After Jesus is baptized in the river Jordan, he makes his way into the wilderness where he fasts for 40 days and 40 nights and is tempted by the devil. When he leaves the desert, he returns to Galilee and becomes a well known preacher. We have established that these stories cause us to ask about Jesus’ identity. Who is this guy? What kind of Savior is Jesus? What kind of God shows Godself in this way?
In Jesus’ hometown people think of him as a cool guy (who has become a pretty well-known preacher) who is hanging out with his parents and visiting old friends. At first, when he speaks, people love it. When he begins to challenge them, however, it must have seemed like he was stepping out of place. They all knew who he was and now he is acting as though he is their prophet!
This story invites us to continue exploring issues around Jesus identity and how he was received.
(1.) Students will be able to explain one of the ways that people began to receive Jesus as his identity emerged and became increasingly public.
(2.) Older children may begin to see that Jesus was not loved by many. For much of his life he was abandoned by those who knew him best. His identity put him at odds with the world, the Roman Empire, and even his family. They may be able to see that Jesus was increasingly rejected and this rejection ultimately led to the cross.
As you gather this week, children may be interested in completing a coloring page. Older children may enjoy this word search. Invite the children in your class to work on these things while you share the story with them.
Hear the Story
Read the story for this week from Luke 4: 16-30 or one of our children’s Bibles. When you have finished have a discussion about why Jesus was visiting Nazareth, what it would be like to see friends and family after being away for a while, and what the response of his community was to his reading, then to his subsequent proclamation? Wonder with your class about the circumstances around the uprising against Jesus in Nazareth. I wonder why the people were so upset. I wonder what Jesus said that changed their mind after they were so happy to hear him read. I wonder how Jesus got away.
Respond to the word
(1.) Make a Scroll from Isaiah: When Jesus reads in the synagogue, he reads from the scroll of Isaiah. Tape long sheets of paper together and attach straws, popsicle sticks, or some other support on each end. Have your students write down the words that Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah. Alternatively, students can write who Jesus is to them, or draw an image of the Isaiah text. Once students are finished with the paper, they can roll is up and tie it with twine (from the supply closet).
(2.) Cheers for Jesus: The people around Jesus couldn’t see who he really was. First, because they were familiar with him as a normal person, rather than a prophet or teacher. Second, because what he said challenged the people he knew and loved in ways that made them feel as though he was rejecting them. As a class, make a list of all of the priaseworthy things about Jesus’ identity. Who is Jesus to us? Who is Jesus for us? What about Jesus is praiseworthy? Once you have made a list, write some Cheers for Jesus together–“Jesus liberates! Jesus heals the blind! He’s the Son of God!” Add in hand and body motions. Talk about how we can recognize who Jesus is because when we read Scripture we have already seen evidence at his birth, in his baptism, and in the temptations. Because we know who Jesus is, we can accept him.
(3.) Spring up, O Well: We have asked what kind of savior Jesus is all year. Well, we are finally getting some answers. In our story we learn that Jesus has come to fulfill the prophesies of Isaiah. The blind can see. Good news is proclaimed to the poor. Talk about how this is another opportunity for us to praise Jesus for who he is. The popular children’s song, “I’ve Got a River of Life” will be fun for our kids to learn (if they don’t know it already). By changing only a couple of words, this song can help remind us of who Jesus is: “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Jesus makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. He opens prison doors and sets the captives free. So, I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!”
(4.) Act it Out: We act things out a lot. A lot of interesting things happen in this story and we see things differently when we walk through the motions and identify which events led to particular responses and outcomes. Sometimes things become clearer. We might even see things that don’t make sense to us. Then we can ask the really good questions (like, Why did people want to throw Jesus off a cliff? It doesn’t exactly seem like a proportional response, eh?).
(5.) Good News in Art: What is the good news that Jesus is proclaiming in the synagogue and who is it good for? How is Jesus message good for all people? Talk about what the good news of Jesus is for us. How does Jesus challenge us to be a different kind of people (remember his reading from Isaiah is about the poor, blind, and captive)? Who should we be in light of Jesus identity? Once you have talked about who Jesus is and how that is good news, invite your students to make artistic depictions of what they think is Jesus’ good news.
Close in Prayer