Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Blesses the Children” Mark 10:13-16

VERSE DISCOVERY: Mark 10:13-16 (KJV, Public Domain)

There is a familiar scene that plays out in many families between dad, mom, and the little ones.  It is the one where the father, playing with his children, tosses them into the air and catches them on a band of giggles coming from the child while the mother stands on the sidelines holding her breath.

The father with a sure grip and a steady hand has no qualms playing this innocent game.  The child, often young, just thinks it is absolutely hilarious to go for this free ride.  The child never worries about being caught.  The child never worries about being hurt.  The child only sees daddy.  Daddy loves me, daddy cares for me, I trust daddy and daddy will never let me fall.  Therefore, I will enjoy playing with daddy.

From the time that children are born, they have an innate capacity to trust.  They are literally at the whim of their caretakers and can do nothing for themselves.  Their dependency is constantly on others to feed, care for, and love them in their most vulnerable state.  In their innocence, they do not judge by anything outwardly but, only by the love they receive inwardly.

Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).  Children are our future.  These little ones will be the next carriers of God’s Word.  They will be the conduits through which generations after them will find their way to the Lord and His salvation.  At the same time, children can teach us so many things and one of the things they teach us is how to have faith.

Faith gets over-complicated in the adult way of thinking while children just simply receive, remain dependent, trust, and believe.  And that is all God asks from all His children, no matter what their age is.

 Parents Desire

Mark 10:13 “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.”

Teachings on the kingdom of God and examples of what true faith looks like were never far from Jesus’ vocabulary.  He took many times and opportunities to open the understanding of all who would listen and heed what God looks for in a true follower of His.

In this lesson, He gives us an undeniable example of both as parents in the crowd “brought young children to him.”  The desires of the parents in question are to have Jesus “touch” their children thereby blessing them. This was not an uncommon practice in this ancient culture.

The truth is parents always want what is best for their children.  If they find a good thing, naturally they would want their children exposed to it as much as possible.  Many modern-day parents spend an enormous amount of money each year to give their children the best clothes, education, housing… the best start in life, if and as they are each able to do.

The parents in today’s lesson saw Jesus teaching and healing and showing compassion to many people, many times over.  He was (and still is) the best thing they could give to their children.  Why would they not want their child exposed to Him?  Why would they not seek a “touch” from Jesus for their little ones if they could?

A child’s faith often starts with their parents (or guardian), and in the home.  It’s where God gave the command of responsibility to Moses for the parents to “teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house…” (Deuteronomy 6:7; see also Deut. 11:19).  There are many variables that go into raising a child.  Parents really must take into consideration and calculate what their children are exposed to on a daily basis and whether or not it is beneficial to their physical and spiritual wellbeing.  The guidelines given to Moses to pass down through the generations was to ensure that the most impressionable of society receive the proper exposure to the things of God; to what would benefit their children the most.  This would also ensure the longevity of the faith amongst the community as a whole.

Those in today’s lesson wanted to expose their children to Jesus.  They wanted Him to touch their little ones with a blessing.  They brought their children near to where Jesus was, giving them the opportunity to hear of His teaching and wisdom on life and the kingdom of God.  The Bible encourages us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6).  This stands as a strong lesson that if we want our children to be exposed to Jesus, then we, as parents, must take that responsibility and not depend on others to do it for us.  When it comes to our children’s faith there can be no complacent parenting.

“And his disciples rebuked those that brought them.”  The disciples didn’t have the same vision for the children as the parents did.  The Bible does not exactly state why their rebuke was so strong (although many speculate).  But they did prohibit the parents from bringing the children nearer to where Jesus was and made no attempts to hide their displeasure at the intrusion.

Did they think the children were unworthy of the Master’s time and consideration?  Maybe they believed Jesus was just too busy and important to deal with the likes of these.  Who knows?  Perhaps it would have been prudent for them to ask Jesus first instead of thinking to act on His behalf.  The fact of the matter is they stood in between Jesus and the children.  Something Jesus highly disapproved of.

Everyone MATTERs TO JESUS

Mark 10:14 “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Jesus intervened.  Jesus has never turned away a desiring soul.  He has never told a mom or dad no who sought physical or spiritual healing for their child.  And He was not going to turn down or turn away those who desired a special spiritual blessing or touch for their children now.

One of the most precious things I love about our Lord is His ability to see value in everybody.  Those whom society thinks are the lesser, non-important, are magnificent in the eyes of our God.  The Bible teaches us, “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows,” (Luke 12:7).

To Him, it does not matter where you live, what your social status in life is, or anything else like that.  It does not matter if you are aged with wisdom or new and in the innocence of your years.  He that knows the days then, the days now, and the days to come and sees beyond all of that, straight down to the very soul He loves.  With that, He invites or allows (“suffer” as this lesson puts it) them to come unto Him.

Previously I wrote in another lesson, “The feet of faith walk forward believing God is, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith in its highest form removes all worldly shackles and just rests in the truth that if it is His will, there is nothing that can hinder God from performing a miracle in one’s life.  Ethnicity, background, and prestige all fall away in the eyes of our Savior whose only view is that of an opened heart filled with belief,” (Word for Life Says/The Centurion’s Great Faith).  All are welcomed before Him: man, woman, and child.  Many are quick to write off young people, but our youths’ matter to Jesus, too!  Everyone matters to Him!

“Forbid them not,” Jesus commanded.  Do not prevent people, no matter who they are, from drawing nearer to Christ.  The constraints that society then and now may put on some people are not recognized by God.

Youths especially come packed with potential.  For example, Samuel was dedicated to God as an incredibly young child (1 Sam. 1:21-28) and became a righteous judge of God’s people.  Josiah, became king at the tender age of 8 (2 Chr. 34:1), and “in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images,” (2 Chr. 34:3) and eventually went on to make great reformations for God’s people in turning them back to true worship (2 Chr. 34-35) which all started while he was still young.  Timothy learned from his grandmother and mother about true faith and helped the apostle Paul during his missionary journeys and in the establishing of new churches (2 Tim. 1:5).  And, let us not forget our Lord Jesus Christ who was found at the age of 12 in the temple with the “doctors”, amazing all who saw Him and heard “his understanding and answers,” (Luke 2:41-52).   It is far better that potential is tapped in young people for the glory of God than for the things of this world.

I am sure the disciples thought they were doing their best in providing protection and care for their Master.  Yet, Jesus has always had an open-door policy when it comes to people.  People matter to our Savior, even the littlest people – the kiddos.  Jesus always had a heart that burned for drawing people near and exposing to them the kingdom of God.  He loves people.  He loves children.  And He loves you, too!

“For of such is the kingdom of God.”  God’s kingdom is made of those who trust Him with total abandon and are dependent without inhibitions; that have faith and just believe as through the eyes of an innocent child.  Too many adults are hindered in their faith due to life experiences.  But children just accept and believe and love and trust.  They are prime examples of how His sheep come to the Shepherd and humbly follow His lead.

Faith as a Child

Mark 10:15 “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

Continuing His line of teaching on the kingdom of God, Jesus reiterates the one who wishes to enter in must “receive” it “as a little child.”  Those who choose not, forfeit their right to “enter therein.”

Why? Because the same characteristics that made that celebrated faith like a child acceptable in heaven are not found in those who refuse to receive it.  In fact, the exact opposite is usually what is present.  Instead of trusting, one may see self-sufficiency, and instead of a heart surrendered in faith, one may see it being lifted in pride.  Of course, one does not have to go far in realizing these are things God opposes.  They are not found in His children, the accessors of that heavenly kingdom, therefore to them who refuse to receive it as a child, access is denied.

The promise of heaven awaits any and all who will humble themselves as these children do and put on those same traits.  Walking in a lifestyle that opposes the fruit of the Spirit which is often found in these little ones is to oppose the working of the Spirit in that life.  Flesh wins and carnality overtakes that individual prohibiting them an opened door into the heavenly realm.

Do not be like the children of Israel.  God led them through the wilderness, and they fell short of the promise that lay ahead of them.  Losing out on the spiritual blessings of entering heaven would be far worse with more significant eternal consequences than that of an earthly Promised Land.  Therefore, it is prudent that one takes on this faith, which He describes as being like a child in their trust and willingness to receive, that they may enter in.

Blessed by Jesus

Mark 10:16 “And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

After His lesson on the benefits of having the same faith as these little ones that were brought before Him, Jesus granted the parent’s request and “blessed them.” 

Look at Jesus’ actions closely. He did not just speak a word over them as He could have.  He did not send one of the disciples to relay the blessings.  No.  He got personally involved with each child there in showing them the compassion of the Savior.  He lifted “them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”  I get the impression that He possibly took the time to lay hands on each child individually as any good father or spiritual leader would and speak a word of encouragement over each one of them (just my thoughts).

Remember our introduction: “The child never worries about being caught.  The child never worries about being hurt.  The child only sees daddy.  Daddy loves me, daddy cares for me, I trust daddy and daddy will never let me fall.  Therefore, I will enjoy playing with daddy.”  Jesus is calling for all of us to turn to Him with that same kind of innocent and trusting faith found in children.  Your heavenly Daddy loves you!  Turn to Him.

PDF Full 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 Blesses the Children

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Opener:  If you tried to put a picture to the word faith, what would that picture look like? What would it show? (As you present the questions in the following paragraph to open the lesson, have pictures ready that depict the scenes being spoken of.)

Would we see one authoritatively speaking with power to the multitudes (show picture)?  Would we see miracles and signs being performed (show picture)?  Or would you see the face of an innocent child (show picture)?

When Jesus taught about what those who enter the kingdom of God and what they would be compared to, in this lesson, He likened them to the picture of an innocent child.

While all the others are very real signs of things being done by those who profess and walk in the faith – what it all boils down to is if one wants to enter His heavenly kingdom, they must, in faith, receive it as a child.

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Jesus Blesses the Children

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Jesus Blesses the Children

Blank Journal Pages: These pages, one designed for adults and one for children, can be used to bring out, remember, or write a particular part of the lesson you wish for you and/or your class to focus on.  Click>>Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages to access the journal pages.

Paper Bag Puppet Craft:  Younger students can also put together a paper bag puppet depicting themselves and, on the back, attach the phrase from the printable available on site which states, “Jesus Thinks I’m Special, Too!”  Click here for the printable PDF.

 

Draw the Scene: Jesus Blesses the Children Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Jesus Blesses the Children Memory Verse

Word Search: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Search  Answers: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus Blesses the Children Crossword  Answers: Jesus Blesses the Children Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Scramble Answers

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Sunday School Lesson – “Count it All Joy!” James 1:1-12

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

What do you do when life doesn’t seem to want to play fair?  When all the boxes don’t check off in all the right places and everything seems out of whack – what do you do?

For some, remaining optimistic during trials is harder than others.  Firstly, every trial that every individual person deals with is not the same.  Some things that may be troubling to one, but in reality, is only a minor inconvenience and annoyance, to others, they may be battling tooth and nail to keep their head above the water of the adversity they are facing.

Then, we have each person’s natural dispositions on how they specifically handle tumultuous events.  Where one sees the dark clouds others can readily point out the silver lining.

For those whom James was addressing in his letter, he knew they were being hounded by real troubles and not just a matter of inconvenience.  He knew of the hardships and oppression they were experiencing.  Yet, through it all, he wanted these believers to focus on the positive fruit all the things they were experiencing in their life could produce.

Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work

James 1:1-4 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

This “James”, who addresses himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” is supposed by many to be the actual brother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  While Jesus was going about fulfilling His earthly ministry, his brothers were not part of those who supported that ministry (see John 7:3-5).  As a matter of fact, it is supposed that it wasn’t until after he had seen the risen Lord for himself, that James, the natural, half-brother of Jesus Christ, believed and became a follower and a leader in the early church (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14).

Which is why he is writing this letter “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  As a leader in the early church (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13-22), his care for members of the body of Christ is evident in the time and care he takes to write to them about their personal growth in the Lord, the discipline of the faith, conducting personal behaviors pleasing to the Lord, and yes, remaining hopeful in the midst of it all.

In this section of Scripture, James didn’t downplay the suffering some were experiencing.  Rather, he encouraged them to remain focused on what truly matters.  Therefore, he begins this letter by admonishing then to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”

“Count it all joy” – when you really think about that statement, it’s naturally a very difficult thing to do.  It’s very similar to the Apostle Paul’s teaching to which he says, “In every thing give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Those words “all” and “every thing” can encompass a great many circumstances.  Circumstances that wouldn’t need encouragement to remain joyful and thankful if they weren’t adverse.  Nobody needs to be encouraged to be happy when they are already happy.  It’s when things become hard and unbearable that leaders such as James try to cheer them on to see that silver lining in a dark cloud.

James goes on to say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” or, various trials.  You know what, I have given birth to four different children and each labor experience was different.  Some were scary, some were painful, some were eventful, while others were uneventful.  No two were alike.  Each one was different.  During one, I thought I was going to lose that baby, and during one, my own health was compromised.

But life is like that.  The degrees and variables surrounding each hardship are unique to that particular time, place, situation, and person.  They all don’t come packed in the same neat packaging, for if they did, we could really prepare our actions and reactions to each case.  Trials come looking and feeling many ways and sometimes it’s hard getting a grip on it all and adjusting one’s mindset to see the positive.

