Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus’ Followers Follow Him” John 21:15-25

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: John 21:15-25 (KJV, Public Domain)

15) “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16) He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17) He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19) This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20) Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

21) Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22) Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23) Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

24) This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25) And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

 Introduction

 As Christians, God expects us to follow Christ in every sense of the word.  Christ is our guide in everything.  As He lived, so too are we called to live.  1 John 2:6 tells us, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” (see also John 13:15).  Christ is our ruler whereby we measure the life we live, and His standards are the guide to our pathway.  And, in case anyone thinks that’s the easiest thing, let’s examine His call to follow Him a little more closely.

“Follow me,” are two words Jesus will speak twice to Peter in this lesson and two words we must each examine for ourselves.  Now, they may just represent themselves as two simple words out of the many that make up our language, but in truth, they are words of great impact.  Firstly, they are words that ask us to leave behind other things in order to pursue what we are called to pursue.  If you will remember, during Jesus’ earthly ministry many claimed to want to follow Jesus but made up varied excuses of why they couldn’t do it at the present time.  There were things or people or situations they weren’t ready to break free from in order to walk the steps in which Jesus walked (ex. the rich young ruler found in Mark 10:17-27; also, others found in Luke 9:57-62; 14:18-20).  The usage of excuses has not stopped today, yet He still asks us to follow Him.

Secondly, the words “follow me” is asking for a connection.  This brings us into a deeper realm of relationship and fellowship with the Savior.  This connection is so strong it calls that one to mimic the life of Christ and walk as He walked (as noted above).  It’s a life whose story with Him is one that willingly denies self to journey His same path.  In Matthew 16:24 Jesus taught His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Lastly, “follow me” commands that one gets involved with what He is involved with; to use our life to embark on His journey that He wills to accomplish on this earth.  Hence, we have the call to be fulfillers of The Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20.

So, as you can see, when Jesus tells Peter and eventually us to follow Him, He is asking us to join up with Him in the greatest adventure we will ever experience.  It may not always be the easiest journey, but the rewards at the end are awesome.

Lesson Summary

After His resurrection, Christ appeared to His disciples on several separate occasions.  In this lesson, the disciples had traveled to the region of Galilee, specifically, they were at the Sea of Tiberias.  It is here where seven of the remaining disciples of Jesus were found fishing.

When they encountered Jesus as He called out to them from the shore, they met up with Him and dined on a fish breakfast by the sea with their risen Savior.

It was after this impromptu meal where Jesus brought His focus in on one particular disciple out of the bunch: “Simon Peter.”  Peter was definitely a character.  His journeys with Jesus during His years of earthly ministry discloses different facets of this complex individual and his personality.

Why do I call Peter complex?  For the same reason I feel his personality identifies with so many of us today.  He is seen as sure during the time when he declared the identity of Jesus as the Son of God.  And yet, unsure when waves were tossing about him and threatening to take him under despite that same Jesus standing before him.  He is seen as loyal when he declared he would follow Jesus to death and disloyal when the opportunity came, and he denied he ever knew Him.  He was a man of faith where he left all to follow Jesus (see Luke 18:28) and when he initially stepped out of the boat.  But there was a time when his faith would only allow him to follow Jesus afar off (Luke 22:54) even though he was a part of Jesus’ inner circle (Luke 9:28; 8:51).

With the ups and downs of his temperament, and to draw him deeper into the plans and the mission the Lord has for him in total restoration, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”

Many Bible students debate on the identity of the “more than these” portion of this question.  Some believe it’s the other present disciples and some believe it’s the idea of fishing and returning to his old lifestyle and profession.  Most believe the reference is toward the disciples.  Rather, than posing the question as asking Peter if he loves the disciples more than Jesus, it is asking does Peter love Jesus more than the other disciples do.

Why is this important?

Previously, when Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death, He stated that all of them would be offended because of Him and be scattered on that night (Matthew 26:31).  But Peter, in his boastfulness and surety of self, stated, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended,” (Matthew 26:33; see also Mark 14:29).

So now, Jesus questions him.

Previously, I published an article titled, Jesus Questions Trust, and in it, I wrote:

“What would it be like to sit across from Jesus, face to face, and have Him question your trust?  Would we be able to look Him in the eye as we pondered our answer?  Would our heads be bowed, feeling unworthy to lift it and look into the eyes of love pleading with us to believe?  What would be like?  I imagine it would be self-revealing because in those questions we find where our hearts and our true belief lies.  It reveals where we really stand in our faith.” (Word For Life Says)

I must wonder if some of these emotions are crossing Peter’s mind at the hearing of Jesus’ current question of, “Do you love Me more?” 

Please Note: While Peter was the focus of this question, I don’t believe it is reserved just for him alone.  “Do you love Me more” is a question every Christian should use to measure their own relationship with Christ to see if there is anything that we allow to take precedence over or come before Him.

But, without hesitation, Peter immediately answers, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”  Love is best exemplified in action rather than just touting it with the lips.  Sometimes it’s easier to declare one’s devotion than to actually take that stand for it when push comes to shove.

Jesus already knew the frailty of Peter’s heart in this area for when he denied Jesus on that fateful night, Jesus Himself turned and looked Peter directly in the face as if to acknowledge what He foretold (Luke 22:60-61).  At the same time, Jesus also knows how Peter “wept bitterly” when he realized what he had done (Luke 22:62).

With Jesus turning to him once again, Peter speaks confidently of his love for Christ.

Hearing his answer, Jesus instructs him to follow through that spoken devotion from his lips with action from his heart.  He said, “Feed my lambs.”  Using a shepherd/sheep metaphor is something that is not strange for Jesus to use.  He would often refer to His people as sheep or lambs whilst pointing to Himself as the Shepherd (see John 10:1-15).

For reference purposes, we know that the shepherd is the primary caregiver herdsman of the sheep.  The sheep are totally dependent upon the shepherd.  Without the shepherd’s watching, leading, guiding, and providing nature, the sheep would be unkempt, wild, lost, helpless against predators, and unable to fully provide for their own care (compare Matthew 9:36).  Shepherds not only take care of the flock, but they make sure they are fed.  The feeding that Jesus is concerned about regarding what His people will be receiving has nothing to do with bread and butter, but the Word of God (compare Matthew 4:4).

Jesus is calling Peter to step up to the plate and fulfill the calling on his life.  If you think back to the time when Peter so confidently and courageously spoke up and confessed Christ, Jesus told him, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (Matthew 16:18).  And when Jesus knew that Peter was to deny Him, He told Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” (Luke 22:32).  He knew the blow Peter would take due to the denial, but He also knew where Peter needed to be in the mission and so Jesus, in His questioning, is working to restore Peter and bring him to the fullness of that calling.  But, for that to happen, Peter must truly know where his own heart is.  So, Jesus asked, “Lovest thou me?”  Do you really love Me more than these other’s do?

Please Note: Before you can feed anyone else, you have to know your own heart.  The question of love must be answered by all.

Then Jesus asked Peter the “second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  The only variance in this second round of questioning as opposed to the first time He asked is this time Jesus leaves off the “more than these” part.  But, for the second time, Jesus is really asking where the heart of Peter truly is.  If the measure of it could be weighed on a scale, would it be fluctuating up and down?  Was Peter steady in his love for Christ?

The examination of his heart goes deeper with each round of questioning.  Sometimes repetition not only reflects on what was done in the past but it opens one up to the truth of where they stand today.

Nevertheless, during this second round of questioning Peter held fast to his affirmation of devotion to Jesus, saying again, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Again, after receiving the answer, Jesus instructs Simon Peter, “Feed my sheep.” 

I don’t know how many moments passed between each line of questioning, but we find that Jesus asked once more, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  This was the “third time” those words of divine heart inspection came from the lips of the resurrected Lord and into the hearing of Peter, and the Bible tells us “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?”  The three-time repetition surely brought to mind the three times his own mouth spoke words that wouldn’t even admit that he knew Jesus, let alone followed Him and was, in fact, one of His closest disciples and personal friends.  Because of those denials, he was now being challenged to look deep within himself and answer the questions with his all.

“And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”  Although the line of questioning from the third time Jesus asked compared to the previous two differed in the Greek, with the previous Agape love of verses 15-16 being compared with this Phileo love He asks of in verse 17, and with the meaning of the first being supremely stronger in total devotion than the second which stands for affection; Peter openly admitted that there is nothing hidden from Christ.  Everything is open before Him, including Peter’s own heart.  Anything that Peter could reveal, Jesus already knew it all and he was confident that Jesus knew that he really did love Him despite his flawed background.

Moving on from the line of questioning, Jesus clues Peter in some of the things he would face not only in his future service to the Lord but his death as well.  Before His crucifixion, Jesus taught all His disciples that there was a cost in discipleship.  He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,” (Matthew 16:24; see also Luke 14:27).  This is something Peter would literally have firsthand experience with as Jesus explained to him “what death he should glorify God” with.  (By the way, did you notice those two words asking one to “follow me” in Matthew 16:24 as well?)

Jesus gave Peter a comparison of how his life looked when he was “young” and how events will play out when he is “old.”  While freedom was his for the taking and Peter could “girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest,” there would be a time when that truth is not so.  Peter would lose his freedom and be bound: “thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee.” 

Instead of tying his own garments, another would possibly tie or put him in chains and “carry thee whither thou wouldest not;” against his will and he would die a death that would bring glory to God.

The life of the Christian is not to call one into luxury and so forth where everything is a bed of roses and life is covered with peaches and cream.  The life of the Christian is often called to hard service that requires the sacrifice of much, and in some instances, even life itself. There have been many instances throughout history and there are, in many areas of the world today, where people pay the high cost of discipleship.  Let us not take lightly the times we are able to do things on our own accord and in our own power.

“When he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”  Christ is Peter’s example of life and ministry and He is ours and He is inviting His disciples and followers from all eras to join in His journey and follow Him (more on this was discussed in the introduction; refer back there).

During their discussion, “Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following” asked, “Lord, and what shall this man do?”  Peter was referencing John who also happens to be the author of this book and the teller of these events as they are unfolding in the restoration of Peter.  He is the same disciple who was seen leaning on Jesus during the time of the Last Supper and he is also the same one whom, after being motioned by Peter, asked Jesus during the time of that supper about the one who would betray Jesus (see John 13:24-25).  If Peter himself were to suffer such a great ordeal in his future, what about John?  What would his end look like?  What would his future entail?

Please Note: Everybody’s pathway will not look alike in our journey to follow Jesus.  Some roads traveled may seem harder than others.  At the same time, one can never be sure what another is going through, therefore, comparing one’s life or ministry with another is a futile effort.  Nevertheless, all that proclaim to be of Christ are commanded to apply themselves to be diligent and faithful workers of this great calling wherewith He has called us and allowed us to walk in our own measure of faith (compare Romans 12:3).

Therefore, Jesus responds to Peter’s question, saying, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”  Now, this portion of Scripture is not only important to Peter, but to the modern-day Christian as well.  Too many get hung up on what others are doing instead of focusing on what Christ has called them to do.  Jesus wasn’t concerned about filling in the blanks of Peter’s questions for him.  Jesus was concerned about Peter’s obedience to follow Him.

When our time on this earth comes to an end, no one will answer for the life we lived and the choices we made but us.  Nobody else is responsible for us, but us.  Therefore, our attentions should be geared toward questions that ask, “How am I doing?  Am I fulfilling the calling of God on my life?  Am I a faithful follower of Christ in every sense of the word?”  If we can honestly answer these questions about ourselves more while worrying about others less, perhaps we can get more things done for the Kingdom of God.

But, as usual, some took Jesus’ words the wrong way.  Rather than taking what He said at face value, some spread a saying about that stated, “That that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”  To get a clear understanding of the Bible and all its teachings, including what Jesus is teaching here, proper interpretation and communication of the Word is of the utmost importance.  There is an indescribable value in the Word of God to them that believe and hold dear its truths.  Read it, absorb it for the treasure that it is.  Say like the psalmist, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law,” (Psalm 119:18), and not my own interpretation, Lord.

