nowhere appear with a glorious siting of “the angel of the Lord?”  In an era of no electricity, with only the light from the fire they sat around (if they were lucky enough to have one), an illumination of greater proportion appeared and made them “sore afraid.”  I think it’s safe to say, if it were me, I would have been just as “afraid” as they were.  It’s not an everyday occurrence to see the power of the Lord manifested in the siting of one of His “angels.” Who knows why he was here.  “Angels” have been long known as messengers from the Lord and here this one appears with the greatest revelation of all time; one that the “shepherds” are privileged to hear first.

Luke 2:10-12 “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

In an effort to alleviate any trepidation the shepherds were feeling with encountering God’s angel, he spoke to them words that were meant to bring comfort and assurance.  He said, “Fear not” (a greeting that is meant to calm).

The appearance of these heavenly messengers can be a little much to take in.  When the one angel sat upon the stone that was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb the Bible tells us, “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men,” (Matthew 28:3-4).  One would need a certain measure of comfort in the presence of these awesome creatures.

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”  Here, the lowliest of the low; the shepherds that others despise and reject as not being noteworthy, receive the good news that “shall be to all people;” themselves included.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  The message is, that long-awaited day has finally arrived!  The Jews felt the oppression of enemies for years.  They have listened to the prophecies passed down from generation to generation that spoke, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” (Is. 9:6).  He that was spoken of has arrived in this lowly place, to a lowly people, to save them and be their Messiah.

The news could not get any better than this.  I imagine eyes misting over and a lonely tear streaking down the weather-worn cheek of these men to whom the angel spoke.  Oh, the joy of it all on that holy night!

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  So that no misrepresentation and no doubt can reside in the mind of these shepherds, the angel described in great detail who and what they should expect to find.  Just as our introduction described is how they would find this blessed “babe” when they came upon Him.  Surely, with the scene matching up with the description given upon their arrival to see the “babe” they would absolutely know that He is their “Saviour.”

Luke 2:13-14 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

As if the appearance of one angel with an awesome message wasn’t enough to seal the deal of belief with these shepherds, “a multitude of the heavenly host” appeared.  It was as if heaven could not hold back its rejoicing over the birth of the Savior.  Heaven peaked through into the earthly realm and these shepherds got to see them “get their praise on” as we would call it today.

They were saying, “Glory to God in the highest!”  I don’t think the words do the moment justice.  Yes, they were ascribing “glory to God” but I believe there was a tingling in the atmosphere that can’t be replicated with words.  I believe there was a charge of elation mixed with the power of God’s presence radiating through these “heavenly host” that can’t be described.  A time and place like no other that only these lowly shepherds got to witness on this holy night.  Awesome!

“And on earth peace.”  Sin has destroyed humanity’s “peace” with God.  The beloved creature that He formed and placed in the Garden of Eden; that He loved and treasured as His own, was now corrupt and subject to perish without holy intervention.  Romans 5:12 tells us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”  Because of that, “peace” and reconciliation needed to be restored.

Romans 5:18 encourages us and says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”  “Gifts” are major for most this time of the year.  But, on this holy night, God gave the best “free gift” that would annihilate the effects of sin that destroyed the “peace” He intended for His creation.  Now, the “heavenly host” are rejoicing because they know the significance of this birth for all of humanity and the “earth.”  Through the “free gift” of His Son, God is showing the ultimate “good will toward men.”

Hasting to See the Babe

Luke 2:15-17 “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass.”  After the angels disappeared, the shepherds wasted no time in making up their mind to see “this thing which is come to pass.”  “Come to pass” means it has already happened.  They were speaking in terms of belief.  They hadn’t seen the “babe” as of yet, but through the words and rejoicing of the angels they believed that “which the Lord hath made known.”

What an awesome revelation both literally and nonliterally!  God showed up and showed out and sent His message, the birth announcement of His Son, to a field whose occupants seemed to the rest of the world counted unworthy.  With their newfound knowledge, they wasted no time in seeing with their own eyes that which was revealed to them so much so that the Bible tells us “they came with haste.”  Excitement propelled them forward and they “found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe” just as it was spoken to them.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”  They may have been the lowliest in the eyes of society.  They may have been counted out of many cliques and circles, but these dirt covered, smelled like the field and animals’ men became the first evangelist of the Lord Jesus Christ.  God had revealed something awesome to them.  Then, they saw the manifestation of it with their own eyes.  Their hearts were then burdened to make it “known abroad,” the same revelation that they received “concerning this child.”