But James didn’t focus on the many things people see, feel, and experience now.  He focused on the many things it would produce.

First, he said, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”  If you have ever exercised with resistance bands, you know how difficult it can be.  You are using your own body’s strength, be it little or big, to purposely add pressure and pull to an already hard work out.

The “trying of our faith” is working for us, for our good, even though it seems to be opposing us.  That which is hard to deal with is actually teaching us in a way that an easy path, with no resistance, ever could.  It is producing in us virtues and spiritual fruit (Romans 5:3-6) that really will have no way of growing in us if it were not for the adverse circumstances we become occasionally planted in.

Here, in James’ teaching, he is showing them the flip side of what they are feeling.  He’s showing them that what they are going through, those things that feel like they are wearing their faith down, is actually producing “patience” in them.  This patience is all about endurance.  One will never know how to go through hardships and stand if they have never been given the opportunity to exercise that faith and endure.

We read about Bible characters and their stories, and we think, oh, put me in the lion’s den, or let me at Goliath, or some other situation alike, and I know what to do because the Bible tells us what they did.  When reading the lives in these stories, we must not become desensitized to the power and faith it took for an individual to keep remaining true to their faith despite a death threat or to face a monster of a man on the battlefield.  Until we have our own Nebuchadnezzar to stand before with the resolve to refuse to bow and worship a false image, no matter how hot the situation was getting, we will never know what it’s like to endure trials such as these that build our faith unless we go through it for ourselves.

“But let patience have her perfect work.”  If you want to grow and produce things conducive to strong faith, then let that same patience work it out in you.  Every Christian should strive for mature, tested, and tried fruit of these spiritual disciplines to be produced in their life.

Every day we should want to do better and to be better, but a lot of that will never come to be unless we work at letting “patience have her perfect work.”  Then, will we grow, being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the development of our Christian character, now being ripe fruit, fit for the Master’s use.

Ask in Faith and Don’t Waver

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

“Faith” is a key factor in this opening of James’ letter.  In the trying and in the producing, faith comes to the forefront of a must-have list.

“Wisdom” is needed in so many areas of life.  Proper wisdom is needed all the more when facing opposition.  Wisdom is one of the best tools one should have in their arsenal when navigating or combatting trying times.

Previously I wrote,

“Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,’ Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose Author is God?” (Wisdom is Better/Word for Life Says).

James said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”  It is very possible to be in the midst of contentions and not know what to do or how to respond.  God has opened Himself up to us to receive what we need to succeed in this Christian journey.  The Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples, wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3; emphasis mine) and that includes wisdom.  God gives it to the one who asks, but when he or she asks, it must be done in “faith.”

Faith supports faith.  The one here, who is in a trial and dealing with contentions because of their faith, are to ask in faith, of the Father, for the proper wisdom of how to continue forward in their faith while going through.

Steadfast, believing faith is necessary for every aspect of our Christian walk.  To “waver” in that is to sway in that belief and in the one who is the Author of that belief.

James gives the picture of this one being “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”  I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  When vacationing, it’s one of my favorite places to visit.  One of the things I most enjoy while there is standing on the shoreline and watching the waves come in and go out.  The ebb and flow of the waters are always moving, never still, and never steady.

While beautiful to look at in nature, in our Christian character that’s not what we’re looking for.  We want to be rooted and grounded in what we believe and whom we believe – that He is able to answer our prayers and give us the wisdom we need.  To shun that, through not asking in faith, is to shun the benefits one would have received otherwise.

James warns, “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”  Too many are living the faith they profess to have without living in complete faith and assurance in the “Lord.”  It may be possible for people to live in compliance with regulations of the faith and have the spirit of faith missing.

This one has a divided mindset.  James considers them to be a “double minded man” who is “unstable in all his ways.”  If he or she can’t get off the fence here, before the very foundation of their faith, when praying and asking of God, other areas of life are guaranteed to be constantly shifting and fluctuating as well, being blown about in uncertainty.

But for the one, who in complete faith, is asking God for wisdom, God will give it “liberally” and “it shall be given him.”  Wow!  What a promise!

Endure, There is an Eternal Reward

James 1:9-12 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.  For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.  Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.  Everyone will experience trials.  And, everyone can be taught valuable lessons through those trials.  All social classes and backgrounds can find joy during times of adversity.

How is that?

James explains it like this.  For the poor, or him of “low degree,” such a one can “rejoice in that he is exalted.”  This one’s “right now status” does not determine their joy in life.

It is easy to see the ones without… without as much as others, without as many financial resources, without proper education, and anything else this world stores up as markers for success and happiness.

This one may think he is justified in being sullen, withdrawn, and living a pity-party lifestyle that no one wants to attend.  Contrarily, James points out the opposite.  Regardless of what he has or didn’t have; no matter how others view his lowliness, or even how he views himself, James declares that joy and rejoicing should still be found in his heart because of the God whom he has placed his trust in, and not his haves and have nots.

In this, too, he can “rejoice.”  When it’s all said and done, when he parts from this world, it is God who will “exalt” him to the things he has never seen with human eyes or even imagined (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9).  He may not have as much as another, but in his trials and temptations, he can still count it all joy!

When Jesus was teaching the Beatitudes, at the end of all those “blessed are” statements that would point out circumstances in which one wouldn’t normally find joy in, Jesus speaks these words: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:12).  His comments were spoken in relation to being persecuted, something James’ readers are all too familiar with, yet, what He points out is that even in that hardship, Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice!”

And, He wasn’t teaching anything contrary to what He Himself was not willing to do.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”

As those who are linked to Him in faith, James said every believer can count it all joy no matter their privileged or underprivileged status and life.

And the “rich” are to remember, in humility, that though they may have a lot right now, their days are moving just as fast as anyone else’s in this lifespan each of us has been allotted.  Life is a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14).

“As the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”  Riches cannot increase his time or secure him a better end.  He, too, must depend on the same salvation, the same saving grace, as one who may be without and lacking.  The businesses, the homes, the money – nothing he has accumulated in this life will account for anything in eternity.  Outside of Christ, low or high, rich or poor, we are all nothing.

So, when this one faces trials and temptations, he too can count it all joy for he is made keenly aware that his days and life here are very brief.  That awareness brings him “low”; it centers and focuses him on what matters the most.

Both types of trials and temptations are a gift for they both, whether for the rich or poor, should keep us before the Lord in humility and dependence.  Not a one has a reason to glory in his own flesh or circumstances.  Before God, it’s the heart of the man that matters the most.  Not what he has or doesn’t have.

James adds, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.”  Counting it all joy is not because we have avoided temptations and trials from ever happening to us.  Counting it all joy for the blessedness that is ours for enduring the times of testing they brought.

Even Jesus was tried, tested, and tempted.  Hebrews reminds us again, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15).

Endure!

Let patience have her perfect work!  Because in the end, when the trials and trying times are all over with, that one that was “tried” and endured with faith intact through it – that one “shall receive the crown of life.”

Now, that’s real success.  That’s the real goal.  That’s the real reason to be happy when troubles just won’t seem to let up.

At one point or another, and many times in between, we are all going to be touched by the finger of adversity.  But, as the Word of God declares, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).

Don’t lose your joy!  There is a “crown of life” waiting for you with your name on it.  We are going through and enduring because there is a prize laid up for us at the end of this race (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Your running is not in vain.  Your joy is not in vain.  The “Lord” has “promised” this wonderful gift “to them that love him.”

it is spoken.  It is written.  It is ours if we remain in our holy joy and keep pushing for it and not giving up.

The opposite of the joy we are called to have is words like misery, sadness, and the like.  When one keeps swimming in the pools of these waters, they will soon feel overcome by the displeasure found there, let go of their grip, and drown.

Life may not be perfect but maintaining your spiritual joy will keep you buoyant in the murkiest of waters.

So, count it all joy!

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 – Count it All Joy

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Lead In/Happy or Sad Activity: Print out one happy face and one sad face (you can just do one set for the teacher or multiple sets so that each student can have their own). Attach the faces to craft sticks. Prepare a list of things that might make one happy or sad (finding money, losing a tooth, receiving an unexpected gift, losing a puppy, etc.). Ask the class, using the faces, to show how each thing listed would make them feel, and why? Then ask, Is it possible to feel joy even in sad times? (Give them space to answer.)

Use this as a lead in to the lesson. Say, James wrote to people during a very hard time in life and one of the things he did was encouraged them to count it all joy. This concept is difficult for some adults to grasp, let alone children. Let them know a Christian’s joy is never based on the goodness of their circumstances. Rather, their joy is based on the goodness of God, who will give us the wisdom we need to make it through hard times.

Frown Upside Down Craft: Make your own frowning face that can be turned upside down to make a smiling face. If you don’t know how to do this, search the internet for great examples. Use this as a supplement to the lesson Count it All Joy.

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (These pages are great to use with the other journaling exercise provided in the PEARL lesson packet or to use to bring out any other area of the lesson you choose to focus on.  Enjoy!)

Draw the Scene: Count it All Joy Draw the Scene

Word Search: Count it All Joy Word Search  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Search Answers

Crossword: Count it All Joy Crossword  Answers: Count it All Joy Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Count it All Joy Word Scramble  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Scramble Answers 

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Sunday School Lesson Series: “Christmas”

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:11

“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

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

Christmastime really is the most wonderful time of the year, but not for the reasons most profess it.  Caught up in commercialism and materialism, many are so focused on the giving of gifts that they forget or take their focus off the greatest gift given: Jesus Christ our Savior.  He is the reason we celebrate.  He is the reason for the season.

The verses above remind us of all the wonderful things God has secured for us through the coming of His Son into this world.  As we draw deeper into this blessed season, may our hearts be enlightened more with the truth behind the reason we celebrate: JESUS.  It’s all about Him.

In light of that, I have put together a Christmas Series of Sunday School Lessons to help us and students draw nearer to Him and to learn and appreciate more the realness of this wonderful time.  Each of these lessons is designed to be used as individual lessons, or as seen here,  they can be grouped together to be used as a series.    Below you will find four links to the lessons offered.

As always, while I provide resources and activities for lessons and lesson development, I encourage my readers to do their own personal studies as well.

To access the lessons, simply click on the links below.

“An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth” – Luke 1:8-20

Before Gabriel spoke to Mary, he appeared to another person in relation to the future Messiah.  He came to a man by the name of Zacharias and foretold of the child he would father.  This child would grow to be a messenger before the Lord and would be he of whom it was prophesied as the one who would be characterized as, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” (Mark 1:3).

“Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth” – Luke 1:26-38

These little details that surround the greatest story ever told can get lost in the bustle of the celebration.  But, if we take the time to sit and listen as Mary did with the angel, we too can find assurance in the plans that God has for us in our lives.

“Mary’s Song” – Luke 1:39-56

Let your soul magnify God with Mary! God is worthy to be praised! Not just in those marvelous times when He is working miracles out for you and me, but praise Him as Mary did, for His holiness. Praise Him for being the great God that He is!

“Jesus’ Birth” – Luke 2:8-20

If nothing else will move the soul, the birth of our Savior ought to give us all a reason to reflect on the goodness of the Lord and praise Him as the shepherds did on that Holy Night.

May these lessons bless you and help you to fully appreciate and celebrate our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord, and all that He has done for each of us.  Blessings and peace to you all!

Sunday School Lesson – “Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth” Luke 1:26-38

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 1:26-38 (KJV, Public Domain)

One moment in time that would change history forever; affecting not only the life of one individual but for all mankind that ever was and that will ever be born upon the face of the earth.

Mary, the young Jewish woman from Nazareth, surely knew of the prophecy that was taught to her people down through the generations: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Is. 7:14).  But, never could she have imagined that she would be that one; that she would be that virgin spoken of so many years ago, (see Mt. 1:21-23).

As we enter into the celebration of the Christmas season let us not become so familiar with the story that we pass it by without a second glance.  Rather, as the angel Gabriel introduces to Mary the great feat that God is about to do in her life, let us reintroduce ourselves to His great power and plan to bring salvation to all men

Lesson Summary

Luke 1:26 “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,”

In the verses leading up to our lesson a dramatic event unfolded.  Zacharias’ lot was drawn “to burn incense” in the temple of the Lord, (Luke 1:9).  Whilst there, “Gabriel,” the same angel in today’s lesson, informs Zacharias that he shall have a son that he “shall be great in the sight of the Lord,” (Luke 1:15).  Zacharias, though working in the temple of the Lord, doubted what God could do in his life.  This caused him to be stricken “dumb, and not able to speak, until the days that these things shall be performed,” (Luke 1:20).

His wife Elisabeth conceived as was told by the angel Gabriel and “hid herself five months,” (Luke 1:24).  Today’s lesson picks up “in the sixth month” where we see the same Gabriel who spoke to Zacharias in the temple now appearing to Mary in “Nazareth.”

Once, when Jesus would first begin His ministry, Philip, after being approached by Jesus and told to, “Follow me,” (John 1:43) went to get Nathanael to come as well.  Coming upon Nathanael, Philip said, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth…” (John 1:45).  Nathanael’s response was, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).  He said that because “Nazareth” was a place nobody really paid attention to.  It was a little village despised and rejected as not being worth consideration.  But it is from this obscure place that Gabriel is sent to announce to a young woman there of her participation in the coming of our Savior into this world.