Our lesson ends, and the book of John ends with this conclusion: “This is the disciple which testified of these things, and wrote these things,” speaking of John himself.  After he wrote everything involving the telling of the gospel proclaimed in his self-named book and showing the story of this meeting with Jesus by the seashore and the restoration of Peter, John is ready to close this book out.  But he does not do so until he makes sure that the readers know every word within, every event stated that occurred, every portion of the life of Jesus, His death, resurrection, and the events following are absolutely, one hundred percent “true.” 

John has walked with Christ throughout His earthly ministry.  He was there at the cross when He hung for us all.  And, now he records everything for our learning, faith, and edification in Him; that we might believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name,” (John 20:31).

John was a faithful reporter of everything he witnessed.  So much did this story entail – did His story entail, that it all couldn’t be recorded.  To hear about all Jesus did, “even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”  That is utterly astounding!  But, out of all that is written and recorded herein, and throughout the rest of the Bible, it is up to the individual to believe in Jesus Christ for themselves and treasure these words for their own life and salvation, and make the choice for that they will follow Jesus, too.

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’ Followers Follow Him 

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Jesus’ Followers Follow Him

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Jesus’ Followers Follow Him

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages These pages can be used to express or bring out any idea you choose in the lesson.  

Draw the Scene: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Memory Verse

Peter Puppet Loves Jesus: This Peter Puppet affirms his love for Jesus and is made to go with this week’s lesson.  Peter Puppet 2 (Use PDF link for accurate printing.  Print out on cardstock is best and your students can make their own paper bag puppet that goes with this week’s lesson. Your students can “dress” Peter by decorating the bag. Enjoy!)

Word Search: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Word Search  Answers: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Crossword  Answers: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus’ Followers Follow Him Word Scramble Answers

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Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Empowers His Followers” John 20:19-23

VERSE DISCOVERY: John 20:19-23 (KJV, Public Domain)

“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.”  That was the promise that God spoke through the prophet Joel, (2:28).  Ezekiel 36:26 tells us, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you…”

What God foretells through His servants, the prophecy’s that came forth, involved a part of Him (“my spirit”), coming to live on the inside (“within”) the heart of those that belong to Him.

How often had that been told to the Jewish people of old?  For generations, His promise had permeated their culture and had been passed from mouth to mouth testifying of His great promise that He wants to move into the lives of His people.

This promise of an outpouring traveled with them through wars and disobedience; through times of favor and times of disappointments.  Exile even dispelled them from their land for a time, but it could not dispel them from God’s promise.

In times before, they experienced God’s power at work in many different ways.  Now, Jesus was ready to take things to another level in bringing His people closer to that pouring out promise; one that would bring about great power, wonders, and deliverances.  Jesus was ready to breathe on them a part of Him; moving upon and in His people, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

By the time we get to this lesson in Scripture, the deed to crucify Jesus has transpired.  He had been scourged, thorned, spit on, nailed, and pierced.  The earth shook; the body was wrapped and put in the grave, and He rose again.

Things would never be the same for His kingdom and ministry.  A new level of empowerment was on the horizon and Jesus was ready to place His stamp of approval on these men that would authorize them to work in His promise.

Jesus Appeared to His Followers

John 20:19 “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

Have you ever had someone sneak up on you?  I mean they just seemingly appear out of nowhere and startle you.  It’s a pretty unsettling feeling of being caught unawares.

Now imagine how the disciples who were “assembled” behind closed “doors” felt when they received the surprise of a lifetime; Jesus, their friend, their teacher, their Savior – He, who days before, had been killed and murdered at the insistence of the “Jews,” now stood before them.

To say they were completely shocked doesn’t do it justice.  If it were me, I would be completely freaked out.  Can I take your mind back for a moment when they were being tossed about in the midst of the sea, and saw Jesus walking on water?  Their response: “They were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear,” (Matthew 14:26).

At that time, they had no just cause to believe He was a spirit.  They went off the basis that it was the only logical reason that allowed Him to walk on water.

Here, they would have a very good reason to spaz, so to speak, a bit over His sighting.  Not only do they know for a fact that Jesus had been crucified, but they have heard reports that He is no longer in the tomb Joseph of Arimathea donated for the cause of His burial.

Certain women went to the tomb and pondered how they would roll the stone away only to arrive and find it had already been moved (see Luke 24:1-3; Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1-4; John 20:1).  The news had spread to Peter and the rest.  Reports from the travelers on the road to Emmaus said, “The Lord is risen indeed…” (Luke 24:34).

Not only is He risen, but He is standing before them speaking, “Peace be unto you.”  Though the speaking of a greeting of “peace” was customary among the people, Jesus spoke with the intent of calming the raging storm of emotions these men were dealing with.

When Jesus appeared to them the Bible tells us, “they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit,” (Luke 24:37).  Jesus then asked them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).

So, Jesus speaks “peace” to them.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  Jesus had to refocus their troubled thoughts to see the miracle that stood before them now.

Yes, they were in troubling times.  Yes, they were dealing with confusion and disappointment, but Jesus had to calm the turmoil inside of them so that they could accept the great thing that was about to take place.  Therefore, Jesus draws them toward “peace.”

John 20:20 “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”

“And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.”  He showed them proof!  Physical evidence that He had indeed risen was right in front of their faces.  Remember, according to Luke 24:37 they thought He was a spirit, but Jesus showed them the evidence in His glorified flesh.  Later, He invited Thomas to, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side…” (John 20:27).

If you will allow me, just look at how many of their 5 senses were involved to establish that Jesus was alive in the flesh:

  • Seeing – they saw Jesus. To many, we would assume, that this would be enough, but with fear running rampart they believed that He was a spirit.
  • Hearing – Jesus spoke and questioned them. Again, in the mind’s eye of their panic over what they were witnessing; what they were hearing could be attributed to a spirit.
  • Touching – This is where the real convincing begins. When one can physically feel the flesh; feel the bones underneath, it can’t get any more real than this. Jesus wasn’t afraid to be closely examined by them. He urged them to get in there and feel the proof for themselves.
  • And if perchance you want to add smelling and taste (no they didn’t smell Jesus or taste Him) but on the “third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead,” (John 21:14); Jesus invited them to “come and dine” with Him (John 21:12). The fire was going, and the fish were frying, Jesus was partaking and invited them to do the same.  And from there, as they say, the rest is history.

Jesus, beyond a shadow of a doubt, showed with many evidences that He was in fact risen and alive.

“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”  When they really saw that this was, in fact, their risen Lord (minus the fish fry at this point), they were overjoyed.  Where they were feeling devastated and in deep despair, now they saw hope.  That’s something to get happy about.  When they got past the shock and really “saw the Lord” for who He is, their spirits were raised, and they rejoiced.

Don’t let despair keep you from seeing Jesus.  Even when one is suffering and feeling the burden of this world pressing on them – Jesus is there.

Jesus Breathed on His Followers

John 20:21 “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

“Peace be unto you.”  Jesus again speaks “peace” to His gathered disciples; words repeated to bring comfort to the disciples confused hearts.  Yes, on the night of His arrest they fled and left Him on His own.  They abandoned Him, but He has not forsaken them.

Now, He stands before them speaking “peace.”  Once Jesus speaks “peace” over you, don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.  One way the enemy will try to stop us is to keep us in a state of feeling like a failure, of feeling there’s no possible way Jesus can use us now.  We have messed up is what we claim, and we can’t see beyond our own faults and shortcomings to do a mighty work for Him.

Their failures were not hidden from Jesus.  Do you know how I know?  He died on the cross alone and they fled just as He said they would.  He knew it ahead of time.  But their job wasn’t to die on the cross.  And, despite their previous failures, Jesus still had a mission for them.  He said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” 

Please Note: Sometimes we may feel too gone in our mess, but if you are here and alive today you still have purpose.  God can still use you to make a positive impact for His kingdom.  Stop focusing on the failures of yesterday!  Start focusing on the mission of today!  Jesus wants to “send” you!

The “Father” sent Jesus with a purpose; with a mission.  Now, Jesus says, “So send I you.”  In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus further defines their “sending;” their mission and their purpose.  He says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”

At other points during His earthly ministry Jesus sent the disciples out on mission trips, so to speak, to heal, set free, and preach the kingdom of heaven (see Mark 6:7; Matthew 10:1 and Luke 10:1).

Just because Jesus won’t physically be with them anymore, they are to still be men on a mission.  Their lives are not to be filled with mindless idleness.  They must work the purpose wherewith he “sends” them; as do we.

We are all called to go out and get involved with His ministry and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15).

What is Jesus calling you to do to help the kingdom of God?  Where is it He wants to “send” you?  Don’t ignore the call or cower in fear.  He will empower you, as He did with these original followers, with what you need to make a difference, as our next verse tells us.

John 20:22 “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”

“He breathed on them.”  What is the significance of Jesus breathing on His disciples?  In both the Hebrew and Greek, the word “breath” is the same word for “spirit.”  Jesus is the only one with the authority to impart the Spirit in such a way, for Matthew 28:18 tells us, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

“Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”  After Jesus spoke to them, He wanted them to “receive” what was necessary to carry out their sending tasks with power.  Think of it this way, different vehicles are designed different ways, but one thing they all have in common is they need a source of power to run on to make their “going” successful.  For some, the power may come from gas.  For some, diesel.  And for others, their power source may be electric or a combination of several sources.  But none will move or function the way they were designed without receiving power.

The same is true for Christ’s followers.  The “Holy Ghost” is our power source.  He steps in our life and fills it from the inside out.  He leads us, guides us, strengthens us, and empower us to do the works of God.  When we “go” into the mission and purpose He has designed for each us, we need Him fully working on the inside of us in order to do it the way He wants us to.    

Therefore, Jesus “breathed” on them to empower and anoint them.  Most believe this was just a partial filling, or in preparation of, or a symbolic act to what would occur fully and completely at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4.  Jesus was bestowing on them a great gift that would enable them to work mightily for Him.  Without the Holy Ghost, the task ahead would be fruitless and without power.  Zechariah 4:6 plainly declares, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  Man can try to operate in his own power but won’t have the effect for God’s kingdom Jesus did.  This mission must be infused with power from on high!

Before His ascension, Jesus spoke to those gathered around Him, and said, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence,” and “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” (Acts 1:5, 8; emphasis mine; compare Luke 24:49).  They needed to be fully immersed in Him, fully filled with His Spirit to operate fully in the ministry He was sending them into.  One cannot work the Spirit’s work without the Spirit.

Later in Acts, when the events of Pentecost were unfolding, Peter, during his sermon, boldly spoke, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.  Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed for this, which ye now see and hear,” (Acts 2:32-33; emphasis mine).  The very promise of the Holy Ghost which Jesus spoke to them to receive, Peter said, we have received.  They have been empowered by His Spirit and it was shown before all there that day.

John 20:23 “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

The Gospel message they and us carry is powerful: it’s the Good News that Jesus saves.  Those who believe and accept this message, and are saved, can find joy in knowing they are forgiven, their “sins” are “remitted unto them.”

This was the climax of all Jesus sought to do on the cross: to save mankind from their sins, to restore them back to fellowship with God.  Those anointed, filled, and empowered by the “Holy Ghost” have the privilege to pass on this eternal-life saving message.  They have no power of their own to forgive sins, but they can open the word of life and lead others to the One who can.

At the same time, those who refuse will “retain” their “sins.”  If they refuse to let Jesus wash away the impurities of this world that stains their soul, it will remain with them into all eternity.

Despite popular beliefs, there are NOT many roads to heaven.  Jesus very clearly stated, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” (John 14:6).

I cannot overemphasize those two words “NO ONE!”  That means no exceptions.  That means no matter how good one thinks they are, if they have not gone through Jesus, if He has not cleansed them from their sins, they will not walk those dirty feet on His heavenly streets.

The disciples, as well as we, are empowered with the Holy Ghost to get that message across.  We all need to be empowered with His Spirit to do His work!

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 Empowers His Followers

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“Blowing Tube Craft” A simple craft to demonstrate breathing or blowing.  Simply roll up a piece of construction paper long ways and tape.  Cut the top and bottom off to make even.  Attach ribbon, tissue paper or I used cut up streamers and tape on the inside of your tube.  Some should be longer than the tube to help with blowing.  Decorate with crayons or stickers. 