Mary’s Pondering Heart

Luke 2:18-20 “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

“All they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”  The reaction of the people that heard the message of the shepherds was reactions of “wonder.”  They were simply amazed and in awe over the shepherds and the message they carried.  I believe that this type of “wonder” didn’t have any questioning to it.  Rather, they were just completely taken aback over the news and the excitement of the shepherds.

How a message is delivered also bears an impact on how the message is received by the hearers and judging by the enthusiasm of these lowly shepherds on that night, many had to be filled with total astonishment.  If the news could be believed, then the greatest miracle to ever be imposed on mankind has finally taken place; an extraordinary event like no other.  No wonder the shepherds couldn’t help but tell and express all they witnessed on this night.  The people had to see and feel that this news was a remarkable and outstanding experience.

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”  A mother’s heart works differently toward her child.  She’s the one to whom the angel showed up out of the blue one day and delivered the message that she would carry the Son of God in her own womb.  She’s the one who dealt with being ostracized and mistreated by those who thought the worse of her.  She’s the one that bore the babe in her womb for nine months dealing with all that comes with it.  She’s the one who lay up in a stable, if you will, and pushed forth this new, special life into the world.  Now, these shepherds show up and declare the glorious.  They show up and pay special attention and respect to her Son.  She holds in all in her “heart” and mind.

Surely, during this time her mind had to travel back to the day Gabriel approached her and told her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” (Luke 1:35).  Thinking back to then and comparing the scene unfolding before her now must have given her pause to stop and consider all that has transpired (compare Luke 2:51).

What must have been going through her mind at the time, one can only imagine.  But, there in her “heart,” she held it all.  The moments; the memories; the miracle that she has been a part of – there in her “heart,” the wonder of it all rests.

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”  The “shepherds,” who were previously known for their care of the flocks, were now known for their praise.  When a miracle occurs on this level one can’t help but let a praise flow from their innermost being.  It should be a natural occurrence that when God blesses you to see a manifestation of His promise come to pass, praise should issue forth like an unstoppable river flow.

They “heard and seen” some amazing things on this night.  Things that many will never ever get to experience; things we can only read about and have faith in – they were eyewitnesses to it all!  They, with their own eyes and ears, physically saw our Lord Jesus Christ as a babe lying in a manger.  How AWESOME is that?!  The revelation given to them of the angel assured them that this was no ordinary babe.  The King of all heaven and earth lay before them.  They can’t keep that praise in!  They glorify God!  God is worthy!

They didn’t “return” the same way they left.  What they witnessed was too extraordinary to go back to life as usual.  They now had a praise that would not stop; one that had to be expressed to the fullest that God get the glory He deserves over this magnificent event.  Hallelujah!!!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Jesus’ Birth

Suggested Activities:

Christmas Object Lesson: The Angels Appear to the Shepherds (video with a great idea for making angels appear as noted in the “Prepare” portion of the lesson)

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – My favorite part of the Christmas Story

Kid’s Journal Page: Kids Journal Page – My favorite part of the Christmas story

Draw the Scene: Jesus’ Birth Draw the Scene

Wordsearch: Jesus’ Birth Wordsearch  Answers: Jesus’ Birth Wordsearch Answers

Crossword: Jesus’ Birth Crossword  Answers: Jesus’ Birth Crossword Answers

Memory Verse: Jesus’ Birth Memory Verse

Baby Jesus Best Gift Craft: BABY JESUS GIFT CRAFT_2 (This craft will remind students of God’s best gift He gave us in Jesus Christ.  Enjoy!) – Use this PDF link for accurate printing. Simply print out, color, and cut.  Cut construction paper in half.  Glue tab for gift box and attach.  Next, glue baby Jesus under the gift box and close.  Last, attach the “God’s Best Gift!” label with glue.  And, there you have it.  When students open the “gift box” they can view God’s best gift: Jesus Christ. 

Other Suggested Activities:

Jesus Is the Reason for the Season:

“Jesus is the Reason for the Season Crafts” (I particularly like the “Faith Bracelet” and the “Jesus Christmas Necklace crafts on this page.  It takes you away from the ordinary ornament and nativity crafts (which will never go out of style🙂 )that we usually see this time of year and gives us something fresh to do.  Enjoy!)

“Christmas Piñata” (What a wonderful way to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  Enjoy!)

“Emmanuel Crafts for Kids” (All I can say is, “Easy!”  Enjoy!)