Luke 1:27 “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

Mary was “espoused” or as we like to call it in modern terms “engaged” to a man by the name of “Joseph.”  Unlike modern times, to be engaged then carried far more weight of commitment then it does today.  Those “espoused” were considered husband and wife without partaking in the intimate affairs of the relationship at this time.  That would come a year later when she would go to be with him as a wife in every sense of the word.  At this point in their relationship, only a divorce could break off their engagement.

Luke 1:28-29 “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.”

“The angel came in unto her, and said, Hail.”  In most depictions of this encounter, one gets the sense that this encounter took place outdoors.  But here it states that when the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, he “came in unto her,” giving us the impression that Mary was indoors during this holy encounter.

He spoke, “Thou art highly favoured.”  Now, to be real I think in our day we hear so much preaching on the word favor that we have missed the real significance of the word.  Too many people associate favor with the plethora of prosperity messages.  In the Bible, “favour” is associated with “grace,” and grace is, after all, God’s unmerited favor.

It’s something that is not earned or deserved.  But God, when he looked upon Mary saw something special in her to choose her to be the one to partake in this life-changing, world-changing, history-changing mission.  In God’s eyes, she was “highly favoured.”  I like the fact that the Bible does not go into greater detail of why God chose Mary outside of being “highly favoured,” lest we think of it as a list of criteria to try to emulate to gain favor when this is all done through grace.

“The Lord is with thee.”  How many times in her life would she need to reflect back on that promise?  When the news got out about her pregnancy; when all the gossips and tongue lashers had their way, how many times would she need to reach back to this promise that God is with her?  What about when uncertainty in the turbulent times of the day where people would seek to threaten the life of her child?  Or, even moving beyond this story to the scene of Jesus’ death, how often would she remind herself of those words of blessed assurance?  Is this not one of the greatest promises associated with the birth of the Messiah?  He is “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us,” (Matthew 1:23).

“Blessed art thou among women.”  No woman on the face of this earth would ever, and I do mean ever, experience what Mary did.  Not only in being chosen for this mission of God but also in every aspect of life this journey would take her through from His conception to death.  In that, she is “blessed.”  Women have conceived since the time of Eve, but none has ever been a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Ghost.  Women have carried children in their womb, but none else has ever or will ever carry the Son of God.  She is “blessed.”

“She was troubled at his saying… what manner of salutation this should be.”  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a humbling verse and it asks, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visited him?” (Psalm 8:4).

This could be imagination on my part, but I believe one of the reasons behind Mary being “troubled at his saying” and her questioning of “what manner of salutation this should be” is rooted in the same spirit of humility that Psalms 8:4 expresses.  “What is man?” – “Who am I?” must have been running through her head that an angel of God would greet her so.

There would also be a healthy dose of godly fear intermingled with her personal response.  After all, it isn’t every day that God dispatches a messenger from heaven to speak face to face with a person.  This was truly an awe-inspiring event.  Anytime an angel appeared to speak directly to an individual it was often “troubling” to the receiver (compare to Luke 1:12).

Luke 1:30-33 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

“Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”  Gabriel spoke words meant to calm the fright she was experiencing on the inside.  “Fear not” is one of my favorite sets of words in the Bible.  It is spoken over and over again on many occasions to many different people; approximately 365 times, one for every day of the year.  My favorite is found in Isaiah 41:10 where these words of assurance are found saying, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  “Fear not” pleads with mankind and is pleading with Mary to trust God wholeheartedly.

Gabriel then reiterated that Mary “hast found favour with God.”  With the task she is about to receive she would need this double dose of reassurance of God’s favor over her life.

“Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”  “Shalt” means that it is going to happen.  God has a plan for her that begins and ends with “JESUS.”  She, in the very near future, would carry a child in her “womb.”  Though her year of being espoused is not yet up and the final marriage preparations have not been done, she is told she will “bring forth a son and shalt call his name JESUS.”  When the angel spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, he confirmed the name of this special child would be “JESUS.”  That name, with the meaning of salvation, is where many would find life eternal (see John 20:31).

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.”  He would be no ordinary child by any means of the word.  Jesus will later say of Himself, “I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world,” (Jn. 8:23).  He knew His origin was different than any other man that had been born on the earth.  Here, Gabriel tells Mary her son will be from the “Highest,” (see also John 3:31).

“And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David.”  For centuries the hopes of the Jewish people’s awaited Messiah sprang from the promise that God made to His servant David when He said, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:16, see also 1 Chronicles 17:14).

David desired to build God a physical house, but God desired to build off his legacy a spiritual house that will never fail.  The son that Mary would carry in her womb would hold the keys to that spiritual house.  He would be the one to occupy the “throne” forever.

“He shall reign… and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Earthly kings would come and go down through the course of time.  Some would be good kings, and some would be evil.  For some they would do what was right in the eyes of God while others would rule as polar opposites.  One thing they all had and still have in common is no matter who they are, and no matter the motivation, the location, or the rule – sooner or later their reign will end.  Either by death, usurping of the throne, or by some other kingdom-shifting event they would eventually lose their right to rule.

The child that Mary would carry would always “reign.”  Even when it looked like death may have won for a short space of time – He was just revving up to rule forever.

Luke 1:34 “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”

When all was said and done and her stomach would begin to grow with child, most people would never believe Mary’s statement: “I know not a man.”  People judge by what they see with their natural eyes.  But, for Mary her statement would forever stand as truth in the eyes of all who believe that this virgin would conceive the Son of God.

Mary knew the means in which one would normally conceive a child.  She also knew that though she was espoused, she has remained untouched in this manner.  The Bible confirms that “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost,” (Matthew 1:18).  Her questioning was more of a “How in the world will this happen?” statement rather than of doubt.  She knew her pure state.  How was God going to accomplish such a thing in her?  Her body would produce a miracle – but, how?

Luke 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee… shall be called the Son of God.”  Gabriel answered Mary’s question.  In His own way, a way that only God Himself can explain or understand, “The Holy Ghost” will come upon her and “the power of the Highest shall overshadow” her.  Though the Holy Ghost had previously and temporarily empowered people to do something for God, here He was playing a key role in the incarnation of Christ in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” (Col. 2:9).  John 1 recognized Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, (VSS. 14, 18).

Luke 1:36-37 “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

“Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age.”  Mary never asked for a sign but what a sweet reminder of the grace of God at work.  How many times had God blessed a barren womb in the Bible?  Elisabeth’s son would fulfill a prophecy of his own (see Isaiah 40:3) and would forever be remembered for his greatness in going before the Lord.  Even Jesus spoke of John and said, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist,” (Luke 7:28).

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Oh, how often have we quoted this and yet underestimate His power at work in it?  God, the Creator of all heaven and earth, was still fashioning things into existence in a miraculous way.  “Nothing” is outside of the scope of the power of God!  There isn’t “no-thing” that He can’t do!  “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God,” (Psalm 62:11).  Revelation 19:1 declares, “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto thee Lord our God.”  With God, it will happen!

Luke 1:38 “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.  And the angel departed from her.”

Mission accomplished.  The angel delivered his message and departed after she accepted the mission at hand.  Let us not downplay Mary’s acceptance of this calling.  The situation could have ended her life.  The situation would bring shame and ridicule to her and her family.  It is hard to accept some of the things that God asks of His people.  At one point in His own ministry, Jesus’ teachings would invoke this response: “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60) questioned some who followed Him.

For Mary, the task she was accepting was in fact very hard, but she acquiesced to the hand of God and His will over her life.  Jesus later would accept the harder calling of God, and said, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done,” (Matthew 26:42).  Following God’s way will not always be easy, but it will always be right.

These little details that surround the greatest story ever told can get lost in the bustle of the celebration.  But, if we take the time to sit and listen as Mary did with the angel, we too can find assurance in the plans that God has for us 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 – Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth

Draw the Scene: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Draw the Scene

Craft Idea:  Bouncing off the idea expressed in the Draw the Scene section, for a simple Craft Idea students can cut out different pictures of an angel, a woman, and other items out of old magazines, books, or even different coloring books in an almost collage format to recreate the scene of Gabriel speaking to Mary as in today’s lesson.

Memory Verse: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Memory Verse

Word Scramble: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Scramble  Answers: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Scramble Answers

Word Search: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Search  Answers: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Search Answers

Crossword: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Crossword  Answers: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Crossword Answers

Sunday School Lesson – “An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth” Luke 1:8-20

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 1:8-20 (KJV, Public Domain)

Before Gabriel spoke to Mary, he appeared to another person in relation to the future Messiah.  He came to a man by the name of Zacharias and foretold of the child he would father.  This child would grow to be a messenger before the Lord and would be he of whom it was prophesied as the one who would be characterized as, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” (Mark 1:3). 

Imagine for a moment, the president, king, or any head of a country, coming to an area to visit.  Before their arrival, another would have been sent ahead to announce and make the proper preparations before they get there.  Such as it was in ancient times when kings came into town.  And, so is the ministry of John the Baptist, the child whom Gabriel speaks of in today’s lesson as a promise to Zacharias, when the King of all kings makes His arrival on this earth.

Zacharias’ Duty

Luke 1:8-10 “And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.  And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.”

Righteous before God.  Walking in the commandments.  Blameless.  These are some of the noteworthy characteristics of Zacharias and Elisabeth his wife (see Luke 1:5-6).

Although he was a faithful priest in the eyes of the Lord and his wife modeled the same holy qualities, they had no child.  Being well-advanced in years, their time for this possibility seemed to be over until God steps in and shakes up their way of thinking and reorders their life with a great and precious promise.

The number of priests available to serve in those days was large.  Some estimates put them in the tens of thousands.  With that, 1 Chronicles 24:1-9 lays out the divisions of the priests.  There were 24 in all and from these divisions, the duties that were to be performed in the temple were selected by “lot.”  Using the term “lot” it describes the system of selection that depended on God to choose who will do what and when they will do it by the drawing or casting of lots.

On this particular day, Zacharias had the privilege to experience the opportunity to serve before the Lord.  “According to the custom of the priest’s office” (see 2 Chronicles 8:14), as the lots were cast for the duty of burning incense (see 1 Chronicles 23:13; 2 Chronicles 29:11), Zacharias’s name was chosen to perform this job “in the temple of the Lord.”

This was a highly desired position and considered a great honor.  Before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice was offered, the chosen priest would burn incense before the altar symbolizing the prayers of the people who were positioned outside of the temple (“praying without”), during this time.

An Angel Encounter

Luke 1:11-14 “And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.”

Above all else, we believe God to be sovereign.  We believe Him to be in charge of time and circumstance.  And, although Zacharias is considered old at this time, we believe God held his name in remembrance to appear on the scene and receive the promise of he who would be chosen and work to prepare the way of Christ at this chosen time in history.

While reverently going about his duties which, as already noted, had to be performed twice a day (see Exodus 30:7-8), “there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord.”  Imagine, if you will, being in that holy atmosphere where one might not hear anything but the burning of coals and the shuffling of his own feet; an atmosphere where everything is sacred and yet, God chose you to come before Him in the temple to perform this holy calling.

With the aromas of spices filling the air, off to the right side of the altar, beyond the ascending fragrant cloud, Zacharias sees “an angel of the Lord.”  Some depictions of this encounter may have Zacharias just hearing the angel, but the Bible says he “saw him.”

And when he “saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.”  Throughout the Bible, any time an angel appeared directly to an individual it was often unsettling and troubling to the individual (see 1 Chronicles 21:30; Matthew 28:2-4).  God does not do anything frivolously, especially regarding having a heavenly host appear to mankind.  This was an occasion to take seriously.  Not knowing at that time, the exact reason for the visit, “fear fell upon him.”

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias.”  Zacharias’s reaction wasn’t necessary, and the angel sought to ease the millions of horrific thoughts that may be running through his mind.  God’s dispatched angel came with a message of promise, not of peril; therefore, he spoke, “Fear not;” the same comforting words he will give to Mary in Luke 1:30.

“For thy prayer is heard.”  Zacharias was a righteous man and he was a praying man and according to God’s holy word, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry, “(Psalm 34:15; see also 1 Peter 3:12).  Knowing the heartbreak and shame of being childless; I don’t know how many years Zacharias prayed, but in His perfect, pre-ordained time, God let him know He “heard.”

In a previous article titled Know That God Hears, I wrote: “Our deepest heart’s desires do not fall on deaf ears.  God is not playing cat and mouse with us.  He wants us to seek Him that He may be found: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near,” (Isaiah 55:6).  Then, He can respond!” (Word For Life Says)

And, respond He did.  The angel told Zacharias of what would be.  He said, “Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”  A woman, who like her husband is “well-stricken in years,” (Luke 1:7) will finally, not only have a child and know the joy of motherhood, but she will “bear thee a son.”

Just think, after all those years of let downs.  After feelings of disgrace have surely washed over them and it seemed all hope is gone – God favored them.  They would know what it is like; they will experience their very own fulfilled promise in the form of a son named “John.”