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Bubble Play: Hit up your local dollar store or make homemade bubbles for students to demonstrate Jesus breathing on His followers.  What fun!

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Prays for His Followers” John 17:6-21

Photo by Alex Gindin on Unsplash

VERSE DISCOVERY: John 17:6-21 (KJV, Public Domain)

Jesus prayed for His followers.  That’s a statement all by itself.  The power of prayer is not just for an individual but to also share and to beseech God on behalf of others.

When Jesus prayed for His disciples it showed a personal love that He possessed for them that worked so closely with Him and followed Him these three years during His public ministry.  It shows the real love and concern the Savior of the world had/has for His followers.  In His prayer, He poured out His plea for protection and help that the work is not hindered, and His disciples would be able to stand strong.

Jesus’ prayer for His disciples has become one of the most loved and quoted prayers in the Bible.  Before His death, He could think of no better way to spend His time than to cover His people in prayer.

“They Have Believed”

John 17:6-8 “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest me; and they have kept thy word.  Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.  For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.”

Going up to verse one of this same chapter, I see the most amazing picture: “Jesus… lifted up his eyes to heaven.”  There stands one of the most beautiful moments in time where we are allowed to see into the depths of Jesus’ prayer.  The King of all of creation is bowed in humility, but with assurance of hope, focuses heaven’s attention on His people.

“I have manifest thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest me.”  Jesus showed them, God.  During His ministry, through His words and His deeds, He showed them, God, as they had never seen or experienced before.  At one point, Jesus explained, “All things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” (John 15:15).  He made God known to them.

He showed them the love of God when He healed their sicknesses and diseases and looked on them with compassion because they were as sheep with no shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38).  He showed the mercy of God when He forgave the woman who was caught in adultery and prevented her life from being taken (John 8:1-11).  He showed the peace of God when He stilled the raging storm (Matthew 8:23-27).  He showed the caring nature of God by raising the widow of Nain’s only son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17).  He showed the holiness of God by driving out the moneychangers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12 and John 2:15).  He showed the authority of God by driving out demons and putting the devil in his place (Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 8:31; Matthew 16:23; Matthew 17:14-18).   “I have manifest thy name unto the men which thou gavest me.”  Jesus showed them what the name of God was all about by showing them what the nature and character of God were all about.

These men who experienced these wonderful things with Jesus; whom God gave to Jesus, were taught the word and “have kept thy word.”  In prayer, Jesus testified to the Father on the faithfulness of His followers.  They hold on to His teachings and treasure and cleave to what has been passed down to them through Jesus.  The psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (Psalm 119:11).  They “kept thy word!”

“Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.”  The disciples believed with all assurance that everything Jesus has done and taught has been directly related in His relationship to His Father.  At one point during His ministry Jesus said, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak,” (John 12:49; see also John 5:19 & 7:16) and the disciples have the understanding of this.  “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein,” (Hosea 14:9).  What Jesus taught them “they have received” because they “have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.”

What Jesus lived out before them, and what they heard and received through all of His teachings caused a chain reaction of belief to stir in their souls.  They could’ve done as many others who witnessed His works and sat under His words, which is walk away.  Treating Christ like a spectator sport or just the newest thing to hear about, and then move on back to your normal life and routine.

No, not these faithful followers.  They took in everything and couldn’t help but to believe that Jesus was sent by none other than the Father from above.  They held on to that belief with everything in them (which we will really see play out in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament story).

One day, as Jesus was teaching some pretty hard sayings that confused and offended some, many stopped following Him that day and walked away.  Jesus asked His twelve that were with Him, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67).  In response to that question, Peter spoke up for these followers of Christ and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God,” (John 6:68-69; emphasis mine).  They believed what He taught.  They believed what He lived. And yes, they believed that He was sent from the Father because Peter pointedly stated they were “sure” that He was the Christ, the Son of God.  Although one would betray Him (John 6:70-71), the rest lived their life in faith and belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Therefore, He prays a special prayer for them.

“I Pray for Them”

John 17:9-12 “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.  And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.  And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee, Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world.”  Make no mistake, God loves the entire world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).  But here, Jesus’ prayer focused specifically on His followers.  They are special people with a special mission: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (1 Peter 2:9), and they needed the Lord to intercede in prayer on their behalf.

Intercession is going to God on behalf of someone else.  These men would be responsible for carrying the life-saving gospel message to the world.  Some may not receive it as they did.  As a matter of fact, Jesus once told them, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake,” (Matthew 24:9).  The mission would not be easy, and they needed prayer.  Therefore, Jesus interceded!

“I am glorified in them.”  While Jesus had some devoted followers who loved and respected Him, there were many who did not.  Often Jesus was verbally attacked and put down by the leaders and those who couldn’t understand His mission and ministry.  But these men, who have adhered to and kept the word; who latched onto and accepted Him as Teacher and everything, are living in light of what has been revealed to them, and through them Jesus is “glorified.”  Honor is brought to Him through their life and ministry in the kingdom of God.

If a parent is called into a conference regarding their child, there can be a moment of hesitation.  Not knowing what the conference will bring forth the parent will cautiously enter in.  Seated in front of the teacher you begin to hear stories of achievements and accomplishments; tales of good reports and it absolutely blows your mind.  You feel exceptional and elated as a parent because of the good traits and nature exhibited; because of the good works that are being exposed in your child.  Jesus once said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples,” (John 15:8).  In the same way, that child’s actions cause the parents to feel honored and lifted, when we follow Christ with all diligence, we bring glory and honor to His name.

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world.”  By the time we reach the second verse of the next chapter in the book of John, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and the process of the betrayal of Judas is underway.  The horrific events that would culminate in our ultimate salvation get underway, and physically, Jesus, for a time, is taken from this world, leaving these men whom He’s praying for behind.

Jesus prays, “I come to thee, Holy Father, keep them through thine own name.”  They needed help.  They needed help from heaven.  They needed guidance.  They needed protection.  They needed to be kept or preserved.  The world is harsh, especially against Jesus and His followers.  John 15:18 states, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”  They needed help to maintain a steady course forward; to get through it all; therefore, He called on the “Holy Father” to help “keep” them.

“That they may be one, as we are.”  Adversity and trials people face tend to bring in discord and division.  Jesus once taught, “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” (Mark 3:25).  Though Jesus taught this against the enemy, the same principle applies in every area of life.  Division of any kind makes the foundation weak, and in turn, the building will come crumbling down.

Jesus prayed for oneness for His followers.  Unity mattered to Jesus during His earthly ministry: “For he that is not against us is on our part,” (Mark 9:40); and it matters as the Church continues: Paul prayed, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you;  but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Jesus knew that if His disciples would ban together as one, they could impact the world in a positive way, leading many to believe in Him.  Vice versa, if divisions and contentions prevailed it would not work to draw people to Himself, to His kingdom message; rather, it would repel.

Even in the Old Testament, David recognized the importance of unity among the brethren.  He wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore,” (Psalm 133).

This kind of unity that Jesus is praying for can only be accomplished on a spiritual level; one that bonds each disciple together through the Spirit.

Twice in verse 12 Jesus states that He has “kept” them.  As a careful Shepherd of His flock, He states, “None of them is lost.”  While with them He tended His sheep; He cared for them and protected them against the wolves and enemies that sought to ravenously destroy His work in these tender lives.

All “but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”  All points of ministry that He had to fulfill, according to prophecy or “scripture,” had to be completed; even the parts that would lead to His death.  This included the one who traveled with Him in His band, “the son of perdition,” His betrayer.  “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born,” (Mark 14:21).

John 17:13-16 “And now come I to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

“That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”  In a few hours, the world of the disciples would change dramatically.  Their friend, their Teacher, their Savior would be put in chains and arrested, and they the disciples would be scattered leaving Him alone to face His accusers.

Where would the joy be when all seems lost?  When they’re huddled together behind closed doors in fear, would there ever be a time of rejoicing again?  Jesus prepped them prior to this and let them know, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full,” (John 15:11).

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.  That’s why the Bible encourages us by saying, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2).  So, He prayed that His disciples would “have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

The ministry would be rough at times, but we see Jesus’ prayer fulfilled after the apostles received a beating from the Sanhedrin.  The Bible tells us, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name,” (Acts 5:41).  They carried the joy of Jesus with them through the hardship of the ministry.

“The world hated them.”  Jesus knew the opposition they would feel because he endured the same.  If the Teacher is attacked, the students will be attacked as well, (compare Matthew 10:24-25).

In John 15:19 Jesus stated, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

There are many animals in the animal kingdom that are very territorial.  If you don’t look like them, act like them, or smell like them, they don’t want you around and you are not accepted into their herd, clan, family, or what have you.

This is true of the world’s system.  In Christ we are made new and not to be conformed to the world (see Romans 12:1-2).  We stand out from the world’s system as disciples of Christ and those of the world do not like that.

Jesus prayed, “Keep them from evil.”  Don’t take them “out of the world;” but keep them!  Their message is lifesaving.  Their lives are testimonies.  Keep them!

John 17:17-19 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”  Previously, Jesus taught, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,” (John 15:3).  That word “sanctify” is akin to “holy” which means to be separated or set apart.  The psalmist asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” (Psalm 119:9a).  His own answer was, “By taking heed thereto according to thy word,” (Psalm 119:9b).  Following God’s word will help to keep you.

“I have sent them into the world.”  At other points of time in His ministry, Jesus sent the disciples out on mission trips, so to speak.  He sent them to heal, set free, and preach the kingdom of heaven (see Mark 6:7; Matthew 10:1 and Luke 10:1).  Before His ascension, He will again instruct them regarding The Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15).  Their lives are not to be filled with mindless idleness.  They are men on a mission.  As the Father has sent the Son to complete His mission on earth, so the Son sends His followers to do the same.

“For their sakes I sanctify myself.”  One day when Jesus came to Nazareth He entered the synagogue and began reading from the book of Isaiah where it said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” (Luke 4:18).  After reading some more He closed the book and proclaimed, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” (Luke 4:21).

Jesus’ purpose has always been to go to the cross and lay down His life.  He didn’t need to be cleansed from sin, but He was set apart with a mission to redeem mankind from their sins; therefore, He said, “I sanctify myself.” 

Prior to this Jesus let it be known regarding His life, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father,” (John 10:18).  He was purposely set apart for this and He declared, “I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” 

Jesus set Himself apart as the ultimate sacrifice for His disciples and for us, “that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

John 17:20-21 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Jesus’ prayer was not just laden with concern and intercession for His current disciples, but for all of us who have come to Christ throughout the generations that followed.  Jesus prayed for each and every one of us also.  How about that?  Jesus prayed for you, and Jesus prayed for me.  We are not only covered under His blood, but we have been blanketed by His prayers.  How awesome is that!

His prayer, at this point, once again focused on unity, “That they all may be one.”  Paul made this plea, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in loveEndeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, On God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all,” (Ephesians 4:1-6, emphasis mine).

Being “one” is a powerful number!  Oneness in the body of Christ can impact the world like nothing else can and turn this place upside down “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Jesus prayed for His disciples and Jesus prayed for you, too.  We who have believed are covered by the prayers of Christ that we might go out into the world and help others believe also.

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 Prays for His Followers

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Sunday School Lesson – “Abraham’s Faith is Tested” Genesis 22:1-14

VERSE DISCOVERY: Genesis 22:1-14 (KJV, Public Domain)

Even in the hardest and most difficult circumstances we may face, as Abraham finds out in this lesson, God calls us to still be obedient to His calling, walk with Him by faith, and He will provide the end results.

 Abraham’s Test

Genesis 22:1 “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

If we take a step back to view the story as a whole, we can gain a better understanding of everything that is transpiring here.  God has already spoken a promise for Abraham to be fulfilled through Sarah.  She was going to be blessed by God to have a son and “she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her,” (Genesis 17:16).

God followed through on His promise.  “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.  For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him,” (Genesis 21:1-2).  Every wonderful promise God spoke to this elderly couple was fulfilled.  That set things up for the future course of events to play out according to the rest of the promises given to Abraham concerning this child.