“Several Games and Object Lessons for Christmas” (If you are looking for unique ways to hit home this very familiar lesson, then this is for you.  Check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.  Enjoy!)

Cute Nativity Scenes:  Each one was chosen for their uniqueness.  Browse through and find one suitable to your needs.  Enjoy!

“Bee Crafty Kids – Nativity” (Using black construction paper as the backdrop this easy to put together nativity scene craft can be adaptable to most students.  Make it as easy or as hard as you like it.  I like this one just the way it is.  Enjoy!)

“Hope and a Nativity Craft” (Popsicle sticks, paper and crayons are all you need to put together this simple nativity scene.  This time of the year we can run low on funds and time and this is a great answer for most teachers in both of these areas.  Enjoy!)

“Easy Nativity Craft” (The name says it all 🙂  Enjoy!)

“Nativity Crafts for Kids from Recyclables”

Shepherd Crafts:

“Candy Cane Shepherd” (Wow, an activity with a Christmas treat!  Enjoy!)

“Shepherd and Sheep Toilet Paper Roll Craft” (This is easy and can I tell, they have printables!  Yeah!  Enjoy!)

“Shepherd and Angel Craft” (Super easy especially for your youngest students.  Enjoy!)

Christmas Coloring Pages for Luke 2:

“The Birth of Jesus Coloring Page”

“The Birth of Jesus (Older Students) Coloring Page”

“Angel and Shepherds Rejoice (Older Students) Coloring Page”

“Don’t Miss Christmas Coloring and Activities”

 

Sunday School Lesson – “The Branch and His Reign of Peace” Isaiah 11:1-10

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Isaiah 11:1-10 (KJV, Public Domain)

The current situation of our culture and world is far removed from the idyllic picture of peace the prophet Isaiah foretold of in the verses covering the latter part of this lesson.  Just turning on the news in the morning spouts stories of evil, hatred, gossip, destruction, and lives torn apart due to the ravages of sin in this world.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if it were different?  What if we lived in a time when peace prevailed and our relationship with God was uninterrupted by sin?  There once was a time like that.  It was during the period of innocence with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

As we are continually dealing with the evils around us today, you too may have wondered for a time when the world knew nothing but the peace of God.  The good news is we have a renewal and restoration of such a time coming in our future.  For the people of God, one day we will be introduced to a world devoid of the hatred and sin we have become so accustomed to when our Savior, the prophesied Branch, comes back and takes His reign.

In the chapter before today’s text, where people are hearing such words as “Oh Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation,” Isaiah 10:5, there needed to be a measure of hope for the people to look forward to.  When God’s warnings go unheeded, He does what He must do to direct the hearts of sinful people back to Him.  God then sends them a promise of a remnant (Isaiah 10:20-23) and tells them, “Be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee . . .” (Isaiah 10:24).  It was going to get rough for the people and they would suffer punishment, but the promise was still up ahead for something so much more wonderful.

Have no fear, for those same instruments He uses, He will judge due to their own pride (see Isaiah 10:15-16; 33-34).  “He shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one,” (Isaiah 10:34).  But, for God’s people there is the promise of new growth that will arise and be a beacon of hope, ushering in peace unimaginable.

Isaiah then paints a beautiful picture for them and us to hold onto in chapter 11 (today’s text).  This world and all its trappings, fighting, and sin will not have the final say.  What’s up ahead is so much more glorious.  Just wait for the return of the Branch at His reign.

 The Branch

Isaiah 11:1-2 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”

Isaiah, the first of the Major Prophets and the author of this book, is known and called by many today as “the eagle eye prophet” for his ability to foresee the birth of Christ some 700 years before it occurred. Though much of his ministry was filled with rebuke and warnings to God’s people over their wicked ways, he was also able to encourage them through what the Lord allowed him to see in their future.

Some of the visions he saw went even beyond the birth of Christ into His future reign at His second coming.  This is magnificent when you think about it.  This prophet was allowed to see the first and second coming of our Savior King.  And, what he saw in correlation to the second coming was mind-blowing.  For those who are tired of the troubles of this world, there is a greater story up ahead and it starts with a glimpse of the past.

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”  This verse and those following we identify as the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  As many Bible students are aware, Jesse is the father of King David.  Why is that significant?  The fact is God gave David a promise through the prophet Nathan saying, “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:16).

