Background: This week, we take time to learn about 12 men who grew to be close friends of Jesus. Some of those apostles wrote gospels that we read week after week. Jesus called them from quite ordinary (and in some cases, profoundly self-serving) lives. The apostles received Jesus’ call, and their faithful witness continues to teach us how to walk with Jesus. This Sunday, take time to wonder with your class about the ways Jesus calls people to himself. Today, we see that the apostles are open to receive Jesus’ call, willing to make sacrifices to draw near to Jesus, and have courage to walk with him into new settings.
“Repentance” (Lk. 5:32) also translates to “a change of mind and heart.” We see in the example of the apostles that as they follow Jesus, their minds and hearts are transformed.
Take time to discuss the role of tax collectors in the NT world. Tax collectors were employed by publicans to collect taxes from those who lived near them. They often took more money than were strictly required to collect, and sometimes intimidated people in order to get money from them (see Lk. 3:12-15). Perhaps a contemporary corollary to a tax collector would be a pay day lender? Consider the contrast between the stereotypical behavior of a tax collector and Jesus’ command to, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
(1.) Children will describe one of the people who Jesus called to turn and follow him. Older children will reflect on what Jesus’ followers left behind, and what they received as they walked with Jesus.
(2.) Children will describe themselves as disciples of Jesus (Recall that a disciple is one who learns from and one who follows)
Respond to the Word
(1.) Chopstick Relay: Use the following verse to play the game (instructions below).
Jesus said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lk. 5:32)
What you will need:
Chopsticks for each child and index cards (in supply closet)
How to Play:
1. Before class make sets of Bible verse cards with one word of the verse on each card. Fold up the ends of the cards so that they will be easier to pick up with chopsticks.
2. Divide the children into teams and spread out the cards on a table. Place teams at the other end of the room. Children must relay race to the table to retrieve a word card using only their chopsticks. The team that retrieves all its cards and places them in order to spell out the verse first wins.
(2.) Collecting Taxes: Help the children in your class imagine how a tax collector might have been tempted to take more than he was required by acting out a scene with chocolate coins. (I’ve got a stash left from Nicholasfest in my office. Let me know if you’d like them.) What does Jesus call Levi away from? What does Jesus invite Levi, the tax collector into?
(3.) Ping Pong Toss Game: Label 12 cups, each one with the name of a different disciple, and place them on the ground in a clump. Put a masking tape line on the ground some distance away, then line the children in your class up and ask them to throw a ball into a cup. When a ping pong ball lands in the cup, have the person who threw the ball tell the class a few sentences about their disciple. (Here’s a cheat sheet in case you’d like to prompt the kids along.)
(4.) Apostle shields activity: We remember the apostles not only by the stories they told about Jesus, but also by looking at shields, which help tell the story of each apostle. Use the shields to help you explore the stories of the various apostles.
(Find a .pdf with a description of each shield here.)
Older children may want to take turns describing the shields. Many of them show how the disciples died. Help the kids imagine ways that the disciples followed Jesus in life and death.
Invite children to create their own crest. One half is a symbol of something Jesus might ask them to give up to follow him. The other half is a symbol of a gift they could use to help others follow Jesus.
Jesus asked the disciples to give up an important part of their lives to follow him. Ask the children if they have ever had to give up something because they are Christians. On one half of your shield, paint a symbol of something you have given up (or would be willing to give up) for Jesus, if you were asked.
Jesus also used the gifts of his disciples to help him spread the good news of God’s kingdom. [Eg., Matthew, the tax collector, would have been an educated person in order to be a tax collector. So he knew how to write. How did Matthew use that gift to tell others about Jesus? (He wrote the Gospel of Matthew.) What is a gift or skill that you have that Jesus might use, i.e., Do you make friends easily and could invite someone to church? Do you play soccer well enough to help teach someone else? While you are teaching them could you tell them about Jesus? On the other half of your shield, paint a symbol of a gift or skill you could use to help others learn about Jesus.
(5.) Disciples Folding Stick Craft: See here for a photo and description of the craft.
(6.) Song for young children – “Jesus called them one by one” (to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me”):
Jesus called them one by one,
Peter, Andrew, James, and John
Next came Philip, Thomas too
Matthew and Bartholomew
Yes, Jesus called them, (x3)
He called them one by one.
James, the one they called the less,
Simon also Thaddeus
Twelve apostles Judas made
Jesus was betrayed by him.