But as we approach this lesson there seems to be a proverbial wrench thrown in the midst of the plans.  At a time when Abraham probably thought everything was safe, secured, and at rest in his life, God disrupted his comfort zone and asked Abraham to do the seemingly impossible.

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.”  Some time had passed since the birth of their promised son had arrived in their tents.  Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, the one born of the slave Hagar, was sent away by this point in time (Genesis 21:8-10).  The reason being, God declared, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” (Genesis 21:12; Romans 9:7).  And, although God would take care of Ishmael (Genesis 21:13-21), he was not included in this promise of God.

With that move of obedience to send his firstborn away, and with the settling of the covenant between himself and Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34), surely Abraham must have thought that was it.  Perhaps there was a sense of accomplishment that all he had to do now was to sit back, enjoy and raise his son, get on with life, work and live it to its fullest.  No worries.

But God came with a new message that may have shaken any ease Abraham possibly felt.  This message and what it required was meant to put Abraham to the test, or “tempt,” as our lesson translates it.

We must be extremely careful in how we apply that word “tempt” when we’re talking about God.  Often when we are thinking of tempting, we are thinking along the lines of one trying to get another to sin.  This is a far cry from the plan that God is setting up through the line of Abraham that will eventually bring in the Messiah to save mankind.  Furthermore, God can NEVER be accused of tempting someone to sin (see James 1:13-14).  Sin is against the holy nature of God.  God wants people to be where He is, and sin would be a hindrance to that.  If one is drawing away it is of their own doing, not God’s.

Rather, the word “tempt” here means to test or to prove.  How far would Abraham go in obeying God?  Was he all-in?  Was he really with God all the way, no matter what?  Was his heart really tied to God?  Or, did Abraham love something or someone more?

A lot of people can have a bold profession of faith on the outside, but the real teller of what’s inside an individual is when the heart is tested.  And, God wanted to see what was really in Abraham.

Not knowing what was in store, when God called his name, Abraham responded, “Behold, here I am.”  He opened himself up to receive whatever it is God was getting ready to speak.  Not only to hear but with a readiness to obey.  How would his faith in God and obedience to God hold up under the pressure of the next words the Almighty will speak?

Often, one never even knows the fullness of their own heart until it has been pushed and pulled beyond familiar limits.  Only when it is stretched with trials can one tell how their strength and stamina in the Lord holds up.

Genesis 22:2 “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

God didn’t beat around the bush with His instructions.  He was very specific with what He had asked Abraham to do.

“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac.”  Many Bible students are very familiar with Abraham’s lineage.  But, as noted earlier, Ishmael was not included in this promise.  At this time, he is off the scene and the focus is on “Isaac, whom thou lovest.”

Love can be a sweet thing, but if it keeps you from the will of God, if it keeps you from being fully devoted to God, it can be a bitter thing because it keeps you tied in an affection other than God.

Promises are wonderful, but they can never replace the relationship with God we are called to have.  God must always come first in all things.  The heart must be measured to see what it is really full of because when we want our cup overflowing, we want it to be overflowing with Him and not things that keep us from Him.  So, the focus of Abraham’s test is something his heart is attached to; something he loves.

Will the thing that he loves stand in the way of complete obedience to God?

Surely at the mention of Isaac, God has Abraham’s undivided attention and with that, He further relays His instructions of what to do.  “Get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.”  One of the hardest things that another could ask is something that would bring harm to their child.  Mama bears are notoriously known for the protection of their children, and people are too.

God didn’t ask Abraham to take Isaac with him to offer a burnt offering, but He told Abraham to “offer him there for a burnt offering.”  Give up what you are holding dear in your heart, Abraham.  What must’ve been going through his mind at the idea of such a request?  Did he experience that moment of trepidation, those tingling twinges in the stomach that make one’s heart flutter in the wrong way?  Did beads of perspiration gather on his upper lip that couldn’t utter any words at the impact of what was being said?

The Scriptures don’t clue us in on the emotional side of what Abraham maybe was feeling.  But, regardless of how he felt, it tells us of what he did that mattered.

Abraham’s Obedience

Genesis 22:3 “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.”

“Abraham rose up early in the morning,” not to flee and try to get away from this hard thing that God asked him to do like Jonah did (Jonah 1:3), but he “rose up” to move closer in obedience to God; to pursue his faith on a deeper level.  Not knowing completely how the end of this journey would turn out, Abraham set out and prepared to follow God’s leading through the pain of this hard thing.

He gathered all the necessary things to follow through with the “burnt offering.”  He followed his normal routine and preparedness to make a sacrifice to God, right down to making sure he had an adequate “wood” supply needed for the offering.  He didn’t give himself room to negotiate out of what he was asked to do, like, “Well, God, you see, I didn’t bring enough wood or such and such.  I’ll just have to come back another time and try again.”  Nope.  Abraham prepared to fully comply with God’s instructions no matter the cost.  And, this offering would cost.  It would be painful.

Genesis 22:4-5 “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.  And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”

Traveling three days journey, “on the third day,” coming into the land where God directed him, Abraham “saw the place afar off.”  Moriah was in his view, but obedience was in his heart.  If thoughts plagued him such as, “I can’t go through with this,” he didn’t let on.  He didn’t give them room to plant in his conscience.  He traveled this far to complete the task at hand, and he wouldn’t let how he felt about it disrupt his observance of what God wanted from him.  He was a determined worshiper if I ever saw one.

Resolutely staring at that place, his mind and heart were fixed to go all the way with God; to follow through to the next level of what he needed to do.  With what I am sure was a painstaking move, Abraham instructed the “young men” who accompanied him and Isaac on this journey how this would all go down.

“Abide ye here with the ass.”  They were not invited to join him and Isaac on the next leg of this journey, the actual approaching of and performing the burnt offering.  How would they have responded if they did accompany Abraham all the way?  Would they have stood by and not gotten involved or would they have run interference, preventing Abraham from following through?

When God calls us to a task, some steps of that journey may have to be walked without the assistance of others.  They may not comprehend it being a journey of faith as you do.  And, faith is exactly what Abraham had and what he was going on.  He knew what he was called to do, but his next words tell us he also believed for a better outcome.

“I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”  If suspicions were raised, Abraham’s confidence in what was going to happen must have allayed any concerns.  Abraham’s words relayed nothing but faith in God.

“I and the lad will go… and worship… and come again.”  After they worshiped, Abraham’s expectations were to return with his son.  What went into this sort of faith?  One can only imagine that Abraham held tightly in total belief of all God already promised.  He may have not known the ins and outs of how all this would transpire, but he was in a covenant relationship with the only God who did.  He kept that as a light before him, shining the pathway as he took steps closer to that place of worship.

Going over into the book of Hebrews, we get a peek behind the scenes to some of Abraham’s reasoning and thought processes during this event: “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence he received him in a figure,” (Hebrews 11:19).  Romans also tells us, “…he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were,” (Romans 4:17).  The process looked like it was going to be painful, but that didn’t diminish Abraham’s faith.  Abraham believed God and the promise He had for him, more than the pain of the process.

Genesis 22:6 “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.”

A three days journey required the help of the men, but with their command to stay put Abraham and Isaac would literally have to shoulder the weight of the offering.  Each of them would carry, physically and spiritually, the responsibility of this offering.

Physically, “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son.”  This picture really comes to light in the New Testament where we see Jesus bearing his own cross in the march toward His own place of sacrifice, Calvary (John 19:17).  This, along with other implements necessary for the sacrifice, the “fire” (coals), and the “knife,” the two of them walked “together,” closer to the testing grounds of faith.

The spiritual aspects would be soon in coming as noted in the next few verses.  However heavy their load is now; it would become an extreme weight in just a bit.  Oh, what strength it took to continue that march forward.

Genesis 22:7 “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Isaac, presumed to have attended these sacrifices before, and of age enough to know that something important was missing, had a very good question to ask his father regarding this particular offering.  He sees the fire and wood, but “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” he asked.  I wonder if those young men he left behind were thinking the same thing?  How would they carry out a proper sacrifice without a “lamb?”  There needed to be an animal for a burnt offering (compare Genesis 2:20 and Exodus 29:38).

Genesis 22:8 “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”

Abraham’s response was short, but it was full of the faith he carried deep in his heart.  He said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”  He doesn’t know how, but Abraham knows “God will provide.”  This trip, this offering, would end according to God’s plan and provision, even if it meant falling along the lines of what was already stated from Hebrews, that Isaac could be raised from the dead.

Abraham’s faith looked beyond what he was experiencing and trusted that “God will provide.”  His hopes, his future, and his son was in the hands of God.

“So they went both of them together.”  Father and son carried on with the journey, trusting God every step of the way, each with the loads they bear.

Genesis 22:9 “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”

This and the next verse is where we really start to see the spiritual aspects of the weight they both carried.

As they “came to the place” where the offering was to occur, and with no alternative means in sight, Abraham continued in following all the necessary procedures for the burnt offering.

“Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order.”  He prepared for the sacrifice.  An “altar” was erected, probably of stone.  It is on this he would lay down his only son.

Abraham then “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”  Out of all that was happening before him, Isaac appears to let it be so, without giving his father a struggle.  Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born, and even at this point in time, many more years have passed.  It would have been tremendously easy to avert this painful process, but he seems to allow it in submission to his father’s will.  Doesn’t that remind you of Jesus?

Oh, the burden of this spiritual weight these two were bearing.  Isaac in his laying down of self to allow this happen and Abraham in the performing of it as shown in the next verse.

Genesis 22:10 “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac…” (Hebrews 11:17).  Abraham did not withhold his hand from the deed, his heart from following God, nor his son in his willingness to offer him up.  Abraham proceeded to carry out the last detail required for the burnt offering.  He “stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”  All the way to the very end, he continued to choose God’s will over his own.

PLEASE NOTE: Sacrificing people, humans, children are NEVER something God condones or asks for.  As a matter of fact, it is a pagan practice He strongly stood against and opposes (Leviticus 20:1-5).  Evil practices such as these provoke the LORD to anger (see 2 Kings 17:17; compare Ezekiel 20:26).  God states it is something, “Which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart,” (Jeremiah 7:31).  A human sacrifice was NEVER God’s intention or will.  Just a testing of the human heart, as the next verse proves.

God’s Provision

Genesis 22:11-12 “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

God prevented the burnt offering involving Isaac from going forth.  True to His holy nature, God prohibited such an action from taking place.  When it seemed like the unthinkable was going to occur, God stepped in the path of the process and stayed the hand of Abraham.

Calling his name “out of heaven… Abraham, Abraham,” He spoke, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him.”  Like a rushing waterfall, relief must have washed over this man of faith and his son.

Abraham’s faith was tested and proven to be true, for He said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”  One can speak of their great faith and make a boast in themselves, or they can wholly follow God and let Him proclaim it for you.

What was in Abraham’s heart was evidenced by what he did and was willing to do.  Abraham’s faith was active and alive, and it was for God whom he knew would provide.  God recognized that and commended him for not keeping anything back from Him, including his “son.”  Abraham’s faith caused him to live in total surrender to God.

Genesis 22:13-14 “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.  And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.”

At that moment, those previous words spoken by this great patriarch, “God will provide,” came to pass.  For there in the “thicket” was a “ram caught… by his horns.”  A substitute for the sacrifice was given.  Oh, what a foretelling of what Christ would do for all mankind as He laid his life down for us.

“And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.”  Abraham used the offering God provided to bring freedom to his son.  When he previously told the young men, they would both be back, surely Abraham’s steps back to their point of return would be lighter, taking in all that God had done for them.

He was to Abraham, “Jehovah-jireh.”  “God who sees; God who provides.”  That place is renamed by Abraham in recognition of God’s awesome provision there.  Moriah would no longer just be a mount on the map.  Eventually, it will be the place where God would lay down His ultimate provision for humanity in the form of Jesus Christ.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

This “place” would be where Jerusalem is established; where Solomon’s temple is erected (2 Chronicles 3:1); the city where God refused to withhold His only begotten Son for our sins.

Since God has provided for the hardest thing, our salvation, can’t we have faith and trust Him with everything else in our lives?

