25 lesson plans for children, young people and their leaders.
Lesson 19 The birth of Jesus Christ– the Gospels Bible reading – Matthew 1 and 2; Luke 1 and 2. Four hundred years passed from the time of Nehemiah to the start of New Testament times. No Bible prophet spoke or wrote during this time. It is sometimes called the “period of silence”. However, two important things did happen during this time:
1. Important collections of scrolls were made. Some were in the Hebrew language, others translated into Greek. The scrolls of the Law, the Prophets and other Writings were collected together. They are what we know as the ‘Old Testament’. When Jesus and the gospel writers use phrases like, “It is written in the Scripture”, they refer to these collections. A written record is more reliable over a longer time than people speaking to each other. 2. Rome became a big world power following the fall of earlier kingdoms.
In 63 B.C. Rome gained control of Palestine (now Israel). The Jews were in their own land, but they were not free. Into this situation, Jesus was born. Stop and discuss (1) Ask the students to divide into groups of 3/4. Have them look at Hebrews 1 verses 1-3 and answer these questions: 1. By which people has God spoken? 2. Where is God theSon now? 3. Can you list four things the Son has done? The Old Testament promised God would send a Saviour for His people. The people did their best to please God by themselves, but found they kept on slipping back into disobedience. They kept on breaking God’s laws. The New Testament claims that Jesus Christ is the Saviour God sent. Jesus recreated God’s rule over creation. He makes it possible for men and women to live and please God. In our next lessons we will learn how this happens. Remember, between the Old and New Testaments there was a period of 400 years of silence, when God did not speak. Stop. Have the class be totally silent and still for 60 seconds. Imagine what it was like with no news at all from God about what He was doing. Of course, the religious people still had their Scriptures (the Old Testament). They had added to it their own traditional ways of understanding and applying it to daily life. The sacrifices were still made in the Temple at Jerusalem. The Romans allowed them to have their own religion. (Perhaps you could have three objects to represent these three things to the students: a scroll for the scriptures; some wood and fire – if you’re very careful! – for the sacrifices; and 4/5 bricks piled up for the temple. Put them at the front of the class as you refer to each one). The great temple Solomon had built, 1 Kings chapter 6, had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25 verses 9 and 13-17. The returned exiles built a second
temple, Ezra 3 verse 10 onwards. It lasted until about 175B.C. It never had the Covenant Box in it, which was lost at the time of the exile. A third temple was built in Jerusalem 19 B.C. Known as Herod’s temple it was brilliant – built of cream stone and gold . It was only finished in A.D.64. It had the Most Holy Place inside it, where some people believed God lived. This is the Temple mentioned in the gospel stories. But God’s next important action did not involve the temple, or the sacrifices or the scriptures – although all three were originally given by God to make the people think about this next great event. Most people had forgotten what these things truly meant. God chose to speak to a few ordinary people. They were not special at all. But God was working His purpose out and talked to them about it. The first four books in the New Testament are where four men tell the story of Jesus, each in their own way.
Ask what the word ‘gospel’ means? (‘good news’). Ask does anyone know the names of ‘the four gospels’? (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The word ‘gospel’ in the Bible never means a book. It always means ‘good news’. Rather than speak of ‘four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’, we would be better saying,“the good news of Jesus Christ written by Matthew (or by Mark, or by Luke, or by John)”. We will learn one thing about each of the four writings.
Mark: Stop and teach the text one step at a time:
Divide the class into five groups. Give each group one of the five phrases marked here to say loudly and clearly:
(1)“This is the / (2)Good News about / (3)Jesus Christ,/ (4) the Son of God”. / (5) Mark chapter 1 verse 1.
Have each group say their phrase so everyone hears the whole text, in the right order.
Next have each group clap the number of syllables, in length of time with their phrase as they say it:
(1) “Clap clap clap / (2) clap clap clap-clap / (3) clap clap clap / (4) clap clap clap clap”. / (5) clap clap-clap clap clap clap.