Although David and his descendants died and passed off the scene and saw corruption, there would still be a sprout that will grow from the roots of this family to secure that seat on that throne that shall be established forever.  There will be one who springs up from this royal lineage that will not see corruption, but rather reign forever (Acts 13:37).  And, His name is Jesus.

Of Him it was spoken of, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end,” (Luke 1:32-33).  From before the beginning to the end of His life Jesus was fulfilling the promise of this forever kingdom rule.  He is that prophesied rod and Branch Isaiah foretells of.

If you have ever cut back some plants and placed them in water and tend to them, they begin to grow roots and sprout new life to them.  A new and better life has always been God’s desire for His people which is why it was so important that they learn about this promised Branch and cleave to the hope of peace found in Him.  Prophesying of this Branch was not only something Isaiah foretold of but Jeremiah as well.

Jeremiah 23:5, supporting the imagery found in Isaiah, also prophesies of Christ as the Branch from David: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth,” (see also Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 33:17).

One more note on our Branch description of Jesus to solidify He is the fulfiller of these prophesies.  After His birth, His parents had to flee Bethlehem for fear of Him being killed by Herod.  This landed them in Egypt.  When it was time for Him to be safely returned to the area, God spoke to Joseph in a dream instructing him on what to do next.  In Matthew 2:23 these directions led them to Nazareth.  This was very important because as it reads: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”  That word “Nazarene” is “nezer” or “netzer” in Hebrew which means “branch.”  The Bible could not be any clearer on who this true Branch is: Jesus Christ.

“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”  The Branch is full of God’s Spirit.  When John the Baptist baptized Jesus it was evident that this was the Son of God by a sign that was given him. John 1:32-34 says, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

PLEASE NOTE: Jesus did not “get” the Spirit at the time of His baptism.  Jesus has always been fully God, meaning, fully endowed with the Spirit, and fully man at the same time.

Anything done for God must be done through the Spirit.  Isaiah 42:1 also shows and prophesies, “I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment unto the Gentiles.”  Here in today’s text, we see He is empowered by the same Spirit authoritatively, justly, and perfectly to function in areas where normal man is limited by the finiteness of his humanity.  He will have “the spirit of wisdom and understanding . . . counsel and might . . . knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” 

These functions allow Him to be the ultimate righteous judge we see figured in the next few verses.

PLEASE NOTE: When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2 which begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…”, and declared the same prophecy spoken therein was speaking of Him (see Luke 4:17-19).

Isaiah 11:3-5 “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”

The term “quick understanding in the fear of the LORD” simply means He justly and obediently operates and follow’s His life course to please the heavenly Father.  His life is as an aromatic offering of Himself.

“He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.”  One of the strongest things that condemn or acquit a person in our judicial system is evidence; the stuff that people see and hear that prove a case or not.  We rely on this in order to have fair and unbiased proceedings.  But, what if a situation comes where the evidence is just circumstantial and can’t really be trusted to condemn or not?

He, of whom this prophecy speaks of, will base His judgment on nothing other than “righteousness” which is the truest measure wherewith anything can be measured by.  He will make sure those that are considered the least of all; those who are usually not able to defend themselves – He will make sure they will have a just, fair, and right outcome.

His righteousness is mandated by His holiness.  His holiness and just judgment are directed by the power of the Spirit in and of Him which includes all those special areas as noted above: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.  He is completely empowered to discern, advise, and carry out His sovereign righteous reign.

“He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of lips shall he slay the wicked.”  2 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”  No adversary, not even Satan himself, will be able to stand when the reigning Christ opens His mouth in judgment.

The Centurion, when Jesus was coming to his house to heal his servant, sent and said unto Him, “Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed,” (Luke 7:6-7; emphasis mine).

In that coming day, when Jesus cracks the sky and returns, He will but speak a word “and with the breath of lips shall he slay the wicked” (compare His powerful words to Hebrews 4:12).  He will totally crush and destroy evil with the truth and right judgment that comes from His mouth.  He that it is spoken of that came to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) will ultimately face the same demise he tried to afflict on humanity.

“And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”  As a belt that holds up a garment, He that is coming will be wrapped in “righteousness and faithfulness.”  What that means is all that He is, and all that He has, and all that He does is guarded and supported by some of the most precious qualities about Him: His righteousness which simply is to do that which is completely and perfectly right, just, and with the utmost integrity; and, His faithfulness which personifies His sure character of never failing and steadfastness.