His birth would not only bring “joy and gladness” to the parents whose hearts longed to hear a babe crying in their home, and to hold and coddle their own flesh and blood – but, “many shall rejoice at his birth.”

As time goes by and Elisabeth does give birth, we see in Luke 1:58, “her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her,” (emphasis mine).  I believe the angel’s words were meant to have a much farther reach of impact in the lives of the people who will respond to his call of repentance, and eventually be led to Christ.

John’s Foretold Character

 Luke 1:15 “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord.”  When Jesus came on the scene, during His years of ministry, He testified of John and said, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist,” (Luke 7:28; see also Matthew 11:11).  Jesus’ ministry obviously is superior in depth and importance than that of John the Baptist’s (read John 1:29-34 for John’s own testimony of the Lamb of God’s ministry; He [Jesus] that is preferred before him [John the Baptist]).

Nevertheless, because of his position and unique ministry as the one who would prepare the way before the Savior, John the Baptist stands out and is extraordinary among the name of the prophets.  From the time of the womb, he would bear witness of the Christ (see Luke 1:41; John 1:15, 29-34).

“And he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.”  This is reminiscent of the instructions we see given to Samson’s parents when an angel appeared to them.  The withholding of oneself from “strong drink” as well as other strict requirements, was in keeping with what is known as a Nazarite vow (compare Judges 13:4-5).  This devoted life would be a sign of the holy and set apart nature of the individual; that God was doing something special in his life.

“And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”  John the Baptist would be heavenly empowered and enabled from the womb to fulfill the role as that prophesied voice and that holy messenger, heralding to all who would listen, before the arrival of the Savior (compare Isaiah 40:3).  Anything done for God must be Spirit-powered.  Many today try to operate in their own power but fall short of producing godly fruit for the Kingdom.  John’s life and mission would be infused with “Holy Ghost” power!

John’s Foretold Ministry

Luke 1:16-17 “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

“Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.”  When John the Baptist came into his ministry, he is seen “preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:1-2).  People from all over the area came: “Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins,” (Matthew 3:5-6).  He was working to turn hearts back “to the Lord their God.”  He was winning souls to the Kingdom, fulfilling this prophecy over his life.

John’s style of clothing (camel’s hair garments) and eating choices (locusts and wild honey) did not detract from the impact he made on those who came out to see and hear him.  The love for people, the Kingdom, and the ingrained ministry in him compelled him to reach out and help those who were seeking “the Lord their God.”

“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.”  In the Old Testament, it was prophesied, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me…” (Malachi 3:1).  When we study the New Testament, particularly the sayings of Jesus on the subject, we see that John was, in fact, he that came “in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah],” (read Matthew 17:11-13 for further clarification).

“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.”  In correlation with this prophecy of John the Baptist being compared to Elijah, here too we see another O.T. promise being fulfilled through his life and ministry.  With almost exact wording, Malachi 4:5-6 talks about Elijah coming again with a focus on restoring familial relationships.  The very fabric that makes up the strength of the home is relationships; those connections would have “hearts” renewed in love and peace for one another again.

Some see it in a different way, perhaps referring to the turning of the hearts of the children of Israel back to the way of their fathers, the patriarchs.

Regardless of how one views it, his ministry softens “hearts” that will be ready to receive the healing that Christ will offer.

When John the Baptist does arrive on the scene to do the work of the Lord, the people would have been 400 years without hearing the voice of a true prophet of God.  The above quotation from Malachi 4:5-6 were among the last words spoken by a prophet in the Old Testament.

“And the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  The ministry of John the Baptist would change hearts and minds from unjust behavior to “just” behaviors; leading people to look for the greater gift of salvation which is found in Jesus Christ.  As such, he was making “ready a people prepared.”  John the Baptist can be seen as the opening act, while Jesus Christ, without a doubt, is the main event.

Zacharias’ Doubt

Luke 1:18-20 “And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.  And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.  And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”

“Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”  Surprised at the announcement.  Overwhelmed at the possibility.  Over-thinking the proposed miracle.  All this and more led Zacharias down a path of doubt.

Here, Zacharias’s prayer was heard, and God sent a messenger to declare he’s getting what he prayed for.  But the faith that caused him to ask in prayer was missing at the declaration of the miracle.  Rather than respond with rejoicing, he responded with questioning.

What happened?

He looked with human eyes at human conditions and made up his mind for God, that it just wasn’t possible.  Let us be reminded of this great biblical truth: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6; emphasis mine).

Zacharias was a “diligent” seeker of the Lord (as noted earlier in this lesson).  God was ready to reward him, but he just couldn’t see with his natural eyes the miracle ahead.  Therefore, he asks, “Whereby shall I know this?”

What God speaks always comes to pass, so the angel, who is revealed as the same “Gabriel” who speaks with Mary – his response below is just.

“I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.”  Coming as a holy messenger of God, what “Gabriel” brought was good news!  As if it isn’t awesome enough to see an angel, period – this one brought a promise with him.  Most would think this is convincing enough, but for Zacharias, he met the miracle with misgivings about his situation and wanted something more: “Whereby shall I know this?”

Thus, the angel Gabriel said, “Thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed.”  If we fast forward to the birth of John, particularly the eighth day when it was time for him to be circumcised according to custom, which would also be the same time when he officially gets his name, we see Zacharias wrote the babe’s name “John” on a tablet.  And when he did so, “his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God,” (Luke 1:59-64).  Until that day he was “not able to speak” according to Gabriel’s words because he “believest not.”

Remember, what God promises, He is able to perform (Romans 4:21).  Believe Him for it all.

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 – An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth

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Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Sends His Followers” Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8

VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8 (KJV, Public Domain)

When Jesus called some of His disciples, He told them they would be “fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19; see also Mark 1:17 and Luke 5:10).  In this lesson, He is instructing them to launch out into the deep of not the waters, but of the world, and catch people for the Kingdom of God.

Romans 10:13-15 tells us, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be savedHow then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (emphasis mine).

Salvation is the goal.  In order for that to happen, an unbeliever must be converted into a believer.  For that to happen, the unbeliever must hear a word that pushes their heart toward repentance and the offer of a new life in Christ.  But, if there is never a “preacher”; if there is never one “sent”; if there are never “beautiful… feet” preaching the “gospel of peace” and “glad tidings of good things”, then how can the original goal of salvation, of a sinner experiencing a new birth, become a reality?  How can that one become a saint?

Like dominos in a row, ready to fall into place and urge the other on to form the big picture, so too does Jesus command all His followers to take their places, to go out into the world, to fulfill the Great Commission.

All the commands in today’s text are red-lettered words in the Bible.  What that means is they are all words that came out of the mouth of Christ.  These were His marching orders when He sent His original disciples out to witness the world for the Kingdom of God, and they are still His marching orders for all His followers today.

 The Matthew 28:16-20 Command

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  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: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Other red-lettered words that are companion verses found in Luke show that in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts that the mission for Jesus’ followers is the same: go, be a witness, and evangelize the world.  Luke records these words of Christ: “And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48; emphasis mine).

Christ suffered.  Christ died.  And here, as well as the verses in Matthew (our covered text), and beyond, we see that Christ rose.  Everything that the enemy tried to throw at Him, He overcame and was victorious.  As the prelude to today’s lesson shows, death could not hold Him down.

When “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (Matthew 28:1) went to visit the tomb of Jesus, they found He wasn’t even there!  Being greeted by an “angel” they were told, “He is not here: for he is risen,” (Matthew 28:5-6).  Standing, in what must’ve been awe and wonder over everything they were witnessing, they were instructed by the same angel to “go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the death; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you,” (Matthew 28:7).

With many things occurring between that point and the point of where our lesson picks up, as we arrive at our text, the remaining “eleven disciples” are gathered in “Galilee,” into a mountain where “Jesus had appointed them.”

Their calling to that particular “mountain” had been by divine appointment.  The mission they were soon to be sent on was also a divine appointment.  When one is commissioned by Christ, their life is no longer their own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  They follow the marching orders of their Savior and go where and when He says go.  What He ordained and set must be followed through by His disciples.

When they gathered themselves where He “appointed them,” it was then “they saw him.”  And, when they saw Him, “they worshipped him.”  They bowed prostrate before their risen Lord.  They bowed in awe and wonder of His majesty who spoke of His life, saying, “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).

It is supposed by many that the group gathered there that day consisted not only of the eleven disciples/apostles but many others as well.  When the Apostle Paul stated and testified that many had seen the risen Lord, including “five hundred brethren at once,” (1 Corinthians 15:6), it is believed that it was on the occasion of this lesson when this account occurred, and why some gathered there may have “doubt.”

Jesus, not only bringing light to their confusion of who He is and on what has occurred, also is bringing light to their hearts regarding His own authority when He speaks these words unto them: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  Wherever a king reigns, that’s where he has power.  Jesus reigns over all!  As a matter of fact, it was also the Apostle Paul who stated that God is the one who “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,” (Philippians 2:9).

And speaking of that power given to Him by God, he goes on to state, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:10-11).

What all that means is the same thing Jesus is asserting here in this text: He has been given, by God, “all power!”

All power means it, or He, cannot be contended with.  Jesus Christ has already gained the victory over everything (see John 16:33).  He has “everlasting dominion” over all (see Daniel 7:13-14).  Peter says that He has “gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him,” (1 Peter 3:22).  There’s no way around it – JESUS HAS BEEN GIVEN ALL POWER!

As the risen Lord is getting ready to commission His disciples into their next level of work for the Kingdom of God, He shows them that the mission is His to give.  The authority to command the work that is to be done is His.

With that, He lays out the grand work for what we have come to know as the Great Commission.  And the first words that Jesus speaks to them regarding this mission is, “Go!”

“Go” is a verb which means it requires action.  There is no such thing as a stagnant saint.  Our faith is not stale or at a standstill and neither should the declaring of our faith be.  We, who have an active relationship with the Lord, should be pursuing actively His purposes and mission.  And, the number one mission overall is the winning of souls for the Kingdom of God.  That is the top priority.  Days are short and eternity is long – we must “go!”

When Jesus says, “Go,” He wants you to get involved in His plan for reaching out to others.  He doesn’t save individuals for them to loiter around the church.  He wants us to stretch beyond the comfort of our own salvation; stretch beyond the comfort of the pews, to help save others.

“And teach all nations.”  Probably the most beloved and the most memorized verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “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.”  God’s mission and reasoning behind the crucifixion of Christ is for the whole “world” to have a chance to be saved.  There are no “nations” that are off limits for receiving the teaching of the gospel and what Jesus has done for them.  There are no restrictions to be placed on whom we deem worthy to be baptized in His name.  The command is not ours to give of who and who cannot be reached, but the command and mission is ours to follow – and He says for us to reach “all nations” with it.

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  When a baby is born, one doesn’t give them a bottle, wish them luck, and send them off on their own to figure this new life out.  No!  They are trained about the rights and wrongs of life.  They are raised with guidance, love, care, and instruction on all things necessary, and the Lord says that others whom we reach out to need the same care and attention.  They need to be taught in “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

“And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”  They were not in this mission alone. We are not on this mission alone.  Those whom Jesus was instructing, and those of the early church suffered much in order to spread the gospel throughout all regions of the world.  Many were dispersed from their homes, fled for their lives, suffered persecution, and even martyrdom.  Many today, in varied areas of the world, suffer tremendously for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  To spread His cause throughout the world, many feel physical pain, emotional distress, and more.  No, Jesus didn’t say it was going to be a bed of roses.  He didn’t say it would be easy, but His promise is that no matter what obstacles, hurts, and pressures one may face, He is there with you in the middle of it all.  We are not walking this world and fighting this fight on our own.  Our Savior has risen in victory, and although He has ascended to be with His Father, His presence, care, and love for us is still promised us.  “I am with you alway,” Jesus promised, “even unto the end of the world.”  Even until He comes back again, we are never alone.

The Mark 16:15-16 Command

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Since verse 15 is very similar to what we covered in the previous section regarding the description of the Great Commission, I won’t elaborate on it further, but I did want to include it here that we might see those “command” words are still present and relevant in this section.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  Here we see that the original goal of the calling and sending of disciples, that souls would be “saved.”  People are not called and sent for themselves.  Nor is it for popularity and the like.  The followers of Christ are sent that someone else might hear the Good News, believe in the Good News, and be “saved!”

To be saved means to be “delivered.”  While there are a variety of things for people to be delivered from, the main thing they need to be delivered from is sin.  That deliverance will not come to pass because of you or me, but we are messengers that are sent to tell them about He who can save.

Do you remember when you were first born again, or got “saved”?  Do you remember the feeling?  Sometimes there’s a wholeness that is felt.  Sometimes there’s peace.  In some areas one may feel light and on top of the world (not in a self-centered, braggadocious way).  People, when they have accepted Jesus Christ and experience the new birth, tend to feel positively different.  A freedom that can’t be explained as the feeling of those shackles that kept one bound begins to fall away.

How many others are there out there who would like to know what that feels like?  How many would like to experience what you have experienced?  How many would like to be saved?  That can’t happen unless those that are sent, go.

Personal Testimony:  I remember not too long before I was saved, there was a time when I was sitting on the front steps of my house.  There was a church the next block up from our house that caught my attention.  It wasn’t the people, for I had never met them.  It wasn’t the program, for I had never been in their building.  I just remember that I wanted what they had.