Now have some groups say their words and other groups clap their words as the text is learned by repetition, for example: “This is the / clap clap clap-clap / Jesus Christ / clap clap clap clap”. / Mark chapter 1 verse 1.
Change groups between saying words and clapping. Keep on until everyone knows the text well!
Luke wanted “to write an orderly account” about the life and teachings of Jesus. Some people told others orally what they had seen or heard. Others wrote down things they saw, heard or remembered. But Luke wanted to give everyone the chance to know all they could about Jesus, Luke 1 verses 1-4.
Matthew: Stop and discuss (2) Divide the students into groups of 3/4. Ask them to look through Matthew chapter 1 verse18 to chapter 3 verse3. Can they find out how many
times Matthew tries to show “the Scripture is fulfilled” in these events in and around Jesus Christ? He usually says “the word of the prophet came true”, or something like it. John: Stop and discuss (3) Why did John write his account of Jesus’ life? Students look up and read to each other, John 20verse 31. So the New Testament starts with Jesus Christ – four reports of His life. In our Bibles they are called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. God was coming to people in a way He had never done before. The baby Who grew into the Man Jesus was the Son of God. He was not “Son of God” as we are sons of our fathers! Jesus was “God the Son” – God Himself as a human Person. Because He was like us we can understand Him better.
Have two good readers ready to read the next verses to the class. Angels brought the good news to people. (Only parts of the verses are here).
Matthew 1 verses 20-21, "... you will name Him Jesus - because He will save His people from their sins”.
Luke 2 verses 10-11, "this very day in David's town your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord!”
Ask students: “What will this Jesus do”? (save His people from sin). Ask students: “How is this Jesus described, in ONE word”? (Saviour). An angel visited Zechariah, a Temple priest, and told him his wife Elizabeth is going to have a baby son even though she was very old, Luke 1 verses 5-25. An angel visited Mary, who is a virgin, not yet married. God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus, Luke 1 verses 26-38.
An angel visited Joseph her future husband, helping him to see that God was bringing Himself to birth in Mary. It is a fantastic miracle. Jesus will be fully God. And He will also be a fully human baby, Matthew 1 verses 18-25; Colossians 1 verse 15.
An angel visited shepherds on a hill by the town of Bethlehem. He told them to go and see the baby. The baby was born in a stable, and slept in a container for animal food. Thousands of angels suddenly appeared and joined in praising God as the shepherds went to see for themselves exactly what God was doing, Luke 2 verses 8-20. All that God had promised in His word over the centuries began to come true. As John 1 verse 14 says, “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw His glory, the glory which He received as the Father’s only Son”. John wrote what he and others saw and heard.
Ask: can any one remember why John wrote his account of Jesus? See John 20 verse 31, in answer 3 below. Everyone must decide for themselves who they believe Jesus Christ really is.
Answers to ‘Stop and discuss’
1. 1. the prophets in the past, and His own Son in the last days, verse 1
The prophets' stories are in the Old Testament.
The New Testament Gospels are the story of Jesus, God the Son.
2. At the right hand of God, sitting down, verse 3
3. the Son created the universe, and keeps it going today, verses 2-3
the Son has spoken God’s words to us, verse 2
the Son reflects God’s glory and God’s person to us, verse 3 (‘reflects’ means He is
the image of God, as we see our own image in a mirror) See note 16 below.
the Son achieved forgiveness for human sins, verse 3 (‘achieved’ means He had
success in doing it) note 17
2. Five examples– 1 verse 22;
2 verses 5-6;
2 verse 15;
2 verses 17-18;
2 verse 23 and 3 verse 3.
3. “These have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the
Son of God, and that through your faith in Him you may have life”, John 20 verse 31.
16 MacMillan School Dictionary (Oxford)2004
17 MacMillan School Dictionary (Oxford)2004