Out of all the leaders throughout our history here on this earth and out of all the leaders we currently see in power or vying for position now, He is the only One empowered completely to reign right.

In other passages of Scripture we see, “The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself . . .” (Psalm 93:1), and “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak,” (Isaiah 59:17).  Our King is already now and will be then, dressed and ready to render proper justice in this world and no evil will be able to stand against His judgment.

His Reign of Peace

Isaiah 11:6-10 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”

Peace as we have never known before.  An age that resembles the innocence of living in the garden with God once again as He originally designed.  There’s a beauty here that can’t be missed.  A place now where only our imagination can take us until that promise of hope is finally fulfilled in that day.

Once I wrote an article titled Interruption of Peace, expressing in it how the enemy comes to steal peace that God gives, yet peace is His divine promise and blessing to us.  In it I talk about how peace is something that must be fought for; it’s about what we let dominate our lives (read article www.wordforlifesays.com).  But, here’s the blessed thing of that coming future day – we don’t have to fight for this peace.  We don’t have to struggle with the day to day issues of life to lay hold of it.  It is there.  It is our promise.  It is our hope.  It is what He has already secured for us and at His reign, we will know it like we have never known it before.

PLEASE NOTE: We I speak of “at His reign” I am speaking of the future day of fulfillment when Jesus returns a second time to rule forevermore.  Of course, as saints of God, we know that He is ruling even as we speak now.  We are not diminishing that; rather we are magnifying the extraordinary event that will take place in that day when the Branch comes and solidifies His reign of peace.  Oh, what a day that will be!

In that day, God’s creation will operate under a spirit of divine fellowship with one another as He originally created them to be.  There is no top of the food chain or bottom of the food chain status to worry about.  His peace; His righteousness will be felt by every being in nature and none shall be absent from the knowledge, the simple knowing, of who He is.

Animals that were at odds with one another, one hiding for fear of death and another seeking to satisfy a need to eat – it will all be done away with.  These competitors become companions: “wolves with lambs, leopards with the kid, lion and the fatling – led by the direction of an innocent child.”   

Even as fantastic as some childhood movies and books depict humans and animals living together in harmony, side by side, without fear of attack or being eaten [I happen to love those kinds of stories by the way], in most of those stories there are still elements that can cause fear, distrust, and anguish between the two.

In that coming day, none of that will exist.  Only the companionship of simply being will matter.  After all, who ever heard of “cows and bears” getting along or a “lion” that eats “straw like the ox?”  Who would ever in this day of ours allow babes and toddlers (sucking child and weaned child) to play with snakes (asp and the cockatrice)? 

His coming kingdom, at His perfect reign, the things which by nature seem impossible and unheard of now, will be possible then.  The only characteristic there is summed up in one word: PEACE.

All sin and evil by then will have been done away with and full restoration will come to head.  “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (compare wording to Habakkuk 2:14).  There is the absence of pain and tears.  There is no more hardship and adversity.  The things and wrong thinking that used to ravage humanity sending it on its downward spiral of sin – all of that is gone.  It’s not in this future kingdom (see also Isaiah 2:4; 65:25; Hosea 2:18).

“The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”  If you will allow me, I see the whole story of Creation, the whole history of man, and the whole of the promise that lays waiting for us in our future as being summed up in one word: GOD.

Psalms remind us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God,” (90:2; see also Exodus 15:18 and Revelation 19:6).  And, it is that same Sovereign rule of our holy Creator that every man and creature will respect and know of because of the very essence and knowledge of who He penetrates the world as a whole thanks to the victory gained through that righteous Branch.

And, it won’t only be those of Israel who will be drawn to “his rest.”  As He stands as an “ensign;” as a banner raised, even the “Gentiles” shall “seek” him.

The nations will be drawn to the source of their salvation.  Jesus once taught Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15); whether they be Jew or “Gentile.”  Jesus, the Branch, the “root of Jesse” was raised once on the cross when He died for the victory over our sins, and He will “stand for an ensign of the people” in that glorious day, declaring once and for all His victory and His reign of peace.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Branch and His Reign of Peace

Suggested activities noted in the lesson:

“Chart of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus” (Some useful information to note specific Isaiah prophecies when leading into the lesson)

“Children’s Video of Isaiah 11:1-9 prophecy”

“Grow Carrot Tops Activity” (This activity will help students see how new growth can sprout from a carrot.  Simply follow one of the easy ways shown on this site for a successful and fun project for your students.  Enjoy!)