People may not always be able to articulate what they are feeling, but there are still many who have not been introduced to Jesus; there are still many who want what you have.

Here in Mark, Jesus shows His desire for people to be “saved.”  And, until the end of the world, that harvest is not done being reaped (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2; John 4:35).  There is still room in heaven for more, so to speak.  The time for the work of the Great Commission has not yet come to an end.  He wants, and we should want, more people that believe!

While the work to evangelize the world with the Good News must go on, there will be those who reject the invitation of Christ.  Jesus said, “He that believeth not shall be damned.”  Unfortunately, some will not believe.

Despite the love, despite the cross, despite the resurrection, despite the Good News – sadly, some will still refuse the new life offered through Jesus Christ.   Some will turn away their hearts and their lives from this great spiritual rescue.

Everything He did, everything He experienced and went through from birth to the grave and beyond, was to rescue mankind from being lost forever.  For those who turn away that great salvation, they will remain in that lost state and be “damned” because they don’t believe.

Just as eternity is set and settled for the believer, so too is eternity set and settled for the unbeliever.  Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  The believer, in Christ, has been released from condemnation.  For the unbeliever outside of Christ, their condemnation or “damned” state remains.

Knowing this, and teaching this to His disciples that they and we might understand the importance of the mission – He sends His followers out to reach as many people as possible in hopes that they who have yet to believe will hear the Good News, and believe, that they might dwell in life eternal with Him.

That’s the mission.  That’s the goal.  That’s the reason for the sending.  It doesn’t matter if one is receptive to the gospel or if they reject it, the disciples, and we, are commanded to still go and tell it.

Not matter where people are from or what their background is, God wants to see people saved.  But they must make the decision to want to be saved; to want to truly repent and be reconciled back to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Please Note:  During His earthly ministry, when Jesus delivered a message, often He would say, “He that hat ears to hear, let him hear,”  (Matthew 11:15; see also Matthew 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8 and 14:35).  There must be a personal willingness to open oneself up to take in the message of salvation for themselves.

Nonetheless, we are still commanded to go and tell it.

The Acts 1:8 Command

“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.”

This was the last time Jesus would speak to His disciples face to face before He ascended, and the mission and the message were still the same: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  You shall evangelize about Me to the whole world!

This will be done and able to be accomplished because of the “power” of the “Holy Ghost” each believer will be equipped with.  In earlier times, the Holy Spirit would come upon people temporarily, and for an appointed time and/or task.  When Pentecost would arrive, those gathered would be fully and completely engulfed and equipped in His power through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit (see Acts 2).

The fact is, this mission is His mission and He is the one that empowers each of us to fulfill the call He has summoned us to; He is the one that strengthens us and gives us all the tools we need through the power of His Spirit working in us to witness the world for Him (compare Luke 24:49).

To reach others on the level that He calls means we need to depend on sources outside of our own selves in order to literally get the job done, and the only source we need for a job/commission such as this is the source of the “Holy Ghost.”  We cannot perform this duty or do what He has called us to without the power of His Spirit (compare Zechariah 4:6).  We need to rely on He that works on the inside of us in order that we may be able to do the greater outside work (refer to the Explore section of this lesson packet).

Each Christian believer now has the role and responsibility to, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled,” (Luke 14:23).       The Master is looking for each of us to go, but when we do, we go in the “power” of the “Holy Ghost.”  We go in His power!

Once, the Apostle Paul testified of his own mission, saying, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ… But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20:20-21, 24).    May we all be as tenacious in our faith and devotion to witness the world for Christ.

The call belongs to all believers, and to all His followers, Jesus says, “Go!”

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 Sends His Followers

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Draw the Scene: Jesus Sends His Followers Draw the Scene

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Matthew 28:19 Earth Craft: Earth Craft Matthew 28 19 This craft serves as a reminder and our responsibility as Christians to take the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world and do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission.  (This page can be used simply as a coloring page or to make an easy craft.  You can print on cardstock paper and attach it to a craft stick for a fun project.  Also, you can print it on cardstock and color.  After coloring simply cut it into many shapes to be reassembled again and again as a quick and easy puzzle craft.)

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Sunday School Lesson – “Saved by Faith” Luke 7:36-50

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 7:36-50 (KJV, Public Domain)

Forgiveness is something none will make it to heaven without.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what one has done in life, from the highest to the lowest, without accepting the life Christ offers through His salvation and forgiveness, we will not make it in.  The Bible records, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared,” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Who could stand?  Absolutely no one! (See Romans 3:10). Without His covering and remission of sins, the pathway to heaven will be blocked.  It doesn’t matter if one’s walk of life is a Pharisee or a prostitute (as some suppose the woman in this lesson was).  There is not an individual who is worthy enough to enter the gates of glory without Jesus’ forgiveness.

Question: What would happen if today God sat down and took account of all the wrongs we have done?  What would it be like if we stood before Him unable to pay what we owe?  We were there!  Jesus knew the predicament that humanity was in.  He knew that man could never get himself out of the debt of sin, so through Him we obtain that freedom along with grace, mercy and compassion as a people who don’t deserve it.

The Bible reminds us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8).  I guarantee if we were to look at ourselves, we could not fathom how many times our accounts would have gone unpaid had it not been for the blood of Christ. But thank God, He acted in love to save to us!  No just us – but everyone who comes to Him in faith regardless of the background of sin.

The verses of study in this lesson will tell of one woman’s enormous expression of love for Jesus at having her sins forgiven and the criticism it brought.

 A Sinner’s Precious Gift

Luke 7:36-38 “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he could eat with him.  And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

It wasn’t unusual then nor is it today for a respected teacher/preacher of God’s word to be invited to dine with officials.  Jesus opened Himself to people from all walks of life (even the Pharisees who were often seen at odds with Him), and without reservation “he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.”

We are not told exactly how long He was there but during the process of the meal came a disturbance at dinnertime.  “A woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment.”  At this point of the lesson it is not immediately known her plans but just the fact that this woman of ill repute, who many suppose her to be a prostitute, dared entered a Pharisee’s house and draw near to a respected Rabbi drew eyes of speculation at her coming.

Some reading her story today may think how bold of her to come near to Jesus in her dejected state.  Rest assured, those at dinner didn’t think her bold.  They probably thought her even more rude and full of sin to think to defile the atmosphere with her presence.  Honestly, what Pharisee would normally let the likes of her come into his very home?  It was unheard of.  Since the crowds often gathered to hear Jesus speak wherever He went, she came in amongst some of the others until who she is caught the attention of the religious elite.

Nonetheless, she was there with all that she had in her facing the shame of her wrongs she saw etched in the faces of the onlookers.  Yet, they were not the audience whose attention she was seeking.  Her heart drew her to the feet of Jesus.  This is where she stood humbly holding her precious gift, an “alabaster box of ointment,” (an expensive gift to say the least which spoke volumes of her sacrifice).  With the feelings of all that she was as opposed to all that He would do for her – it was overwhelming.  This is what happens when sin meets with Savior.  The tears would not be bidden to stop.  The heart and spirit within spoke through the flow from her eyes.

Living in sin for so long she recognized her unworthiness before the Sovereign.  It doesn’t take a genius for us to see that she saw herself and Jesus in a different light than everyone else present.  Did no one else there see their sin for what it was?  Did any present even believe they had sin to repent of?  Or, was it just the nature of her sin drew extra scowls as opposed to the hidden things in other’s hearts?

Regardless, her heart response came through “weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”  Her actions there may have seemed inappropriate to those eyeballing her, but she received no correction from Jesus.  Sorrowfulness over one’s sins is always a most appropriate response and she expressed that sorrow in the humblest way she knew how.

The feet were particularly dirty, especially in the day where sandals and dirt roads met daily.  From a previous article titled Wash Me Jesus, I wrote (speaking of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet):

“In case you didn’t know, this was a very gross job reserved for the lowest of servants in the house.  The roads were not paved but rather dusty and muddy and littered with all types of animal material left behind (if you catch my meaning).  Open sandals were the norm of fashion which really didn’t do anything to keep the elements of all that had been stepped on out.  Feet stank and were blistered, sore and probably repulsive to us today.  No such thing as a pedicure back then.” (Word For Life Says)

Yet, this is where this sinful woman positioned herself and performed the task that others didn’t want.  She did it without complaint, rather she cried over her pitiful state compared to His holiness.  Her tears become the water basin and her hair became the towel.  Anointing his feet with the costly gift of love, somehow, she knew despite its extravagance, it would never be enough to repay what He would do in taking away her sins.  Therefore, with love and sorrow meeting together in her heart, she kissed His feet unashamedly.

Christ’s Precious Gift

Luke 7:39-43 “Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.” 

As if her actions weren’t appalling enough, Simon the Pharisee thought Jesus’ were more so.  The self-righteous have a way of silently judging the actions and suppositions of others while maintaining a high regard for their own interest and view of self.

This Pharisee was taken aback more by Jesus, I think, then this woman.  She was a noted sinner, and nobody expected better of her.  But, Jesus…  He had his mind made up about Him.  Whatever reason pressed on him to invite Jesus to dinner in the first place, the fact is at this point he thinks of Jesus in a low fashion to the point of questioning in himself whether or not He is truly a man of God at all or not: “If he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”

The word “if” tells the story of where he believes Jesus is coming from.  A prophet is a holy man of God.  Throughout history they have been special vessels set aside to be God’s spokesmen.  One who claims connections with God as tight as Jesus claims should know or at least sense sin when they see it.  Therefore, why would He let the likes of her even come near Him, let alone touch Him as she has done? One conclusion comes to mind as far as the Pharisee sees.  To him, Jesus is not a real prophet.

Too bad so many focus only on what appears to be so on the outside in that day as well as our own.  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.  It may be harder for those such as the self-righteous Pharisees to see their need, but for this woman and others like her, she had no problem weeping at the feet of Jesus.

Jesus, knowing what he was thinking, used this as an opportunity to shed some spiritual light on the darkness of his heart and others in the room who may be inwardly scowling as well.  With a parable He spoke of a “creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.”  Both owed the creditor, one more than the other, significantly so; yet, neither had means to pay back accordingly.  In either situation they were both subject to whatever the creditor should do to penalize their faulty stance.

In that day they couldn’t file bankruptcy and get a clean slate to start over.  There were no government assisted credit remediation programs.   In other areas of the Bible it tells of stories where children could be taken to work off debt (2 Kings 4:1-7); he and all his family could be sold into slavery (Matthew 18:24-25); and, so on.  A debt owed would be a debt repaid one way or another.  I find it no small coincidence that when teaching the disciples how to pray they Lord’s Prayer, the words rendered in midst, plead: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” (Matthew 6:12), for truly it is and was a debt owed that could never be repaid by human standards.

Nonetheless, in the telling of His parable, Jesus noted the actions of the creditor.  He took it upon himself, as the one who had the power to demand payback, to remit the balance and cancel the charge against both.  “He frankly forgave them both.” 

Simon was probably startled a little by its telling because not too many persons would cancel a debt so easily and not demand payment.  Rarely does one walk away from money, especially if it was yours to begin with.  The creditor had the right to obtain what was lawfully his, but he chose, out of compassion (we are assuming), not to do so.

Drawing him out of his musings, Jesus asked, “Which of them will love him most?”  Simon’s response, whether he wanted to admit it or not, was appropriate.  He said, “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.”  He that stood to lose the most but gained the most grace instead – it is he that will be the most grateful and “love him most.” 

When forgiveness erases debt and pardon has been enacted that a life may remain to thrive in freedom, it inspires love.  “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love…” (Proverbs 17:9).  If this is true for a man how much more with God?  Jesus therefore said, “Thou hast rightly judged.”

Luke 7:44-47 “And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

If Simon failed to do what was according to custom for an honored guest one must question his real motives for inviting Jesus to dinner at all.  Was there a genuine interest in Jesus and what He represents, or was it another worked up ploy of some of the Pharisees to trap Jesus in words or actions?  At this point one can only speculate.

According to custom everything the woman did in an over the top fashion should have already been performed as normal service for a guest coming into a house, especially the house of a respected Pharisee.  We have already discussed about the feet being washed (which Simon failed to provide for).  But, other social codes performed were the kiss of greeting by the host (which Simon failed to do; for examples see Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12), and anointing the head with oil (which again, Simon fell short of social courtesy).  These were ways to express honor and respect, and help refresh one when coming into a house, particularly to a dinner or feast.  But this sinful woman offered up extravagant oil for His feet whose perfume would fragrance the whole house.

Jesus said of her, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”  Her actions spoke volumes of being remorseful and repentant.  No, her works did not save her.  No, her expensive gift did not make room in heaven for her.  At some point she realized the great relief Jesus could bring to her messed up life.  Did she hear Him through a previous teaching?  Who knows?  What matters now is her humility of heart before the Savior seeking forgiveness.

Jesus said, “For she loved much” because she was forgiven much.  Whereas one who believes they are alright may not express the same deep regard for forgiven sin.  As opposed to “whom little is forgiven,” that individual may take for granted the gift of grace, as hinted at in the story of the two debtors.