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 – Abraham’s Faith is Tested

Suggested Activities:

Draw the Scene: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Draw the Scene

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Abraham’s Faith is Tested

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Abraham’s Faith is Tested

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (Using the blank journal pages allows you to bring out the points of the lesson that are most important to you and your class.  Also, the blank journal pages and be used to support the “Life” section of the printed lesson.)

Word Search: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Search  Answers: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Search Answers

Crossword: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Crossword  Answers: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Scramble  Answers: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Scramble Answers

Other Resources:

“Abraham Sacrifices Isaac”

“Abraham and Isaac Video”

“Abraham and Isaac Altar Craft”

“In God We Trust”

“Abraham and Isaac Flannel Board Figures”

“Abraham Offers Isaac Magic Window”

“Abraham and Isaac Object Lesson/Activities/Coloring Page”

“Abraham and Isaac Coloring Page”

 “Genesis 22 Activities”

 

Sunday School Lesson Series: “Getting to Know God Better”

When we enter into a new relationship it takes time to begin to understand and know the other individual.  This knowledge does not come instantly.  It comes with patience and perseverance; it comes by spending time with someone to get to know them personally.  It’s how we figure out all those special things that make them, them.

Getting to know God better, I believe, operates in much the same way.  The more time we spend with Him and the more time we take to understand Him and those special things that make Him, Him, the greater our love and appreciation for Him grows.  That growth is important because our understanding of who God truly is has eternal implications.  Jesus Himself spoke and said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” (John 17:3; emphasis mine).

Can I tell you a secret?  God wants us to know Him.  He spoke in Jeremiah, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord,” (Jeremiah 9:23-24; emphasis mine).

The greatest thing we could ever have is a solid relationship with God.  Fortifying that comes by taking the time to get to know Him better, which is the gist of this new lesson series.  Each lesson focuses on some of those things that make up the beautiful character of our wonderful God.  In the end, my prayer is that your faith in Him and your relationship with Him would be strengthened all the more.  We have this promise in the Bible: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8).  I pray that the words written in these lessons would help you to do just that, get closer to God.

To access the lessons, simply click on the links below.  They can be studied individually or grouped together as a series.

The power of God is over all! The power of God is responsible for all things created! The power of God cannot be matched and Job declares, even during the roughest patch of his life, that God’s sovereignty over all remains.

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

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s longsuffering is God’s patience at work in the best possible way.  Believe today and turn to the Lord for salvation.

Holiness is still right! Isaiah saw a vision of God’s holiness in heaven, unmatched by anything we can know down here or imagine. Peter lets us know, the only way we will get to experience heaven, is to live holy while down here on earth. We must be holy because God is holy!

I am expecting to add more lessons to this series in the future so please stay tuned for updates.  For now, I’m off to work on other projects and series.  Many blessings to you all!

Sunday School Lesson – “Always Pray and Not Faint” Luke 18:1-8

Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 18:1-8 (KJV, Public Domain)

Above the door frame of my front door, there is an elongated plaque mounted.  Inscribed upon it are the words, “Handle with Prayer.”  Every time you come through that door or walk around the living room, this visible reminder stands as a testament of what to do with everything in life: Handle with Prayer.

I believe strongly in prayer and in the power of prayer.  And, I believe it is a part of our relationship with God where we can never stop growing in or do too much.  I believe prayer is a wonderful privilege that God extends to us to come and talk to Him, to lay everything at His feet.  I believe prayer shouldn’t be our last resort when times become difficult.  Rather, it should be the first life-saving ring we grab when we are drowning and hold on to it for dear life.

Is it always easy?  No.  But, then again, neither is life, hence the need for these reminders to take everything to the Lord in prayer before, in the middle of, and after feeling totally overwhelmed by it all.

Prayer is something that should be a natural part of every Christian’s life, but something many use too infrequently or stop when they don’t receive an immediate answer or results they were looking for.  What Jesus teaches us in today’s parable is sometimes you must keep going for it.  We cannot always expect microwave results.  Sometimes we must labor in prayer, and through the power of prayer, repeatedly keep petitioning heaven with those requests.

 Lesson Summary

Luke 18:1-3 “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:  And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.”

The operation or workings of prayer have been a mystery to some through the ages.  For some prayer seems to be some mundane Christian civic duty; a check off list, if you will, of something that needs to be done.  For others, prayer seems to be elusive; difficult to understand the concept of and even more difficult to do.

Good news!  Prayer is not either of those things.  Prayer is something that is given to us as an honor; as a way to reach the heavenly Father personally, one on one.  How awesome is that?  Prayer is as essential to the Christian life as breathing or eating.  It is necessary to stay spiritually nourished in Him.

Jesus, therefore, sets about in this lesson opening to His disciples the importance of not giving up in prayer.  To keep laboring through it and being persistent in our requests to God.

Many today teach that if we keep going to God repeatedly with the same request, then that is a sign that we don’t have the proper faith attached to our request, or that we don’t believe God.  Whereas Jesus teaches us in this lesson, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  And, as we find in our lesson, that also covers when we repeatedly take the same request to Him in prayer.

This was a necessary concept for His disciples to grasp.  Jesus had just finished talking to them about His second coming (Luke 17:20-37).  Which means, there must be a departure from His first coming, or as we know, His death, resurrection, and ascension.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke of and demonstrated a life of prayer.  After His departure, prayer is where the disciples must find strength in the continuing forth of the ministry left for them to fulfill.  If Jesus depended often on prayer, surely the disciples, and we, need it even more.

A Christian’s lifeline is held open with God through prayer.  The opened prayer line fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it’s soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing.  That’s what Jesus did, He prayed!

Good, effective prayer is not only active during emergency rescues when we turn to Him as a last resort.  A good and effective prayer life will be used to guide our daily steps, saying, “God, I need You and Your counsel and direction in my life this day!”

A strong life of faith cannot be fostered through just those desperate moment prayer request rescues, but when a life hungers to be connected to its source, it willing seeks out that Source all the more, because anything less than what that true connection offers just won’t do.

Therefore, Jesus Christ Himself said, “men ought always to pray.”  That word “always” tells us there is never a time when it is not a good idea to pray.  Prayer in an appropriate action for the Christian to take at all times, or always.  The Apostle Paul taught, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” (Philippians 4:6; emphasis mine).  Simply put, and agreeing with our Lord, prayer is something that we should always do, and it is always a good idea.

Prayer will also help us to “faint not.”  Pray, and don’t give up.  Pray, and don’t let the temporary of this life get the best of you.  Victory is ahead for the ones that “faint not.”

The word “faint” speaks of weariness to the point that it wears you out and you want to let it go.  Many of us have often spoken those same words declaring the tiresomeness, annoying, and weakened state one may be feeling over a situation, work, or even just dealing with people.

But, for Jesus’ disciples, there would be no room in their new mission for weak-willed, fainthearted workers.  The gospel was the mission, and souls would be the target of that mission.  Life and death would hang in the balance of those who received the words these men of God would soon proclaim and spread to all regions of the world.  They had to be strong.  Prayer would help keep them strong; it would help keep them grounded and tied to their Savior in His absence.  Prayer can make the difference to a life well-lived for God, or not.  Foregoing a persistent prayer life was not an option.  With that, Jesus opens this lesson, saying, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  Never give up on prayer!

Then, as in other parables, Jesus gives them a story of how this may look in their real, everyday lives; an example of how to act out the principle of prayer that Jesus is teaching.  This is a sign of a good teacher, of which we know Jesus is.  He doesn’t just tell people what to do, He shows them how to do it. 

With that, He opens his story talking about a “judge” who dwells in a certain “city.”  This judge is later identified by Jesus as being “unjust” (see verse 6).  

Unjust means he wasn’t right.  To prove that, Jesus even stated of this man he “feared not God, neither regarded man.”  He had an, “I don’t care” attitude.  He did what benefited him, and most likely, his own pockets.  A judge of any people, particularly God’s people, is supposed to operate with the rule of justice as his measuring rod.  He or she is to uphold all that is true and right.  They are to be fair and impartial in their decisions.  This was not the case here.

Many suppose this man may not have been of Jewish descent because he does not have the fear of God in him, which means he doesn’t respect God, he’s not going to uphold God’s law, nor will he take into consideration God’s ways above what he thinks.  At the same time, some of the judges/leaders throughout history who were of God’s people behaved in the same manner.  So, with the information given, we can’t say one way or another.  But what we do know is God expected more from the judges, especially when it came to helping the weak.  In the book of Isaiah, God pronounced a “woe” against unjust judges who, “turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless,” (10:2; read 10:1-4).

Nevertheless, whether he was a Jew or a Gentile, he was in a position to help and to judge fairly those who seek his assistance.  But, as we find out, this is not what he is in the habit of doing.

The next character in this parable is a “widow.”  Widows got a rough deal in those days and without a husband or children to care for them their situations could turn disastrous quickly.  They could become prey for those who would take advantage of them and fall victim to the many schemes of unscrupulous peoples.

God had many stipulations in His Word to guard and benefit the weaker members of society, including the widows.  Deuteronomy 27:19 declares, “Cursed be he that perverteth the judgement of the stranger, fatherless, and widow…”  Exodus 22:22 says, “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.”  And, in the New Testament, James says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world,” (1:27).

This “widow” came seeking justice.  She came because she had a case and apparently, to say that things weren’t going right, is an understatement.  She had an “adversary” to deal with and unless she was “avenged;” unless someone like this judge would pay attention to her needs and stand up for her cause, she would most likely go under and succumb to the unfair treatment she was receiving.  She had nowhere else to go, and so, she wasn’t going anywhere.  She refused to accept things as they were.

Luke 18:4-5 “And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

“For a while” the judge refused her or turned away any fair judgment she was searching for.  “For a while” he ignored her pleas and her dire circumstance.  “For a while” he “would not” do anything for her to bring her case to a satisfactory conclusion.  But then there came a time when he was ready to move on her behalf.

There was an “afterward” moment of revelation for this judge.  After he saw her stamina in her “continual coming.”  After he saw that tenacious spirit in her that refused to let her accept anything less than what she deserves, “he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her.”

Not because suddenly he turned his life over to God or got a spiritual revelation.  That wasn’t it.  Not because he suddenly developed a warm spot in his heart for this woman.  That wasn’t it either.  His stance in both of those situations had not changed.  But, because she wouldn’t be stopped, he was going to take up her case and make sure she received justice and possibly those who had done her wrong would be punished, “lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

She wore him out!  She came and invaded his space repeatedly with her pleas.  However many times it took, she was all in.  She came until her request was heard, and her situation was resolved.

How much more will God do for His own who come to Him?

Luke 18:6-8 “And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.  And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

God is not an unjust judge, nor can He be worn out through our prayers.  The point of this story is to persist in prayer.  If the unjust judge heard the woman and saw to it she was avenged due to her diligence, what do we think about God?  Is not God so much more!  He said, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him,” (Psalm 91:15).

Therefore, be diligent.  Never let anything hinder one’s pace toward that throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), especially in those coming days where the need to be fortified in prayer will be all the more prevalent.

Keep coming!  Keep going to God!  Never stop looking to Him as your source for everything in life.  Handle everything with prayer!  The widow refused to be silenced, and don’t you be silenced by those around you or your circumstance either.

God has an opened invitation for His people.  God shall “avenge his own elect” in their time of need, according to His perfect and holy will, and time.  There are days now when God’s people are treated unfairly and seem to have drawn the short end of the stick.  In the last days, the heat will be turned up all the more, but God is not ignorant now or then to what His people face.  He will “avenge!”  Therefore, keep praying! 

Every injustice will be repaid.  Every wrong anything done against us will be turned in the favor of God’s people who don’t give up, who keep going despite what it looks like, who hold on to Him and seek Him no matter how hard it may be sometimes.  Those who persist in prayer will see a righteous end to everything they are facing.

But one must hold on to faith because faith and persistence go hand in hand.  And, faith is what Jesus is questioning at the end of this parable.  He says God will do His part.  When His people “cry day and night unto him,” He hears.  Not only does He hear, but He will do something about it.  He will “avenge” and stand for the justice of His own, and He will do it “speedily” without hesitation.

He may not come when you want Him, but as they say, He’s always right on time.  He may “bear long” with His people (see verses on God’s long-suffering in Ex. 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Isaiah 30:18; Romans 2:4 – just to name a few), but at the right moment, He will answer prayer.