“Geneology of Jesus Wheel Craft” (This craft or a family tree will help students trace Jesus’s family line.  Enjoy!)

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Better Days are Coming

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Signs of Peace at Jesus’ Reign

Blank Journal Pages  for adults and children to fill in your own verse or ideas: 2 journal pages

Draw the Scene: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Memory Verse

Word Search: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Search  Answers: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Crossword  Answers: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Scramble  Answers: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Scramble Answers

“Peace on Earth” (Activity sheets, coloring, and printables)

“The Prophet Isaiah” (Links to coloring pages, teacher’s guide, etc.)

Sunday School Lesson – “The Love of God” 1 John 4:7-19

Photo: Pixabay/PhotoMIX-Company

VERSE DISCOVERY: 1 John 4:7-19 (KJV, Public Domain)

Love is a subject very near and dear to my heart.  It is probably one of my most written about topics to express.  And, we find out from today’s lesson that love is the essence of who God is.  We will learn deeply how our love is an identifying factor in proving us to be of Him and it shows the depth of all He feels for us.

In fact, the whole of our human story has been entirely of God’s love for us.  From our beginning in Genesis to the ending of the story to come, God’s love for humanity has been at the forefront of His relational chase of us.  If you have followed me and my writing for any amount of time you have probably come across a time or two an article I have written titled, Know Real Love.  In that I write:

“God loves you! Throughout the pages of the Bible, the overflow of all He feels for us is pronounced over and over again. He has plenty of evidence to mark the extremes of His love for us . . .  in Deuteronomy 23:5, He is noted as reversing a curse because He loves His people. But His ultimate show of love came when He initiated His plan to reverse the curse of sin once and for all. The plan was successful, but it didn’t come without a price. His love for us cost the life of His Son, John 3:16. All that was done so that one day we might experience the joy of what it really means to be loved; such a tender embrace wrapped around us that can’t be felt anywhere else.” (Word for Life Says/Know Real Love).

Because He loves us so, may we extend that same love to one another, is the pleading of this lesson.  We are His real-life examples to a lost world.  We are the only Bible that some people may read in their entire lifetime.  Let the story they see in you and I be one of love.

Think of it, in a world filled with hatefulness, selfishness, and condemnation, I personally believe we can never tire of hearing of the love of God.  And, as Christians we constantly need to be on our toes; to be retaught over and over again the importance that we show that same love God gave to us to one another.

The ugliness of this world’s characteristics DOES NOT have to infect us.  We can shine brighter above it all knowing that we are loved in a special way by Him.  With that knowledge, we too can return what we have received of Him to others.

When we truly know how much God loves us, we can love others better.

God is Love

1 John 4:7-10 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we mighty live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God doesn’t birth ugliness (nasty characteristics and ungodly traits).  If one is born of God, then as His spiritual children that one should possess the character and nature of their heavenly Father (just as natural children inherit some of the nature and traits of their parents).

False teachers and naysayers will always try to usurp what God wants to do in the life of the Christian and how they ought to live.  In his letter, false teachers are an enemy that John had to deal with and because of them, he had re-educate the people on what God says is true and encourage people to live and follow that truth which revolves, here in this lesson, around love.

As a matter of fact, John opens chapter 4 with this warning: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” (1 John 4:1).  After that he gives a summation of the contrast between the Christian and the world; “Ye are of God, little children . . .” (1 John 4:4), and “They are of the world. . .” (1 John 4:5).  Immediately following this comparison of who is in truth and who is in error, 1 John 4:6 begins to admonish the saints how we ought to live.  How the love of God is to be manifest in our culture.

Christians are to operate in a love culture for this is what we have learned from our heavenly Father.  For John to keep pushing this key point means there must have been a serious disturbance and dissension going on in the church that made it necessary for this subject’s continual address.  I wonder how many disturbances in our modern-day churches are due to a lack of this godly love culture being produced within its walls.

With that, John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God.”  God loves us – Yes!  Love comes from God – Yes!  Now, the responsibility to share that love falls on the shoulders of the believers; of the body of Christ, the Church.  As Christians, God has lavished on us the best of His love through our Lord Jesus Christ (as well as being offered to the whole world if they will accept Him).  Therefore, as Christians, our relationship with one another should express that same spirit of love because what comes out of us gives testimony to what’s inside of us (see Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 15:16-20).

For a Christian to claim he is of God means that individual should express the same attributes that are characteristic of the God they say they represent.  To be without those attributes is to be without proof of who you say are and whose you say you are.  The things that come out of our life tell more about the real us than any words of the mouth.