Luke 7:48-50 “And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.  And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?  And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

“Thy sins are forgiven,” were the blessed words the Savior spoke over the sinner here and in our life as well.  Jesus didn’t justify what she did, but He forgave her.  Let me make this very clear again, God will never, ever condone our sin or pat us on the back for it, but we can be free from them.  Like that woman, we could be standing in the midst of our mess, but He is ready, holding the keys to your release.  “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).   Turn to Him in all humility of heart, confess and accept it today!

“Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”  Coming to Jesus with all our wrongs and trusting Him to heal and forgive is a walk of faith; steps that begin with believing in Him as the Savior of our soul.  It’s the only way to find true peace in one’s life.

No matter who you are or where you are from, Jesus can forgive any sins of those who come to Him in faith and trust in His free gift of salvation.  Today, if you are not born again and you want to find release as the woman in today’s lesson did, I urge you to take care of it immediately.  Above, I quoted 1 John 1:9 which was written to a church of believers who already knew Christ as their Savior.  If you want your confession to work you must be born again, then like the woman we too can find release and forgiveness.

Speaking with Nicodemus one night, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” (John 3:5).  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” (Acts 2:38).

Be blessed, come to Him in faith and accept His forgiveness today!

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

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Saved by Faith

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Saved by Faith

Word Search: Saved by Faith Word Search  Answers: Saved by Faith Word Search Answers

Crossword: Saved by Faith Crossword  Answers: Saved by Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Saved by Faith Word Scramble  Answers: Saved by Faith Word Scramble Answers

Alabaster Flask Lace-Up Craft: Alabaster Flask Lace-Up Craft (Cardstock is best to use.  I used gold ribbon due to the expensive nature of the gift and cut a slit for “oil” to flow out of the top.  Enjoy!)

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Alabaster Flask Lace Up Craft-001

Draw the Scene: Saved By Faith Draw the Scene

 

 

Memory Verse: Saved By Faith Memory Verse

 

How Many Words: Saved by Faith How Many Words

 

 

Sunday School Lesson – “The Centurion’s Great Faith” Luke 7:1-10

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 7:1-10 (KJV, Public Domain)

The feet of faith walk forward believing God is, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith in its highest form removes all worldly shackles and just rests in the truth that if it is His will, there is nothing that can hinder God from performing a miracle in one’s life.  Ethnicity, background, and prestige all fall away in the eyes of our Savior whose only view is that of an opened heart filled with belief.

 The Centurion Seeks Help from Jesus

 Luke 7:1-3 “Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.  And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.  And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.”

Before arriving at today’s lesson, Jesus taught a powerful sermon consisting of blessings and woes.  He interjected these lessons with questions and spiritual insights including once asking “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39).  He also pointed out “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good,” (Luke 6:45).  Jesus ends chapter 6 inquiring “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”  (Luke 6:46), comparing the foundations of their spiritual lives.

After this teaching session, “when he ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.”

“Capernaum,” situated on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, was known for fishing and trade.  More known to us today, it was the place considered to be home-base of operations or headquarters, if you will, of Jesus’ ministry.  He is noted on several occasions as going to Capernaum (see Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:31; John 2:12, and so on).  People also knew this was a place where He could probably be found and sought for Him there (see John 6:24).

Therefore, this small village of only approximately 1,500 people or so became etched in history as a place where Jesus walked and taught; a place where miracles were performed, and faith was noted as being great for one man.

The possessor of that “great faith” enters the scene when someone near to him falls to the afflictions of sickness and no other help will do outside of the intervention of Jesus.  He is known as a “centurion,” meaning in charge of hundreds.  He is a man who is a leader during the Roman occupation of the land.  He has authority (of which will be discussed later).  He has position.  And though considered not one of the people, his faith, as Jesus will note, was exhibited to a greater degree than those of His own people.

The centurion’s position was prestigious; nonetheless, he had a compassionate side and cared for those under him.  This may not be the normal picture of a Roman soldier that immediately comes to mind, but it was for this man.  He had a “servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die,” (vs. 2).  With the usage of the word “dear”, it points out his genuine concern and affection for this particular servant.  Again, this is far from the idea of these soldiers we know of.

The point is, the individual of his concern was “sick, and ready to die.”  When we read of the same account in Matthew it tells us he was, “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented,” (Matthew 8:6).  From this description, we know that he suffered from pain and was paralyzed.  Whatever brought on this disease it seemed to progress to the point of agony, causing the centurion to believe his servant’s life was in danger.  He was, as he believed, “ready to die.”

Therefore, out of his concern he sought for the only remedy he could – Jesus.  We are not sure exactly when or where he became aware of Jesus.  Being stationed in Capernaum, Jesus’ home base of ministry, it was only a matter of time before he became exposed to His miracles and teachings.  Either by way of others, or maybe even having the chance to witness it himself, he found out that Jesus heals and sought His help.

“When he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.”  Many are familiar with the animosity that was present in that day between the Jewish people and their oppressors of the Roman Empire.  History often shows that people are generally not favorable to those who invade their lands and take over.

Yet, this centurion seems to have secured a favorable relationship with the village and the leaders therein.  So much so, he had no qualms about seeking their assistance in bringing to Jesus’ attention the plight of his sick servant.

Oh, the humility of character this man in charge exhibited.  He was in a position to order (as later he demonstrates he can) and take charge, yet he simply seeks assistance.  The Bible encourages us, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” (Romans 12:18).  This includes people over you, people under you, and people all around you.  There are many rewards of maintaining positive relationships and one can never tell who God has placed in one’s path to provide for much-needed help.

Luke 7:4-5 “And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”

The “elders” have no reservations in talking with the centurion commander or with communicating to Jesus his need.  Therefore, “they besought him instantly.”  With great urgency “they came to Jesus” and presented the centurion’s case before Him.  They noted, “he was worthy for whom he should do this.”  The favor this man showed to the Jewish people earned him a good reputation among the villagers.

Standing as an advocate before Jesus, they speak well of his character, pointing out “for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”  There is much speculation on exactly what is being said here in regard to the centurion himself.  Did he build the synagogue as a means to just keep the peace?  Was this some sort of political tactic?

I could be wrong, but I disagree with this view.  The elders made a point of using the word “loveth” in describing his relationship toward the “nation.”  Could it be there was a genuine spark of wanting alive in him, for He, whom the Jewish people were serving?  Living in such close proximity of the people, maybe he had an opportunity to review his life and compare what he previously knew, to those who were living as God’s people.  Perhaps he wanted more and participated in the only way he knew how.  Who knows?  We can only imagine that in some way or form God was working on his heart.

The Centurion’s Faith Commended by Jesus

Luke 7:6-8 “Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.  For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”

After hearing the story of the centurion and his servant, Jesus went with the men who had advocated the man’s plight.  One of the things I love about Jesus is it doesn’t take much to move Him.  People overcomplicate faith until it can’t be recognized.  Jesus simply heard them out and with the compassionate heart, He has He was ready to move into action to help, yes, even this Gentile.

Coming near the house, the centurion makes a surprise move.  Sending out friends he stops the progression of Jesus from coming into his house.  He knows his position in life.  He knows that he is not one of “these” people.  He knows that he is “not worthy.”

One of his greatest characteristics he shows here is his humility.  I see too many in our day brazen enough to approach God any kind of way as if it is owed to them.  I cringe at it all.  Pridefulness is against everything pertaining to God and something God will fight against (see James 4:6).  Rather, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word,” (Isaiah 66:2; emphasis mine).  God pays attention to the humble.

As a man in authority, he doesn’t lift himself up demanding to be seen.  He humbly and respectfully recognizes who he is, and he recognizes who Jesus is, and counts his own self “not worthy.”  He didn’t take it upon himself to approach Jesus, therefore sending the elders previously and now his friends as well, holding Him off from entering “under my roof.”  How are we approaching Jesus?  Do we have hearts lifted up, feeling we deserve the privilege to be heard and blessed, or are we surrendered respectfully to Him, recognizing His holiness compared to our human weaknesses?

This centurion not only possessed a special measure of humility, but he also possessed a faith that was uncommon.  He said, “But say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.”  Wow!  He didn’t need Jesus to come to his house.  In his faith, he didn’t need Jesus to touch his servant in a special way.  But he understood what most in that day, and even today, fail to realize: all Jesus has to do is speak a word.

The word of Christ is powerful.  Operating under the same authority as His Father, He could count it done whatever He speaks (Psalm 33:9).  It will come to pass!  He can literally speak healing into any situation, and it will obey His command and bring about deliverance (see Psalm 107:20).  This centurion recognized His authority and the capacity to do the impossible even from a distance.

Explaining how he came to the conclusion of viewing Jesus and his situation, he said, “For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”  As a commander of the Roman army he knows what it is to take orders and obey the commands of one’s superiors.  At the same time, he understands his own position well.  At any given time, he can issue an order and expect nothing less than complete follow through.  He had the right in his ranking to do so.

Viewing Jesus, he perceived His power operated to an even higher degree than his own.  He knew that all Jesus had to do was speak, and healing would obey.  Whatever sickness bound his servant would have to bend to the will the Savior and obey His orders.  This is the same Jesus whom the winds and waves obeyed (see Matthew 8:27).  This is the same one who made demons tremble and come out of people (see Mark 1:21-34).  This same Jesus was a part of Creation (Colossians 1:16).  And, this same Jesus is able to save those who come near to Him (Hebrews 7:25).  He has opened the eyes of the blind, healed leprosy, unstopped deaf ears and raised the dead back to life.  This centurion saw in Him the power to do what needed to be done to heal his servant, and he believed!

Luke 7:9-10 “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.”

Jesus was amazed at his response.  He had not met anyone in Israel who had so recognized His authority and power as this man; someone whom willing gives himself over to total abandon to trust Jesus to heal and believe that He will.

Astounding!  This was the true epitome of “great faith!”

When one’s faith is centered on Jesus, healing can take place.  Not just physical healing, as we see here in this lesson.  But emotional, spiritual, relational…, in every area of life that needs restoration, Jesus is able to heal.  But it only comes about by faith.  The Bible reminds us, and I quoted a portion of it earlier in the introduction, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).  The centurion filled this faith criterion.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he knew that Jesus was able to do all that he had known of Him, and he sought Him with an open heart of belief.

Jesus spoke highly on his behalf, saying, “I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”  If we were to put our spiritual thermometer in the waters of faith, how would we measure up?  Would we be found on the “greater than” side of faith or on the “less than” side?

Faith is the access key to everything God wants to do through us and for us.  Jesus once taught, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.,” (Matthew 21:22; emphasis mine).  One must believe as the centurion did that Jesus can do this for you, too.

One of my favorite portions of Scripture reminds me that our God is the good Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children, (see Matthew 7:9-11).  Really, He is!  Therefore, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” (Matthew 7:7).

The miracles of Jesus were not just for the benefit of the receivers.  Through the retelling of them, we are able to build ourselves up in our own faith and be encouraged by what we read.  Verses like John 20:31 tell us, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” which is the ultimate end to having great faith – life eternal.

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

Suggested Activities:

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Dear Jesus

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Dear Lord

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

Draw the Scene: The Centurion’s Great Faith Draw the Scene

Jesus Heals Bandage Bookmarkers: Just print, color, and cut out.  I suggest using cardstock or gluing to construction paper for support. Enjoy! Jesus Heals Bookmarks

Jesus Heals Bookmarks-001

Memory Verse: The Centurion’s Great Faith Memory Verse

Word Search: The Centurion’s Great Faith Word Search  Answers: The Centurion’s Great Faith Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Centurion’s Great Faith Crossword  Answers: The Centurion’s Great Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Centurion’s Great Faith Word Scramble  Answers: The Centurion’s Great Faith Word Scramble Answers

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Calls His Followers” Luke 5:1-11; 6:13-16

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 5:1-11; 6:13-16 (KJV, Public Domain)

Discipleship is more than just putting a title of disciple or follower on an individual.  To be a genuine disciple, one must adhere themselves to a particular teacher and/or teaching and mark their lives after them.

A disciple was one who was all in.  And, for Jesus’ disciples, that’s what His calling literally meant, both physically and spiritually.  Physically, during His three and half years of ministry, these men would follow Jesus everywhere.  As was custom for the disciples of the day, in order to gain a thorough understanding of a teacher and his teachings, a disciple would literally follow the teacher in order to properly learn of him.

Spiritually, no less a dedicated lifestyle and heart-style would be required.  For each of Jesus’ call to one of these chosen men to follow Him, there had to be a positive response on their part.  More than just answering the call physically was required.  There had to be more than just curiosity about this man and what He would do or say next.  There had to be a pull of heart to believe in Him and the words He spoke. 

Some of the names we will learn about are more familiar than others because their stories we have heard of over the years and there is plentiful information about them.  Whereas, some the information is scarce and there’s not that much to go on.  Some names will link us to events for their calling or for certain deeds done, for good or bad.  But all are an integral part of Jesus’ story and that of His followers.  And, all are important to biblical history as a whole.

Four Up-Front (Luke 5:1-11)

 1. “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,

2. And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.

3. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

4. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

5. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

6. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.

7. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

8. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

9. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:

10. And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.

11. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”

If you grew up in a house with more than one sibling or you took rides with friends at times, before all ran to pile in the vehicle, you would often hear one word yelled out by someone: “Shotgun!”

Shotgun was called by someone who wanted to sit up front; by someone who wanted the more prominent seat.  They didn’t want to be in the back crammed together with the others.  They wanted to be where the driver was, the lead person.

Jesus had many disciples and followers, as you could see in the gathered crowds and in the sending out of the seventy (see Luke 10:1-23).  And then as our lesson points out, He had twelve close disciples.  But, even out of those twelve there were some who were always closer to Jesus and appear in more prominent positions and events than the others.  In this first section of this lesson, we are going to focus on those names of the men who Jesus called first (compare Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-21).

To get a better understanding of the story of the call of His followers, we are going to have to do some bouncing around with verses.  Some parts of the story will appear in one place, and some in other places with greater detail.  It is my hope to put together a complete picture of events and people before and during their call.

In Luke 6:12, we find out that before Jesus handpicked any of His disciples, He spent all night in prayer before God.  We need to grasp the importance of this.  Jesus Christ was the Word at the beginning (John 1:1) and He is that same Word made flesh in prayer before the same God whom He was with at the beginning (John 1:1, 14).  Grab hold of this – Jesus, God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23), conferred with God the Father all night in prayer, before choosing His twelve disciples.

As I stated before, while many followed Jesus, there would be twelve closer ones.  These men would move not only into full-on discipleship, but they would move into apostleship, meaning they were not just followers, but they were special messengers that would be sent.  Because of the importance of these men, the important roles they would play, the choice had to be keen and precise.

Please Note: Jesus put great emphasis on prayer and spending time before the Father.  I emphasized above that He was the Word at the beginning and God in the flesh.  If He, being all of that, felt such a strong need to constantly be in prayer, why do so many believe they can get on in life without doing the same things?  We may not have the same decisions and choices before us, but our connection to the Father is the same through Christ.  And, we should want to honor Him in prayer and seek His face with our daily life, with its decisions and choices.

With that, when the disciples met Jesus, each would have a choice to make.  Each one’s name would become recorded forever in the Word of the Living God for us to study and learn from.

From the beginning of His earthly ministry Jesus’ preaching and messages had a great impact on those who heard Him.  Just in the chapter before, Luke 4, Jesus had endured and overcome His forty days of temptation of the devil in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13).  Immediately following, He returns to the Galilee area “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 414-15) and began teaching in the synagogues.  It is in these verses where Luke makes a special note on the immediate impact Jesus had.  He was “being glorified of all” (Luke 4:15).

Shortly after, when He declared He was the fulfiller of Isaiah’s prophecy, His words, though true that they were, caused others to question the validity of His proclamation, and yes, this early on in His ministry, they even tried to kill Him (Luke 4:16-30).

Nevertheless, Jesus was not deterred from His mission and all that it entailed before Him.  He went forth healing people both physically and spiritually (Luke 4:31-42), and He went forth preaching in the “synagogues of Galilee,” (Luke 4:43-44).

Now, it was time to gather those who would work the work with Him while He was here, and who would carry on with their parts at His earthly ending, and even after His ascension.

So, with Jesus’s ministry already being so impactful on the people in the region, on this day, as chapter 5 begins, “the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God,” (Luke 5:1).  An urgency stirred in the hearts and minds of the people when they heard about this man Jesus.  That urgency compelled them to press in for more.  And, the “more” that they wanted was the Word of God!

When was the last time when we’ve heard of crowds gathered in a genuine press in our day for God’s Word such as these were doing?  When was the last time you were compelled to press for more of Him?  Let that sink in for a minute.

Those in the synagogues may have tried to get rid of Him, but for this gathered crowd, all they wanted was to be near Jesus and to hear the Word of God.  They may not have immediately identified Him as the Son of God, but the way He spoke (Luke 4:22) drove them to want more.

Jesus had a thing for crowds.  Not for the reason many seek to have crowds around them today – for showmanship and such.  No, but Jesus would often look at the crowds with compassion (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34).  He knew they were missing something very important in their lives, and He has come to fill that void.

Therefore, when He speaks to this immediate crowd, He looks for a better vantage point to relay what He had to say there that day.  This would give everybody there more of a chance to see and hear Him without obstruction.

For that reason, when He saw “two ships standing by the lake,” He would use them to speak to the hearts gathered, and call others to come even closet to follow Him.

The “fishermen” were on the shore “washing their nets” (for this was a necessary chore in the maintenance of the equipment that fueled their livelihood), so Jesus boarded “Simon’s” ship and asked him to push off a little bit from land.  Now, not only was His physical position elevated some, but by pushing off it widens the view for more to see.

With that, He “sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.”  We are not given the details of this particular teaching or message, but this would not be the last time Jesus would use a ship as a pulpit to teach the multitudes (compare Matthew 13:2).  And, being that the crowds continued to follow Him even after the events in today’s lessons (compare Matthew 4:25; 8:1; Mark 3:7-8), and yet even to the point of His death (Luke 23:27), whatever He taught, it meant something to them.

After spending time teaching the multitude, now it was time to focus on those who would be called to go deeper with Him than the waters in the Sea of Galilee.  He turns to “Simon,” saying, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”  Jesus gives this long-time fisherman instructions on how to make a catch.

Now, we must make a special note here.  Before we reach this point in the lesson, and in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus had previously met Simon, who is Peter, and his brother Andrew (see John 1:40-42).  But it wasn’t until this point where they are called to leave their trade for good and become fishers of men.

Back to the catch of the day – these experienced fishermen have worked at it all night without success.  The frustration and tiredness had to be presently upon these men as they washed their nets and were ready to call it a day.

When Jesus tells Simon to get back at it, to try one more time, I can imagine the heaviness and the weariness he must have felt as he tried to explain to Jesus about the “nothing” they have caught.  Simply put, Simon didn’t negotiate or go back and forth in his effort to explain too much.  Looking at Jesus, he simply responded, “Nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”

“I will.”  Those two words hold the heart of faith and obedience.  Simon Peter already knew the reality of the fruitless catch they failed to bring in, but at this point, he also knew a little bit about Jesus.  Therefore, he said, “I will.”

What he felt and what he saw didn’t matter.  What did matter was Jesus who was before him, speaking to him to, “let down your nets.”  And, when he did, they were rewarded with nets that were so heavy with fish that they were breaking (vs. 6).  Calling for their companions to help, the catch proved to be even greater than they previously thought, for now, the load of fish is so heavy it “filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”

Wow!  What started out as a disappointing night turned into a very fruitful day.  Disappointment gave way to what I am sure was rejoicing by most there.  But “Simon Peter” had a whole different perspective when he took his eyes off the fish and centered himself on the one who instructed him to let down the nets and fish again.

Simon Peter focused more on the miracle maker than the miracle itself and he came to one very realistic conclusion, Jesus was so much more.  He was more than the miracle.  He was more than what they previously believed.  He was just more, and this realization hit him like a ton of bricks.

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees.”  He is humbled in His presence and realizes just how far off the mark he is in comparison to the One who is before him.  Thus, he speaks, “Depart from me: for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  To know one’s true state before the presence of the Lord is a good place for God to start doing some amazing things in that life.

If the draught of fish astonished them, Jesus’ next words would draw them and call them into something far more amazing.  Speaking not only to Peter and Andrew, but to “James, and John, the sons of Zebedee” who assisted them in the draught, Jesus said, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”

Their nets were breaking over the amount of fish they brought it, but these men, after Jesus was done teaching them, and would go back to heaven… these men were going to shake up the world for the glory of the Kingdom of God.

They have seen more than enough to know what they ought to do with their lives.  They were wholly convinced that where Jesus was is where they needed to be, and they responded positively to His call.  “They forsook all, and followed him.”  Anything the world had to offer couldn’t compare with doing what Jesus was calling them to do.

Twelve All Together (Luke 6:13-16)

13. “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

14. Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

15. Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes,

16. And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.”

Having already covered the call of “Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John,” in the section above, I won’t expand on them further here.  Rather, I’ll focus on the other eight names that appear on the list of Jesus’ closest twelve followers; His disciples.  These “twelve” disciples would then be “named apostles” by the Lord.  The word “disciples” are ones that follow and learn.  But as “apostles,” these would not only be called to follow and learn, but they would be called to be “sent” as well, for that’s the meaning behind the word “apostle;” to be “sent.”

Having already stated that some of these names we know little about, we will try to look a little deeper behind the scenes of these men, regardless of who they are or what’s known or unknown about them, to gain a better understanding of those who walked closest to our Savior during His ministry.

The first two on the list of the remaining eight is “Philip and Bartholomew.”  When we go back and take a look at John 1, there it tells us the day after He met with Peter and Andrew, Jesus went “forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me,” (vs. 43).

The next verse explains that it was easy enough for Jesus to locate this man because he was actually from the same area as Andrea and Peter (John 1:44).

It was then “Philip” who went to find Nathanael (who many suppose is “Bartholomew” as he is called in Luke 6), and excitedly explained, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” (John 1:45).

Then, it was Nathanael’s (Bartholomew) turn to be amazed as he voiced his wonder of it all when he asked, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

And, if we thought he was in wonder before, when he met Jesus, Jesus greeted him in a way that took him by total surprise.  Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47).  Putting an exclamation point at the end gave even more credence to Jesus’ proclamation of Nathanael (Bartholomew).

In surprise, not even believing Jesus knew his name, let alone other details of his life, Nathanael asked Jesus, “Whence knowest thou me?” (john 1:48).  It was here and now that Jesus would prove that not only did He know his name, but He knew so much more.

Jesus explained, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee,” (John 1:48).  Although Jesus was human, Jesus was also divine.  At this moment, a glimpse of His deity was showing.  In speaking words that reveal He not only knows, but He sees – Jesus is laying a groundwork of faith in this man’s heart, and in all those who read these words.  He is literally showing them that He is God in the flesh – He is showing them that beyond a shadow of a doubt, He is the Son of God.

To his credit, Nathanael (Bartholomew) picks up on it and expresses “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel,” (John 1:49).  He knew right then and there; this wasn’t an ordinary prophet or traveling preacher.  He recognized Jesus as the Son of God.

But Jesus assured him that in his calling to follow Him and to be one of His disciples/apostles, that he would “see greater things than these,” (John 1:50).  Jesus plainly stated, regarding His deity identity, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man,” (John 1:51).  Jesus, as the “Son of man” had a supernatural connection to heaven, and those nearest Him would be witnesses of that power.

What a call to follow!

After Jesus’ resurrection, Nathanael (Bartholomew) was with Peter and other disciples that decided to go back to fishing when Jesus met them for the third time before His ascension (see John 21:2).  Together, he along with the others, witness a post-resurrection miraculous catch of fish.

Going back a little to Philp, he too, being in Jesus’ close circle of twelve, witnessed many miracles, including the feeding of the five thousand.  At that time, it was to Philip Jesus asked, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5).  On that day, thousands were miraculously filled, and twelve baskets of fragments were left over from “five barley loaves, and two small fishes,” (John 6:9, 12-13).  Philip, along with the others that day, witnessed once again Jesus deity in action, and were left in awe and wonder, saying, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world,” (John 6:14).

For other verses surrounding Philip, read John 12:20-21 and 14:8.  Outside of the several lists of these called twelve, both Philip and Bartholomew, along with the remaining eleven (for at that time Judas Iscariot was no longer with them – Acts 1:16-19), can be seen in the Book of Acts, gathered together in the upper room in prayer.

The next name on the list is “Matthew.”  The men that Jesus picked came from varied backgrounds.  Matthew, although a Jew, was in a position where he was despised by his own countrymen.

Matthew is also known as Levi (compare Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-29).  After Jesus called some of His first disciples, He went about teaching and doing many miracles (see Matthew 4:23-8:34; Mark 1:21-45; Luke 5:12-26).

One of the miracles that all accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke have in common is the healing of the man with palsy (see Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:3-4; Luke 5:18-19).  This was the man who was lowered down through the roof by his friends.  This is also the man through whom Jesus showed another aspect of His deity: the power to forgive sins (Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20).

Now, in my personal opinion, this was important because the very next disciple/apostle that Jesus would call would be a man that many probably thought was beyond the grace of God’s forgiveness.

Matthew was a “publican” (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27), which simply means he was a local tax collector.  This man was considered a traitor to his people.  Publicans were locals who were employed by the Romans to collect taxes.  People such as these were known for fleecing their own pockets at the expense of their countrymen.  They would collect what the Romans required and then added a little more for themselves, making it all that much harder on those who had to pay.

But there was something in this particular publican that Jesus could see.  While others only looked at him through the lens of his occupation, Jesus saw someone who would be a more than dedicated follower and would write the first gospel of the New Testament.

In Matthew 9:10-13, Mark 2:15-17, and Luke 5:29-32 we see that Matthew (Levi) made a great feast where not only Jesus attended, but others he knew, people whom the world had considered to be of ill repute.

Shocked, the scribes and Pharisees couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and questioned, “Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” (Luke 5:30; see also Matthew 9:11 and Mark 2:16).  It is here Jesus explains His mission.  He says, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:31-32; see also Matthew 9:12-13 and Mark 2:17).