As God is patient and longsuffering and will come at the right time, we too are commanded to be patient, and in that patience, persist.  “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.  Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:7-8).

Yes, it will be hard sometimes, but persist.  Yes, it will seem unfair at times, but persevere.  Yes, there will be times when you will be wronged, and it will hurt, but keep going and keep coming to God to seek everything you need.

“Nevertheless,” Jesus asked, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”  Events leading up to that coming day will be times of persecution, to say the least.  How will people respond?  How will the disciples and us who are attached to the Lord through His blood covenant respond?  “Shall he find faith on the earth?”

The widow woman was unrelenting in her pursuit of justice.  Are we just as unrelenting in our faith?  True faith requires commitment, and commitment requires one to persist and not yield to the pressures to give up and throw in the towel.

“Shall he find faith on earth?”  As Jesus was preparing His disciple to put their faith into the perspective of hardships they can and will face due to their allegiance to Him, He is also preparing us.  Our faith and trust in Him is the key that unlocks the door to victory.  “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” (1 John 5:4).  At the same time, our faith and trust in Him should strengthen our stance that we won’t back down from the fight, that we don’t cave due to pressure, and we won’t give in despite the persecutions we may face.  We will keep on going!  We will keep on praying!

In a previous article, I wrote:

“Jesus questions trust.  He questions whether or not anyone will believe in the promise and power of prayer.  He questions if there is real, alive faith working in mankind somewhere.  He questions.

One’s faith lies at the center of this questioning, for if we really believed wholeheartedly, there would be no hindrance to bring every request and problem before God in prayer.  This is what Jesus is getting at.  True faith unencumbered.  True faith that takes the shackles off God’s promises and allows one to run freely forth, believing He hears, He knows, and He will answer.” (Jesus Questions Trust/WordForLifeSays.com)

To be the men prepared for the mission Jesus has in store for these disciples, their lives must measure up and be able to fully answer this question well.  They must be willing to go all in and let nothing stop them from having a powerful prayer life.  And, so must we.

Conclusion

One day Jesus is coming back.  Until then, keep praying and don’t give up!  Your heavenly Father hears every cry uttered from your lips and spoken silently in your heart.  You are loved, my friend.  Let your faith rise in your Savior today and believe in His love and power at work in your life. Keep on keeping on.  Always pray and not faint!

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 – Always Pray and Not Faint

Suggested Activities:

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Always Pray and Not Faint

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Always Pray and Not Faint

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (Using the blank journal pages allows you to bring out the points of the lesson that are most important to you and your class.  Also, the blank journal pages and be used to support the “Life” section of the printed lesson.)

Word Search: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Search  Answers: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Search Answers

Crossword: Always Pray and Not Faint Crossword  Answers: Always Pray and Not Faint Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Scramble  Answers: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Always Pray and Not Faint Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Always Pray and Not Faint Memory Verse

How Many Words: Always Pray and Not Faint How Many Words

Prayer Chain Craft: A simple, easy and affordable project to throw together for your students. A prayer chain becomes an easy, take-home reminder of different request students can pray for one another about.  Example below. Enjoy!

My Project 263-001

“Easy Craft Idea”

“Several Printable Activities for the Widow and the Unjust Judge”

“Persistent Prayer”

“The Parable of the Persistent Widow”

“Jesus’ Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge”

“Persistence in Prayer”

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Children of God, by Faith” Galatians 3:26-4:7

Photo from Pixabay by geralt

VERSE DISCOVERY: Galatians 3:26-4:7 (KJV, Public Domain)

The book of Galatians has long been a favorite of mine.  In it, we see the freedom Christ secured for us really come to the forefront.  We see within its pages grace winning out over laws and rituals.  Held in the words thereof is the promise that no matter our background, race, sex, or whatever – if we are in Christ, then we are members of the family of God by faith and heirs according to the promise.

The Apostle Paul was taken aback at how soon those in the church of Galatia had allowed others in the form of false teachers infect the faith they had in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 1:6) and he testified before them that the gospel he preached; those blessed words of faith he delivered unto them was not because they were taught to him or received from man, but it was by an actual revelation of Jesus Christ (see Galatians 1:11-12).

After giving a brief testimony of his own previous dealings regarding his former religion which he was so zealous for and how he persecuted the church, he stated that he too was called by grace (see Galatians 1:13-14).  Paul then went on to teach that even though he and his fellow countrymen may be Jews by nature, they too have to believe in Jesus Christ “that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:15-16).

The prevailing issue coming from these false teachers which Paul wrote to instruct of revolved around the idea of circumcision.  In the Old Testament, we read that God entered a covenant relationship with Abraham.  One of the particulars of that relationship was that all males be circumcised on the eighth day (see Genesis 17:9-14).  This was under their old order of rule keeping and rituals that are not found in an active relationship through Jesus Christ.

Some men called Judaizers (false teachers) attempted to add works of the flesh and law (such as the issue of circumcision and other like measures) to the finished work of the Spirit performed through Christ.  These men argued that grace was not enough in order for a Greek (Gentile) to be saved.   They must first follow all the steps of protocol that Moses laid out in his law, including circumcision, in order to be a true Christian.

That, my friends, is a total contradiction of the very word of grace itself which speaks of God’s unmerited favor. When something is “unmerited” it is, by definition, undeserved, meaning there is nothing one can do to gain the favor of it or earn it themselves.

Paul taught at one point in the book of Acts saying, “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (13:39).  If the law and adherence to those rituals could have saved mankind once and for all, then Jesus Christ would have never needed to come to this earth, be born a babe in a manger just to die on that old rugged cross bearing the sins of the world.  Earlier in Galatians, we read that Christ already did the work that redeemed us and freed us from the curse: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law…” (Galatians 3:13).  Therefore, Paul is writing this letter to set the record straight.

Lesson Summary

Galatians 3:26-29 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The disputes that came by way of those Judaizers left confusion in the Galatian’s spiritual pathway of faith.  In the verse just prior to these above Paul states, “But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” (Galatians 3:25) giving a final answer to his telling of the purpose of the law before moving to today’s subject.

Faith is the key.  Coming to Jesus with all our wrongs and trusting Him to heal and forgive is a walk of faith no matter where you or your family hails from.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).  Now, that one has received that gift of God, that gift of salvation, they are “all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” 

When Jesus transformed their lives with His saving blood they have been renewed, changed, and adopted into the family of God.  They have shed off the old garments of self, sin, and following the course of the world and the dictates of evil and the flesh and have “put on Christ.”  A great exchange took place then and takes place now in the individual that turns to Jesus in faith.

Please note: It is noted, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”   Baptism symbolized the shedding off of the old life and the taking on of the new; it stood for the remission of their sins (see Acts 2:38). In it, they were identifying with Christ.

Thus, through their faith, they aligned themselves with Christ.  Why now do they wish to add unprofitable rituals such as circumcision in the mix?  Although they may be “Greek” (Gentile) by birth, they are Christians by rebirth.  To be a Christian is to be of Christ with no added ingredients to the mix.

Paul recognized this and earlier taught, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Galatians 3:14). Freedom came by way of the promise that was laid out before the law (read Galatians 3:14-18).  This was now a faith walk and there is no difference in God’s eyes who gets to walk it. To Him “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

God does not focus on one’s ethnic background to decide if they are right to be called His.  He doesn’t let their social status, gender, or anything that man may try to discriminate against or use as a counterbalance of some pre-prescribed acceptance.  In a culture where most were judged on these divisive measures, this was good news indeed.

Since God doesn’t make a difference between the two, there is no need to make the Gentiles adhere to traditions that would make them Jews first. They didn’t need to become Jewish for God to save them.  God was saving them right where they are through faith in Jesus Christ.

And, because of that, they are now “one in Christ Jesus.”  There is no delineation in God’s family.  They are a unified people under Him, secured in their relationship in Christ.  Everyone who believes in Him and has accepted Him as their Savior is now participants in His promise.  We read, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

An heir, by nature, is one who receives an inheritance or entitlement.  Notice the word “seed” does not have an “s” on it.  There is one seed identified with Abraham to whom the promise comes through and that is Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:16).  In Galatians 3:19 we see the law being in effect until the “seed should come to whom the promise was made.”  Those who come under that seed, who come through “Christ” are now privileged to be considered also as “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Other portions of Scripture support this by saying, “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; see also Ephesians 3:6 and 1 John 3:1).

Therefore, the need for circumcision in order to become a member of the family of God is not an issue and one is not to predicate their salvation on it or any other measures of the law.  As a matter of fact, to set the record straight Paul taught in Romans 4:11 of Abraham regarding the covenant of circumcision that, “He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”  In other words, circumcision was just a sign of the relationship of faith that Abraham already had with God before he was circumcised thereby making him “the father of all them that believe.”

God is looking for a faith relationship found only in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as a marker of who is and is not a child of God.  The Galatians need not worry about adhering to or adding stipulations of the law (such as circumcision) to declare they are His children.

Galatians 4:1-5 “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

To further delve into his “heir” description, Paul takes a scenario from life they would see play out around them and connects it to the spiritual truth we have in Him.

A young “child” does not possess the knowledge and the wherewithal to control and make impactful decisions regarding an estate that would be laid up for his future.  As a member of the family and inheritor of all, he still had to wait until he was of proper age and understanding before the keys, so to speak, of all could be placed solely in his hands.

While he was still growing in understanding during his upbringing he would be placed “under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.”  Until his father saw that the mature and complete time that his son would be able to take on the responsibility of the upkeep of all he had come, the son was placed under these individuals, similar to that of a “servant,” to teach him the ins and outs, the rights and wrongs of everything.

The law acted the same way.  “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:24).  And, when God deemed the time to be right, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…” 

For centuries the children of Israel waited for the appearing of the Messiah.  At the perfect point in history God sent Jesus Christ just as He had promised (see Gen. 3:15, 12:3; 2 Sam. 12-13; Is. 7:14 – just to name a few).  Tracked down the path of forty-two generation (Matthew 1:1-17), He came to be the Savior of the world.  God’s timing for everything is perfect and the events that ushered Jesus into the world to bring us to this life of faith were and are fully supported by Him.

God left no stone unturned about how the ins and outs of this plan of His coming would come into effect.  God takes eternity seriously.  His goal is to see that as many spiritual children are made heirs of that promise as possible which is fulfilled through our Savior Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was born physically on this earth He was “made of a woman, made under the law.”  Jesus came into this world fully human and fully divine.  As a human, although He was the Son of God, He willingly put Himself under the same constraints of the law as any other Jewish human (see Matthew 5:17).

“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”  But unlike other humans, Jesus’ purpose on earth for being under the law was to “redeem them that were under the law.”  “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,” (8:3; see also John 1:14).  Through His death on the cross, He overcame sin, which the law was unable to permanently do, and for those who believe in Him they are now justified (see Acts 13:39 and Galatians 2:16).   They have been redeemed and made heirs of the promise, “adoption of sons,” without those previously discussed works of the law such as circumcision.

Galatians 4:6-7 “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

Because of what Jesus did, and because those who made that decision that they needed Christ as their Savior accepted Him as their own, their status in this world has changed from being mere men and woman to being considered as “sons” of God, or children of God.  They have received of His “Spirit” by faith. 

The Bible supports this in other verses telling us, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory,” (Ephesians 1:13-14).  The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance in Him.  Not circumcision or other outwardly rituals.  As a child of God, we are covered and endowed by His Spirit.  His Spirit didn’t come because of circumcision but because the gospel was heard and responded to through belief.

Thus, our relationship with God blesses us to be able to cry out to Him, “Abba, Father.”  As carriers of the Spirit of His Son in our hearts we are now a child of God, not a “servant,” and as such we are able to call out to our heavenly Father because we are in Him (see also Romans 8:15); because there is a heavenly bond between God and those that are His.  And, since we are now considered “a son” we are “then an heir of God through Christ”; children of God, by faith! 

Conclusion

Everybody has the same opportunity to be saved. There are no barriers. There are no walls except the ones we build ourselves. His gift of salvation is available to all. You just have to accept it for yourself.