In taking up the responsibility to love one another we are daring to stretch out beyond our personal comfort zones to the benefit of another soul in need.  We are putting our faith in action through the course of loving others.  We are pushing past the popular feelings of emotions and commanding of ourselves and our lives to give unto others what we have received from God.  We are personally making it our goal to imitate the Father’s love toward us.

Romans 12:10 tells us, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all of the same holy family.  We share spiritual kindred and as such we should be devoted to one another in well-being and care expressed through a loving relationship as a family should.  Our love for one another is to be marked by fervency (see 1 Peter 1:22) which means we should have an on-fire, zealous love for one another in Christ.

Love is of God; love is from God and He has demonstrated His love toward humanity when He sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him, (see also John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 which we will see later in this lesson as well).  The sacrifice of Christ proved to us (manifested; made clear) and the world how much God loves us and now we are to make that same love evident to all through our daily living and sacrifice.

God is love (vss. 8, 16), something I hinted on earlier.  The word is can be compared to words such as be or exist.  God doesn’t just love.  God doesn’t just have love.  God isn’t just in love with us.  Loving is not just a part of Him.  God is love.  It’s what His entirety is.  Thus, whoever claims to be in an intimate relationship with God and knows God should readily and willingly demonstrate the same character He is.  In contrast to that, he that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

This love relationship we get to experience didn’t start in or with us.  God has been the chaser of mankind since his creation.  Love begins and ends with God as the bookends that hold everything together.

To prove His love, He provided a means for mankind to be redeemed from the rift of sin that has torn apart his relationship with God.  He sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.   The fact of the matter is sin destroys.  And, there is no way around atoning (offering of propitiation) for that sin and restoring humanity’s relationship with God outside of shed blood.  Hebrews remind us, “Without shedding of blood is no remission,” (Hebrews 9:22).

With that being said, Christ became that shed blood sacrifice, sent by God, which permanently atoned for our sins.  The Bible tells us, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Hebrews 9:24-26), where He not only covered our sins but, took them away forever.

Now, that’s love!  That’s what God’s love looks like!  Therefore, our response should be to love like God loves.

Love Like God Loves

1 John 4:11-13 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.  Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”

Since God showed us the kind of love that would give up His only begotten Son, the command is, we ought to also love one another.  Whatever little meager anything we think we may lose or give up in extending love can never be compared to what God already gave.

Love is the key that opens the door to the reality in showing that we love Him.  God will not dwell in an environment of hate and selfishness.  If those are present, God is not.  If we, as His children, are showing His characteristics of love, then we know that we dwell in him, and he in us.  Love or lack of it is the marker that shows one’s stance in his/her relationship with God.  Anytime the individual or church is not operating in love, they are not operating in God and He is not in the midst.

There is a personal responsibility that John is pointing to for each individual believer to follow.  Approximately 10x’s John uses the word we throughout this lesson alone, not including the rest of his book where there are many, many more instances and identifying words which incorporate and reference the whole body of Christ with the use of words like “us” and “our.”

“We” identifies us.  We” states what we believe.  We,” tells our mission.  “We” also have His Spirit living on the inside of us and as such should operate the way His Spirit operates; in love.

Every true, born-again Christian, must possess the indwelling of His Spirit.  The effective and powerful Christian life cannot be lived out without His Spirit.  His leading and guiding on the inside is the separating factor between us and the world.  The world caters to the things of the flesh while the Spirit hones in on the things of heaven; the things of God.  Therefore, he hath given us of his Spirit and His Spirit should lead every Christian down the path of showing the same love He has shown to us.

1 John 4:14 “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Here, we see the word “we” again.  In this usage of the word, John is speaking from his personal experience with Jesus.  John was not doing a retelling of a story passed down; rather, he was attesting to the real-life knowledge of the ministry he witnessed following Jesus Christ personally for those 3 ½ years.  This is a ministry that he has seen with his own eyes and now lives to tell about it or testify to others.

And, what does he testify?  “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world!”  How incredibly AWESOME is that!  He knows and witnessed His workings while here on earth that Jesus Christ was no less than the Son who has come to save!  He is the love of God in action!

Jesus Himself told Nicodemus, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” (John 3:17). This is nothing short of the ultimate act of love.  This, throughout every facet of His ministry, John gave witness to, testified of and wrote as a record in the books that bear his name.