I imagine Matthew was well aware of who he was and who Jesus was, and he was grateful for the call of a changed life.  Jesus took him from “despised” to “disciple” when He called him to “Follow me,” (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

The next name on the list of disciples according to Luke’s account is “Thomas.”  Yes, this is the same Thomas who has been dubbed as “doubting Thomas.”

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to some of His disciples, and at that time Thomas (also called Didymus) was not present (see John 20:24), and said he would not believe that Jesus rose unless he was able to see and examine by touch the “print of the nails” and “thrust my hand into his side,” (John 20:25).

But people forget that Thomas had another side to his story.  When news came that Lazarus had died and Jesus was going back to “Judaea where the Jews have sought to stone” Him (John 11:7-8), it was Thomas (not Peter, Andrew, James or John) who boldly spoke up and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” (John 11:16).  He loved Jesus, and at this point, he was ready to follow Him to the grave.

Then, we have “James the son of Alphaeus.”  While there is much speculation about this particular James, the Bible only gives us a few details about who he actually is.  He was referred to in Mark 15:40 as “James the less,” probably called such because of his younger age or for being shorter in size in comparison to the other James, John’s brother.  This James also had a mother whose name was Mary.

“Simon called Zelotes” is the next name on the lists of the twelve as recorded by Luke.  In Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18 he is referred to as “Simon the Canaanite.”  It is unsure if his name is associated with a radical group who was against the Romans, or if the wording of “Zealots” is referring to his personal character of being very zealous for the Lord.

Nearing the end of this list, we have two Judas’ to deal with.  The first is “Judas the brother of James.”  It is supposed by many that this Judas is also referred to as “Thaddaeus” in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18.

Lastly, the name that always appears in the last position of the lists in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and doesn’t appear at all in the Acts 1:13 list is that of “Judas Iscariot.”  For his acts against Christ in selling Him out to the authorities of the day, Judas’ name is identified by his heinous actions.  He is called “traitor” here in Luke 6.  In both Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:19, he is known as the man who “betrayed” Jesus.

It was he that went to the chief priests, and asked, “What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?” (Matthew 26:15).  It was he that betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matthew 26:47-49).  And, it was he that received “thirty pieces of silver” for his deed against Christ (26:15; 27:3).

Acts 1:16-19 tells of his death.

There we have them.  Twelve men.  Twelve personalities, whose backgrounds varied among them.  Nevertheless, these twelve were called by Jesus to “Follow Me,” and each did just that.  Whatever their life was identified before they became a disciple/apostle, now that they have experienced walking with Jesus during these years of His earthly ministry, their lives will never be the same.

Jesus is still calling for people to follow Him today.  Have you?  If not, 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 – Jesus Calls His Followers

Suggested Activities:

Fishing Craft Game: Draw and cut out on construction paper shapes of fish. Glue a metal paper clip on the back of each one.  Use a wooden dowel or a stick from outside and tie a string to it.  Glue a magnet to the bottom of the string.  Use a timer and see how many fish your students can catch.  Use this analogy to describe that’s how enthusiastic we, as disciples of Christ, should be when reaching people or “fishing for people” for Jesus.  We should want to hurry and “catch” as many as we can.  (You can even break off into teams and make it a friendly competition.)

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Jesus Calls His Followers

Kids Journal Page: Kids Journal Page – Jesus Calls His Followers

Disciple Acrostic: Disciple Acrostic

Draw the Scene: Jesus Calls His Followers Draw the Scene

Word Search: Jesus Calls His Followers Word Search  Answers: Jesus Calls His Followers Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus Calls His Followers Crossword  Answers: Jesus Calls His Followers Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus Calls His Followers Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus Calls His Followers Word Scramble Answers

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Teaches His Followers” Luke 6:20-31

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 6:20-31 (KJV, Public Domain)

What does Christianity look like?  To some, it may seem to be a list of dos and don’ts.  To others, it may seem the religious thing to carry a certain righteous air about them, separateness from the common man, so to speak.  But, as was becoming custom, Jesus’ view of what it really means to be His follower and God’s people differed from what most preconceived ideas believed.  And the awesome thing about Jesus’ view, He didn’t just teach it, He lived it.

True Blessedness

Luke 6:20 “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.”

In the verses prior to this lesson, Luke 6:12-19, there it records that Jesus drew away into an all-night prayer meeting with God the Father.  The Son and the Father communed together on an intimate level that no one else was privy to; just they by themselves, one on one.  Oh, to be a fly on that wall.

Following that, Jesus chose His twelve disciples and began to heal the multitudes that have already begun to gather and follow Him.

The first words He spoke to them when coming down in the plain is so similar to the words He spoke in the Sermon on the Mount that many Bible students are unable to decide if these two messages are one and the same, or are they separate occasions.

He said, “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.”  When someone says something is “yours” it means they are passing ownership of said item to you.  They are giving you the right and the privilege to operate in what was given.

It’s the “poor,” the impoverished who truly appreciates what is given to them both in the physical and in the spiritual.  One who is “poor” realizes they have nothing in and of themselves.  They are totally dependent.  They agree with the Apostle Paul when he wrote, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Cor. 3:5); but these are “blessed;” who are happy and find joy and acceptance in God’s kingdom.  They are appreciative because they know before Christ, they lacked spiritual vitality and were “poor.”  Now, in Him, they enjoy a new experience of blessedness.

Luke 6:21 “Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.  Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.”

Jesus’ followers, God’s people, live with an expectation of being “filled.”  These verses really hone in on our life with and without Christ.  Without Him, it is truly a life of lack compared to being spiritually satisfied and complete in Him.

One that “hungers” has not yet retained enough to turn over the plate and say, “That’s it, I’m done.”  Spiritually speaking, he that “hungers” has a need for more of Him.  His soul doesn’t rest until it finds that “ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power,” Colossians 2:10.  This is where the malnourished soul is embraced and filled with the satisfaction of the Savior.

“Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.”  Many of us have been well acquainted with tears on more than one occasion.  Tears or weeping are most often shed in times of sorrow; during times of hardship and anguish.  Crying gives one an opportunity to release those pinned up emotions that stress the body and soul of man.

Whether this weeping is associated with sorrow of sin or because of adversity of the wicked, those that endure through it now will find a time when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying…” (Revelation 21:4).

“For ye shall laugh.”  Where there is laughter, joy has replaced the sorrow that was once felt.  Where there is laughter, release is felt from the oppression of the wicked.  David once wrote, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers…” (Psalm 37:1).  If they are the source of tears, forget about it.  He goes on to say, “The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming,” (Psalm 37:13).  When God laughs, as His followers, we will share in the same joy as our Savior.

The Bible says, He will “appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Isaiah 61:3), and they will be able to “laugh!”

Luke 6:22 “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”

Acceptance, a lot of people live for it.  Being a people pleaser has drained the efforts of some to no avail.  When we live for Christ, as God’s people and His followers, it brings contentions and misunderstandings in relationships.  It draws a line in the sand between two lifestyles and those lifestyles are always in a battle against one another: those that live for the Spirit and those that live for the flesh.

Others may not understand why you can’t run with the old lifestyle that you used to.  They don’t understand that things one used to run after to satisfy the flesh is not precedent any longer.  This brings a backlash of ill-feelings toward the Christian.  They experience hatred, separateness and reproach; three words that describe being “cast out.”  You don’t live like them anymore.  You are not part of the status quo or the normal clique, and they count your name as “evil, for the Son of man’s sake,” because you are working to line your life up with Him, and not them.

Luke 6:23 “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”

God loves His people and we can receive of His blessings while here on this earth.  That fact is sprinkled through His Word.  But, a Christian’s permanent “reward” will never be found on this side of glory.  Jesus said, “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.”

It may not feel like it at the present moment but the day when they cause you harm, the day when they come against you, is a day for rejoicing because God sees and knows, and God will repay.  “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7).  No, we do not wish ill-will on another, but God’s Word still stands true.  Your “reward” is coming!  “Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth,” (Psalm 58:11).  This life doesn’t hold what we are permanently seeking for!  But, our “reward” is coming!  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” (Psalm 30:5).

“For in like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”  It’s so hard amid trials and troubles to see that you are not the only who has ever gone through this or are going through this now.  Jesus reassured His disciple that those that have gone before them had to endure the same controversy of people not understanding their relationship as God’s people.

The book of Hebrews holds a treasury of people who have endured in the faith despite their adverse circumstances, and yet held on and believed God every step of the way.  Hebrews 11 is what some refer to as the Hall of Fame of faith.  Immediately, crossing over into chapter 12 we are told, “Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,” (vs.1).  “Prophets” and people who have gone before us can testify that the road wasn’t easy.  They can tell their story of how they tried to do the work of God and people did not respond the way they had hoped.  They can let the cat out of the bag about how they were mistreated, used and abused because their desire was to fulfill the call of God on their lives.  They already experienced in “like manner” what Jesus is preparing His followers for.

Woeful Living

Luke 6:24-26 “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.  Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.  Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.  Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

“Woe” and “for” are the markers to pay close attention to in these verses.  Remember how I quoted 2 Thessalonians 1:6 which said, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you?”  Here is the undeniable truth that those who inflicted harm to God’s people will have the same troubles come back on them.  Did not Galatians 6:7 warn, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap?”  However one treats the people of God, the same will come back on their heads.  They will receive their just deserts.

“Woe” is not a word that you want to hear the Lord Jesus Christ speak over your life.  Nothing good ever follows a “woe.”  “Woe” to me means you better watch out now, calamity is sure to follow.  This will not be the last time Jesus uses the warning of the “woe.”  Later, during His earthly ministry He tries to shake the scribes and the Pharisees out of their ways to listen to what the Father is now establishing using the word “woe” (see Matthew 23).  When we travel even farther in the future, there are even stronger “woes” that appear in the book of Revelation.  The point is, if Jesus is saying “woe,” one better watch their step and get it right.

How We All Should Live

Luke 6:27-30 “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.  And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.  Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.”

Now Jesus presents a responsibility shift to those who would live and walk as His followers and as God’s people.  It is not only the evildoer that needs to mind his step, but the Christian must live and love people as God Himself does.

When someone has been hurt and broken the last thing on their mind is the benefit of the one who has inflicted the harm.  Jesus, knowing what He was going to accomplish on the cross was teaching His disciples to operate in this world as if He would.  Years ago, the WWJD movement became very popular.  It was based off the original book written by Charles M. Sheldon titled “In His Steps.”   The base of the book was that every thought and action was to be filtered through the question of What Would Jesus Do?

All these things that He speaks of in the above verses were things that He did; they were things that Jesus demonstrated in His own life.  “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth,” (Isaiah 53:7).  Jesus was teaching His followers that to live as God would have them to live, to live as He Himself did, you will not only have to go against the status quo and cliques of society, but you will also have to fight against your own natural inclinations that don’t want to seek the good of those who cause harm.

“Love your enemies.”  The words love and enemies do not coincide with one another according to human standards.  But Jesus is calling us to use God’s Spirit within us to operate on a supernatural level that surpasses our view of the natural world.

When one is an enemy that means that they are against us.  Yet, Jesus’ command is to love them anyhow.  Show them the same compassion as He did when He allowed them to drive the nails through His hands and feet.  He told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  He could’ve taken care of His enemies with one swoop of prayer, yet love compelled Him to offer Himself for their release from sin instead.

They cursed Him, yet He prayed for them, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34).  They struck Jesus on the “cheek” (John18:22, see also Matthew 5:39) and they divided His clothes (Luke 23:34).  He went through it all and never sought His own revenge but continued forth in love.

Luke 6:31 “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

This is the Golden Rule, as we call it today.  God’s people should know how to treat people in any circumstance, whether the times are favorable or in times of adversity.  God’s people must respond the same way Jesus did.  Philippians 2:5 tells us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  The way we view things, people, and situations are to be filtered through thinking on how Jesus Himself would respond.  How did He handle adversities?  What was His attitude like toward those who mocked Him and so forth?  All in all, if we were to take inventory and compare our response to Jesus’, would they match up.  After all, in order to be a Christian, it means we are of Christ, we are His followers, and we are Christ-minded.  If we’re not, can we truly call ourselves Christians?

The greatest commandment that Jesus taught was, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these,” (Mark 12:29-31, emphasis mine).  Loving people, treating people as one would want to be treated is a priority for being a follower of Christ!  It is one of the greatest commandments and it cannot be ignored!

What does Christianity look like to you now?  Are you following Jesus’ teachings for His followers?

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 Teaches His Followers

Suggested Activities:

Draw the Scene: Jesus Teaches His Followers Draw the Scene

 

Memory Verse: Jesus Teaches His Followers Memory Verse

Activity Sheet: Jesus Teaches His Followers Activity Sheet

Beatitude Acrostic: Beatitude Acrostic

How Many Words: Jesus Teaches His Followers How Many Words

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Jesus Teaches His Followers

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Jesus Teaches His Followers

 

Word Search: Jesus Teaches His Followers Word Search  Answers: Jesus Teaches His Followers Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus Teaches His Followers Crossword  Answers: Jesus Teaches His Followers Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus Teaches His Followers Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus Teaches His Followers Word Scramble Answers

Sunday School Note Page: Sunday School Note Page