Remember, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Galatians 3:13-14).  Therefore, making us children of God, by faith.

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 – Children of God by Faith

Suggested Activities:

“Child of God Object Lesson” from Preaching.com

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Child of God

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Child of God

Draw the Scene: Children of God by Faith Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Children of God by Faith Memory Verse

How Many Words: Children of God by Faith How Many Words

Playing Dough People: Supply assorted colors of moldable dough for students to make different people showing there is diversity in the children of God. (Many other resources can be found by doing an online search). 

Word Search: Children of God by Faith Word Search Answers: Children of God by Faith Word Search Answers

 

Crossword: Children of God by Faith Crossword Answers: Children of God by Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Children of God by Faith Word Scramble Answers: Children of God by Faith Word Scramble Answers

“The Family of God”  from Sermons4Kids.com (Printable activities, coloring page, and group activities including “Child of God Headband” and “Faith Envelope.”)

“One in Christ Coloring Page for Older Students” from AbdaActs

“Galatians Coloring Page” from Ministry-To-Children

“Adopted into God’s Family Lesson and Ideas” from Ministry-To-Children

“Child of God Printable Activities” from DLTK

“God’s Adopted Children” from Sermons4kids.com (Printable activities, coloring page, and group activities including “Family Collage 4 Heaven” and “Adoption Papers.”  Enjoy!)

“All the Children of the World” from Sermons4kids.com (A great object lesson using eggs, not to mention printables, coloring, and group activities that really engage students in this lesson.  Enjoy!)

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Hosanna to the King!” Mark 11:1-11

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

At one point, before his death, John the Baptist sent men to Jesus and asked, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).  This questioning was spawned because of the mighty “works of Christ” (Matthew 11:2) that were performed and proclaimed throughout the region.

Not only did the works He performed bear witness of who He was (John 10:25), Jesus often identified Himself with the Deity of heaven; as being one with the Father Himself (see John 10:30; John 1:1; John 14:9).

The hope of the people has been in a state of expectation since the days of old.  They have heard of the prophecies, such as the one Zechariah proclaimed, saying, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass,” (Zechariah 9:9).

They were waiting for this time of celebration that was prophesied hundreds of years before the actual event took place. A time when God’s people would ring out their worship of their one true King. At His coming joy will go before Him for His proposed reign. People will raise their voices with heartfelt praise and adoration of Him who has come to save them.

Unfortunately, when He came, most were not looking for a Savior from sin, rather one who would free them of the national tyranny of their oppressors. The people at that time were more focused on their present circumstances over their eternal destinies.  This will rob you of seeing Jesus for who He really is every single time.

It was prophesied that this King would be “just.” His rule would be governed by truth. It’s how He lived and how He died; according to God’s truth. He declared in Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” He pressed on to fulfill truth so that His reign would be marked and identified as being “just.” He would do all that is right according to God’s holy Word.

This King would also be known as “having salvation.” He would bear within Himself the means to save mankind from the ravages of sin and disparity brought on by their fleshly stance in this world. The Bible declares, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all of mankind needed and still needs a Savior; one who can bring them out of the depths of his/her evil state. Acts 4:12 lets us know, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This King comes with our “salvation.”

At His entrance, He comes in a state opposite of most royalty and the elite of society. This King is prophesied to come “lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” A humble creature of burden becomes transportation of Him who would bear all of humanities burdens and sins.

I think it important to reiterate here that our King was “lowly.” We sing songs praising that wonderful characteristic of His, but do we really understand how much He humbled Himself to come and do what He did for us? Do we understand that He could have arrived with all the pomp and circumstance of heaven, but He arrived in an animal’s dwelling, with no proper place to lay His head? Do we understand how many times He could have shut the mouth of those who rose against Him and accused Him, but He took it all on Himself as part of His mission; His ministry to save mankind? Do we really understand how much He took off to put on the dregs of humanity? Do we understand? He was “lowly.”

By entering the town on that day in that way, Jesus was letting all the world know that He was that prophesied King.  That yes, if anybody wants to know, He is the One whom they have been looking for.

This is where we find ourselves studying today: Jesus’ triumphal entry. 

 Lesson Summary

Mark 11:1-3 “And when they came night to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.”

Before we arrive at today’s lesson, Matthew 20 tells us that Jesus once again tried to prepare His disciples for the reality of what was soon to take place:

“Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them,

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death,

And deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again,” (Matthew 20:17-19; see also Mark 10:32:34).

Here, in the above verses, with what I believe was still clueless disciples, Jesus is drawing “nigh to Jerusalem.” The King is about to make His entrance but before doing so He gives His disciples very explicit details to follow to make sure when He comes in there is no mistake to the reign He claims.

As a matter of fact, fulfilling every prophecy that was spoken of Him was so imperative that later He wouldn’t die until He could finally say, “It is finished,” (John 19:30).

God’s prophets such as Zechariah were His spokesmen. They have been used down through Israel’s history to pass onto the people the word of God. To warn, exhort and exalt them to draw closer to Him through their prophecies. When God used a prophet as His mouthpiece, the words that come from them are as valid as if they heard it from His own being, thundering upon the mountains. Since what they spoke was on His behalf, He had to make sure everything: past, present, and future would be fulfilled as it was told to the people down through the years.

They were told exactly how their King would arrive and Jesus was careful to make sure there would be no mistaking who He claimed to be when He arrived in Jerusalem in such a fashion. His arrival mounted on that beast would offer them visual evidence. Any Jew would have known that when they see Him on a “colt the foal of an ass,” as Zechariah stated; or just using the word “colt” as this lesson states, He was claiming His Kingship; He was claiming His Lordship; He was claiming His Messiahship.

With that, the instructions He gives is for them to, “Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.” It is supposed by many Bible students that Jesus had a prearranged agreement with the owners of the animals that He sent them for. With that supposition, He knew (which He could have known because of His Sovereignty if He wanted to) exactly where to send them and how to instruct them on searching out what He already planned. When they arrived and found the ones He said, His command was “loose him, and bring him.” The reason is stated for us, and for the owner’s is in the next verse.

If anyone dared to question what the disciples were doing and what was their intent and purposes of loosing the animal, Jesus gave them a simple reply to relay: “The Lord hath need of him.” He was set aside for the Master’s use. He was needed by Jesus. How privileged was this little guy that would carry the “Lord;” the Savior of the world, on his back. Awesome!

Never had anyone rode him before this day.  Jesus’ specific instructions included that he be one that “never a man sat.”  It amazes me what our Christ can do with the unused; what He can do with the unskilled and rough around the edges. This donkey is not known by name to us, but we know him as part of the Messiah’s royal parade forever in history.  Even more awesome!

Mark 11:4-6 “And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.  And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?  And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.”

“And they went their way, and found the colt… and they loose him.”  They may have not understood everything right away, nor did they fully grasp that Jesus was fully preparing Himself to die that He might reign (though He often tried to get that point across to them), but they didn’t question Him. They didn’t try to dissuade Him from His task; rather they obeyed.

Their obedience is a key component. Let’s put this in full perspective.  They knew the authorities of the day were plotting against Him to seek to take His life. The Triumphal Entry of Jesus is also found in the Book of John chapter 12. In chapter 11 of that same book, before this moment in time, when Jesus was determined to go to Bethany (about 1½ miles outside of Jerusalem) to raise Lazarus from the dead, seeing that He couldn’t be dissuaded, Thomas, one of the disciples, said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” So, when He instructed them in the matter of the “colt” they are noted as doing what Jesus told them to do despite any fears on misgivings they may have felt at that moment.

Following His orders did indeed get them questioned by others, but they once again followed the path of obedience and “they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded.” 

Mark 11:7 “And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.”

I don’t know about you, but I have ridden a horse bareback before. The experience was not pleasant, to say the least. Here, the disciples provide comfort for the Lord as He mounts the beast set aside for His use. In lieu of a saddle, they pad the back of the beast with “their garments.”

We often hear people use expressions of love and service to another by saying things like, “I will give them the clothes off my back.” Jesus’ disciples didn’t talk about it, they did it. They literally gave Him the “clothes” off their backs to comfort the ride of the King. Oh, how much this must have meant to the Lord who would soon come before angry faces and hearts filled with hatred.  But, at this moment, He gets to feel and experience support from those closest to Him.

Mark 11:8-10 “And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.”

Can we picture this scene really quick? As Jesus was entering in Jerusalem on that colt, word had to have rapidly spread for not just the disciples were celebrating the King, “many” and “others” joined in. Matthew 21:8 referred to them as “multitudes.”

Did they recognize the symbolism? Did they associate His entrance as the long-awaited promised One; of He that was prophesied of? We are working under the assumption that those questions can be answered with a very real, “Yes!”

Again, His reign to free men from sin instead of tyranny may not be what they had imagined at the time, but they understood who He claimed to be by how He rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, they willingly and with great rejoicing (as was also prophesied) wanted to be a part of the celebration. The King was coming and they “spread their garments in the way” and “cut down branches off the trees” to cover the path He would travel. What a small service for such a great King!

They honored Him with their “Hosanna” shout. They rallied and proclaimed the praises of Him who would save them, for that’s the meaning behind the word “Hosanna;” to “save now.”

“Hosanna” was the shout of triumph. In Him, they saw a victorious King. In Him, they had an expectancy of deliverance. In Him they rejoiced, proclaiming that He is the one who would fulfill the promise of “the kingdom of our father David,” (see 2 Samuel 7:12-14).

So, they rejoiced and shouted that He was, “Blessed.”  His “kingdom” is “blessed.” He is the one that “cometh in the name of the Lord!” They were getting their praise on as we say it today! The King has arrived! The King has come! “Blessed is he!”

In Matthew 21:10 it says of that day that “all the city was moved.”  Often when Jesus performed miracles crowds would gather around Him to witness the power of God at work through Him. Here, there is no miracle performed; rather prophecy, long-awaited prophecy being fulfilled. Emotions were running high and people gathered and were excited to see it coming to pass right before their eyes; right in their time of living. When was the last time you were so stirred up about Jesus?  They had a reason to be shaken with excitement saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”

Mark 11:11 “And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.”

An anti-climactic end to such a triumphal entry?  Oh, no!  After identifying Himself as King by riding in the way that He did, Jesus “entered… into the temple,” and soon some things were going to change!  It was about to get real up in that place, as some would say.

If you would read further past our lesson, Mark 11:15-17 shows us the second cleansing of the temple Jesus performed (this is also support by Matthew 21:12-13).  There He turned over tables and proclaimed, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves,” (Mark 11:17).

This King wasn’t playing with His ministry!  He was triumphant at the beginning, middle and end of His parade, and He still commands the victory as He is cleaning out His Father’s house.  Only the true King, with true authority, can command and operate the way He does.

Conclusion

Jesus is He that was to come; the King to reign for all eternity.  Let us shout his praises: “Hosanna in the highest!”  There’s no need to look for another.  He’s the One!

Lesson PDF: Sunday School Lesson – Hosanna to the King

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Hosanna to the King

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Hosanna to the King

Draw the Scene: Hosanna to the King Draw the Scene

(Use the PDF link above for accurate printing) Want to jazz up this memory verse?  Try printing on cardstock and using glue with glitter to fill in the words, colored chalk, paints and more.  You’re only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy!

HOSANNA PALM LEAF CRAFT: Hosanna Palm Leaf for Palm Sunday (Use this PDF link for accurate printing)  Have students decorate and color their free palm leaf (printing on cardstock is best) and tape or glue to a craft stick (makes a great church fan 🙂 ) or dowel rod or twigs from outside for a natural element so they too can wave them before the Lord with rejoicing.  I wanted mine to be colorful, not just all green.  Jazz it up! After all, it is a celebration.  Enjoy!