1 John 4:15 “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

Earlier in this same book John wrote, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father,” (1 John 2:23).  This goes back to his combatting the false teachers and their teachings.  He stated very bluntly in the verse prior to this: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son,” (1 John 2:22).

Not only are they a “liar,” but have been identified with the “antichrist.”  That’s a heavy dose of truth.  Christians have to be on guard where they are getting their information from and where they are allowing it to lead them.  But he that shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

The false teachings are out there.  We are to make sure we are following the way of truth in love.

1 John 4:16-19 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  We love him, because he first loved us.”

Here, the love issue is unwrapped and exposed for us to understand.  What do we understand?

  1. We know and believed the love that God hath to us. – Before one can dish it out to another, they must believe the love that God has for them. God loves you! We are more than familiar with the John 3:16 statement of love, but what about the Romans 5:8 statement of love: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were yet in our mess – God loved us so much to send His Son to the cross for us. That’s powerful love!
  2. God is love. – Again, as already has been stated in our lesson, God cannot be separated from the character of who He is.  Love is not what God does, it’s who He is. Now, everything that the world identifies as love does not mean that God is in that.  If it is in opposition to His Word, He ain’t there.  Point blank.  Plain and simple.
  3. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. – God’s love was a demonstrative type of love; one He put on display through action, particularly in the sacrificing of His Son. In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He who possesses the same marks of love He did, has the same “God in him.” He that lives in the life of love lives in God.
  4. Perfect love – We can experience His perfect love.  When the day of judgment comes we can stand with no fear in us because we have already been covered by His love. Therefore, we fear no sense of judgment or separation.  Romans 8:38-39 reminds us, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, no powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is no fear in His perfect love.  Perfect love casteth out fear, therefore if any remain in fear he is not in love and needs to reevaluate their relationship with God. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father,” (Romans 8:15; see also 2 Timothy 1:7).
  5. We love him, because he first loved us. – Make no mistake about it; humans cannot take credit for this. As already stated before, love originates with God.  “God loves you!”  You, my friends, are so very much and incredibly loved by the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.  There is so much that we face daily that tries to speak contrary to the blessedness we have in Him.  But, my God loves you with an undying love.  His heart is tied to His people.  His people need only to rest in the promises of His mercy, grace, power, and authority that make their hearts soar on the wings of the hope we have in Him all because He chose to love us first despite our sins and flaws.

And, when we truly grasp the understanding of the love of God for us, then can we learn to love others better.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes for teaching): Sunday School Lesson – The Love of God

Object Lesson Ideas:

“How Much Are We Worth?”

“He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not”

“God’s Love Letter”

Craft Heart: Create a simple heart craft that expresses God’s love for them. Simply fold a piece of construction paper in half and cut into the shape of a half heart.  When the students open the heart fully, they can write in the middle “God is Love” and decorate their heart by making designs, or adding stickers, glitter, or other embellishments to it.

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – The Love of God

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – The Love of God

Memory Verse: The Love of God Memory Verse

Draw the Scene: The Love of God Draw the Scene

Word Search: The Love of God Word Search  Answers: The Love of God Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Love of God Crossword  Answers: The Love of God Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Love of God Word Scramble  Answers: The Love of God Word Scramble Answers

Additional Activities/Resources/Links:

“Love Bible Printables” (Yes, printables!  Originally for Valentines Day but goes very nicely with today’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Bible Lessons, Crafts and Activities about Love” (Several to choose from that can be nicely incorporated in this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Love One Another” (How does making “friendship stickers” sound?  This and another activity can be found on this link.  What a creative way to show love!  Enjoy!)

“Love One Another” (A creative classroom project which involves a big red heart and students’ self-portraits.  Very nice!  Enjoy!)

“Heart Crafts” (Several for Valentine’s Day that can be used creatively for our lesson.  Enjoy!)

“As I Have Loved You” (Children’s Bible lesson and activities with printable sheets and group activities that include a “Sucker Relay,” “Bubble Popping,” and more.  Enjoy!)

“Teaching Kids How to Love God and Love Others” (Sunday School Lesson Help)

“Love Bible Verses for Children” (Easy printable activity for kids.  Enjoy!)

“Love One Another Printable Mobile” (AWESOMENESS!  ENJOY!)

“Love Crafts” (Many unique love crafts to choose from that can be adapted to today’s lesson.  Click to check it out.  Enjoy!)

“Three Bible Stories that Teach About Love”