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Hosanna Palm Leaf for Palm Sunday-001

 

Leaf Lace Up Craft:   Use PDF: Mark 11 9 Leaf Lace Up Craft to put together this simple, yet fun activity.  Print out on cardstock and use a hole punch to put holes around the free leaf template.  Use any materials you have laying around for lacing: yarn, string, pipe cleaners, etc.  I used crumbled up party streamers.  Go figure!  Enjoy! (Similar project shown below)

My Project 320-001

Mark 11 9 Leaf Lace Up Craft-001

How Many Words: Hosanna to the King How Many Words

Word Search: Hosanna to the King Word Search Answers: Hosanna to the King Word Search Answers

Crossword: Hosanna to the King Crossword Answers: Hosanna to the King Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Hosanna to the King Word Scramble Answers: Hosanna to the King Word Scramble Answers

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson – “4 Keys to Powerful Prayer” Luke 11:1-13

Photo: Pixabay/Prawny

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 11:1-13 (KJV, Public Domain)

The operation or workings of prayer have been a mystery to some through the ages.  For some prayer seems to be some mundane Christian civic duty; a check off list, if you will, of something that needs to be done.  For others, prayer seems to be elusive; difficult to understand the concept of and even more difficult to do.

Good news!  Prayer is not either of those things.  Prayer is something that is given to us as an honor; as a way to reach the heavenly Father personally, one on one.  How awesome is that?  Prayer is as essential to the Christian life as breathing or eating.  It is necessary to stay spiritually nourished in Him.

So, when Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He gladly obliged because He Himself knows the significance and power in prayer.  In this lesson, there are four key components that can help us have a more powerful prayer life.  The good news is, we’re learning from the best.  We are sitting at the feet of Jesus and taking in these points as He shares with His disciples.  Blessings ~

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Luke 11:1 “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

One’s life speaks volumes; more than one’s words ever will.  Most people will judge you by what they see and what Jesus’ disciples saw was a man who was dedicated to prayer.  While He walked on the face of this earth, He was known for offering up “prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears,” (Hebrews 5:7).  Witnessing personally His uninhibited habit of going before the Father with His petitions and the outpourings of His soul, the disciple wanted to know more.

How awesome it is for the disciple to see such a one as He doing the miraculous and being identified as the Son of God, still find a need for prayer?  It’s huge!  It lets us know that if Jesus needed constant contact with the Father to do life on earth, then so do we.  Perhaps this is why a disciple of His questioned Him on prayer and wanted to know more on how to do it?

So, after He was finished “praying in a certain place . . . one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray.”  The Bible doesn’t tell us which disciple it was that asked, and it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the disciple’s willingness to learn from the Master.  When one sees something genuine and real, they want more of it and want to know how it’s done.  I believe the disciple saw a treasure in prayer and longed to experience it as Jesus did.

Asking to be taught the ins and outs of this valuable resource was the beginning of a great discovery that Jesus was all too willing to share.

Below are four key points that popped out at me during this study on this model prayer that Jesus taught.  These are key elements that I believe will help boost our prayer life, taking it out of the mundane onto a platform where it makes a real difference in our lives.

KEY #1:  ONE HAS TO HAVE ACKNOWLEDGING PRAYER

Luke 11:2-4 “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”

When one acknowledges something or someone they are ascribing or giving them credit that they deserve.  Here, opening His teaching on prayer, Jesus jumps in without hesitation, stating, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven.”  Now, notice first that Jesus didn’t say “if” ye pray.  He point-blank expected that His people should have an active and working prayer life so He said, “When ye pray.”

Starting with the statement, “Our Father which art in heaven,” Jesus acknowledges to whom one’s prayers should be directed.  And, in the verses following God gets the credit for everything!  This is acknowledgment.

“Our Father which art in heaven,” points one in the right direction.  There are many voices that try to offer advice and insight to the world we live and to the troubles and woes we face.  Yet, none can have the insight as He who created all things.  None is Sovereign as He to really be our champion for real change.  That can only come from He who is enthroned in heaven for all eternity; by He Whom everything takes its commands: “Our Father.”

“Our Father” describes the intimate, relational context in which God wants to be committed to us.  Did you get that?  God wants to be “Our Father” so much that Jesus, God incarnate, instructed us to address Him as such in prayer.  Man may not always step up to the plate to fill this role, but God does.  He willingly takes on the role of “Father,” meaning more than provider in my view.  He takes on the responsibility to love, care and nurture them who come to Him seeking Him as daddy.  Romans 8:15 describes it as this: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”  This adoption is an on-purpose act of love that He is seeking to fulfill as role of “Father.”  God “will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty,” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

“Hallowed be thy name.”  Part of acknowledging prayer is respecting His holiness.  Oh, I cringe when I see people take the name of the Lord in vain.  God’s name is not like any other and should not be treated as it is.  His name is holy (Isaiah 57:15), and He is the one who “dwell in the high and holy place.”  When one invokes God’s name in prayer it is not a plaything.  We are seeking His holiness to come in on our behalf; garnering His stamp of approval.  Heaven knows how to treat His name so much that they speak the word “holy” three times: “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts,” (Isaiah 6:3).

Acknowledging prayer recognizes God’s authority, His power, His Sovereignty, His control, His kingdom and His will overall. “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.”  No wonder at the end of the parallel of this prayer found in Matthew 6:13 it states, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.”  We should want to see the glory of God’s will take over the atmosphere of this old stale world “as in heaven.”  We should have heavenly visions of God’s power reclaiming this earth.

Acknowledging prayer recognizes that God is the provider of all.  “Give us day by day our daily bread.”  “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).  We, as all other things created, are dependent on Him as our provider.  “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26).  God will provide.

Acknowledging prayer knows that forgiveness comes from God: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”  2 Chronicles 7:14 declares, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  God wants to spiritually heal people from their sin-sick ways.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

In return, we are expected to offer forgiveness to those who ask for it.  Gulp!  Yes, forgiveness in any form can be a hard pill to swallow.  But, let me ask you this.  How many times has God said no to us whenever we sought for healing and restoration for the wrongs we have done?  Exactly, He hasn’t!  Forgiveness, much like love, is nothing to be played with.  It is not a lip service to please others rather, it is a heart service to the Lord.  It is, in a sense, showing to others the same grace and mercy that God showed toward us.  And, we acknowledge that this is His will for us.

Acknowledging prayer shows God as a deliverer: And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” God doesn’t tempt people into sin.  “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man,” (James 1:13).  Sin is a choice and so is choosing to let God lead and trusting Him to keep you in those hard times.  “O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee,” (Psalm 25:20).  “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me . . .” (Psalm 19:13).  He is a keeper to them that know Him as a deliverer and He is a protector against the ultimate enemy, the devil.

KEY #2: ONE HAS TO HAVE PERSEVERING PRAYER

Luke 11:5-8 “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?  And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.  I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him, as many as he needeth.”

The scenario is simple: it’s late in the midnight hour and someone has dropped in unexpectedly.  The problem with the scenario is due to the lateness of the hour and the unexpected nature of the visit there was not enough time to gather resources to care for this visitor.

The proposed solution: knock on the neighbor’s door who is a friend and ask for some help.  The problem with the solution: again, stating the obvious, it’s midnight.  We are in bed.  Are you trying to wake up the kids with all that knocking and yelling out there?!  “I cannot rise and give thee.”

Now, I don’t know about this neighbor, but waking up at midnight is not exactly a welcomed intrusion into my otherwise restful night.  Then, to have the audacity to show up banging on my door and asking for food at that time… well, that’s a whole other story!  But hospitality was central to the culture of the day and was expected to be doled out accordingly.

Also, in those days, sleeping arrangements were generally shared by the whole family.  Doors had big, heavy bolts that clanged and banged if moved.  To get to the bread one would have to step over kids, make noise to get the bread and bang and clang the door opened and shut again.  At this point, the whole house could easily be disturbed.

Jesus stated that the neighbor eventually will give his friend what he is asking but not because he is a friend.  He will only get up out the bed because of his “importunity;” or his persistence.

Jesus uses this scenario to teach us the power of persevering prayer.  One cannot give up so easily.  We have been afforded the privilege to come before the throne of grace “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16).  We must be persistent in that privilege.

One’s lack of persistence in prayer can be tied to a lack of faith.  Jesus told the parable of the unjust judge and the widow to illustrate His point: “Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me,” (Luke 18:5).  Jesus then asked, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8, emphasis mine).

A powerful key component of prayer is not to give up too quickly.

KEY #3: ONE HAS TO HAVE EXPECTANT PRAYER

Luke 11:9-10 “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

When one prays expect to receive an answer; expect to see some sort of fulfillment to come from your prayers.  Look for something to happen as a result of your praying.

He doesn’t tell us to “ask” without the expectation of receiving something.  No, He says if you do this, then this will happen; and so, it goes with the other instructions to “seek and knock.” 

Even if the answer doesn’t look the way you imagine it should, your prayers do not fall on deaf ears.  Be confident that God hears you.  God is attentive to you.  God does not leave you in a state of wanting.  David said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want,” (Psalm 23:1).  There will be results.

When I plant a seed in the ground, I expect to see some sort of growth come out of it.  It may take a while but eventually, I should start seeing a little sprout begin to poke its head through the surface of the dirt.  As I watch it grow to full fruition, I expect to be able to reap off of what I have sown.

Your prayers are like you planting a seed, and what is being said here is that when you do these things: ask, seek and knock; growth is going to come from it.  Expect it!

The word “shall” appears as reassurance four times in just these two verses meaning this is what will happen as a result of praying in this manner.  Let me remind you that Jesus is the one who is teaching this lesson and He is the one telling us to “Ask . . . Seek . . . Knock.”  He is the one who speaks of “receiving, finding and opening” as a result of praying. 

Whatever it is, keep looking to God for the answer.  “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” (Philippians 4:6).  Make it known unto God and keeping making it known with the anticipation of seeing something happen.

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,” (1 John 5:14-15).  Therefore, we can expect to see results.

KEY #4: ONE HAS TO HAVE BELIEVING PRAYER

Luke 11:11-13 “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer a him a scorpion?  If ye the, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Believe in the goodness of God.  Believe in your relationship with Him as a child of the heavenly Father.  Believe that He always seeks to give you His best (ex. John 3:16).  I often refer to God in my personal prayer as the Good Father who gives good gifts to His children.  It’s something we must hold on to and depend upon.

Believe that God knows how to answer our prayers.  I am a mom who is not perfect, but I love my children to distraction.  I want what’s best for them.  If they ask for food, surely I will not make a stone sandwich and expect them to eat.  I want them to experience good things.  I want them to be satisfied with the goodness of my house.  God is perfect in all that He is and does, so doesn’t He too have the same aspirations and love toward them that are His? He is not aloof but caring.  He is not unapproachable; rather, He invites us to ask for the good.

We have to step out of ourselves and believe with childlike faith that our heavenly Father knows and cares about our petitions that go up before Him.  This is a trust issue in our relationship with Him.  We rely on Him to supply: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19).  He is well able and wants to answer our prayers.  “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” (Matthew 21:22, emphasis mine).

Believe it today.

And, the most precious gifts of all that He is more than willing to give to those who ask is the gift of the “Holy Spirit.”  We need the “Holy Spirit!”  He is our comforter (John 14:16).  He is our sealed promise (Ephesians 1:13).  “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us,” (Romans 5:5).  The “Holy Spirit” teaches us the things of God, (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).  We need the gift of the “Holy Spirit” in order to make it in this world.  Therefore, ask with a believing heart, and God will give!

Prayer is powerful!  Jesus lists key points for every believer to enrich their own prayer life.  It’s up to us to use this valuable information to the fullest.

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 – 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer

Suggested Resources:

Draw the Scene: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Draw the Scene

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Prayer Journal Page

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Prayer Journal Page

Word Search: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Word Search  Answers: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Word Search Answers

Crossword: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Crossword  Answers: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Word Scramble  Answers: 4 Keys to Powerful Prayer Word Scramble Answers

“Prayer Chain Craft” (A simple, easy and affordable project to throw together for your students. A prayer chain becomes an easy, take-home reminder where students can link together names of people, things, and situations they are praying for.  Example below. Enjoy!)

My Project 263-001

“Prayer Book Craft”

“The Lord’s Prayer Coloring Sheet” (Younger students)

“Teach Us to Pray Maze”

“Prayer Bear” (Cute! Cute! Cute!)

“Ribbon Prayer”

“Bible Lesson: Ask, Seek, Knock”  (Wonderful object lesson)

“Knock, Knock. Who’s There?”  (Links to printables and group activities.  Enjoy!)

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

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