Unit 19, Session 4: Jesus at the Temple

The Book of Luke records just two narratives about Jesus’ childhood: His dedication (Luke 2:21-40) and His time at the temple when He was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52). Both stories set the stage for Jesus’ ministry on earth as an adult.

Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews. They had dedicated the baby Jesus according to the law of Moses, and they traveled to Jerusalem each year to celebrate Passover. God had commanded the men to appear before Him three times a year to observe certain festivals. (See Deut. 16:16.) Once a year, those who followed God’s law would travel to Jerusalem—often in large groups—to celebrate Passover.

In Bible times, a Jewish boy became a man at 13. His father would train him to take on all the responsibilities of adulthood, social and spiritual. Joseph was a carpenter, and he likely trained Jesus in his trade. When Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem, Joseph might have taken Jesus around the city to teach Him the significance of the temple and explain the purpose of the Passover feast.

Jesus’ parents started the journey back home after the feast. They assumed Jesus was among their traveling companions, but He wasn’t. Jesus had stayed behind at the temple. Mary and Joseph traveled for a day before they noticed Jesus was missing. They went back to Jerusalem and found Him at the temple.

When Mary asked why He had done this, Jesus answered Mary’s question with a question: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph did not understand. But Jesus is God’s Son, and it was necessary that He honor His true Father. In all this, Jesus did not sin.

Even as a child, Jesus wanted to do His Father’s plan. As Jesus grew up, He became strong and wise. God blessed Jesus as He got ready to follow His Father’s plan: to die on the cross and rescue people from sin.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ Jesus is God’s Son.
○ Jesus went to the temple to worship God.
○ Jesus came to earth to do God’s plan.
○ Jesus honored God the Father and His earthly parents too.

3-5’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is God’s One and Only Son.
○ Jesus came to earth to do God’s plan.

6-8’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is fully God and fully man.
○ Jesus came to earth to do His Father’s plan.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
1 Timothy 1:15

NEXT WEEK
● “Jesus Was Baptized” (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:19-34)

Unit 19, Session 3: Jesus Was Born

Do you think it was just by chance that Caesar Augustus called for a census? Did it just so happen that Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem—the very place the Messiah was prophesied to be born? (Micah 5:2) God is in control of all things, which He showed by using a pagan emperor to bring about His plan.

After Jesus was born, Mary laid Him in a manger. A king in a manger! It was so unlikely. But Jesus was no ordinary baby. He was God’s Son, sent in the most humble of positions, “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

Imagine the shepherds’ surprise when an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared. The Bible says that they were terrified! But the angel brought them “good news of great joy.” (See Luke 2:10-11.) The people of Israel were well aware of their need for a Savior. They made sacrifices daily to atone for their sin. Finally, a Savior had come who would be the perfect sacrifice for sin, once and for all.

The birth of Jesus was good news! Jesus was not an ordinary baby. He is God’s Son, sent to earth from heaven. Jesus came into the world to save people from sin and to be their King forever.

Some time after Jesus’ birth, wise men came to worship Jesus. They brought Him gifts suitable for a king—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Jesus is the King who will rule forever, just as God promised King David. (See 2 Sam. 7.)

Remind your kids that Jesus came because we needed Him. The purpose of Jesus’ birth was twofold: to bring glory to God and to make peace between God and those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is about rejoicing over the greatest gift we could ever receive. God’s own Son came to earth to be our Savior and our King.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ Jesus is God’s Son.
○ Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
○ Jesus is the Savior, the Lord.
○ God sent Jesus to earth because He loves us.

3-5’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is God’s One and Only Son.
○ Jesus was born as God promised.

6-8’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is fully God and fully man.
○ Jesus was born to be God’s promised Savior.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
1 Timothy 1:15

NEXT WEEK
● “Jesus at the Temple” (Luke 2:40-52)

Unit 19, Session 2: Mary Praised God

God’s people had not heard a clear message from God for hundreds of years. Then one day, Gabriel—an angel of the Lord—told a man that his wife, Elizabeth, was going to have a baby. The baby’s name would be John. Then the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would have a baby, and her baby would be God’s Son.

Mary and Elizabeth were relatives. Elizabeth was old and barren; she and her husband, Zechariah, had no children. Mary was a young girl—likely in her early teens. She was a virgin, engaged to be married to Joseph. The announcements of these pregnancies were miraculous for both women. Both babies had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah—John in Isaiah 40:3 and Jesus in Isaiah 7:14.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was pregnant too, and Mary hurried to see her. The journey would not have been easy. Mary traveled nearly one hundred miles to see Elizabeth, and her arrival brought great joy to both Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s unborn baby. In the presence of the unborn Messiah, John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she said, “Mary, you are blessed!”

The story of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth gives us a remarkable picture of women living by faith. Being a young, unwed pregnant woman could have caused Mary to worry. Instead, her response is marked by her trust in God. Mary’s song reflects her knowledge of God’s Word and her understanding of who God is.

Mary was willing to follow God’s plan, even though being Jesus’ mother would not be easy. Mary wanted to bring praise to God. Likewise, Jesus brought praise to His Father by willingly dying on the cross to save people from sin.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ Jesus is God’s Son.
○ God promised to send Jesus to earth.
○ Mary praised God for sending Jesus.
○ Nothing is impossible with God.

3-5’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is God’s One and Only Son.
○ Jesus’ mother was Mary.

6-8’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is fully God and fully man.
○ God chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
1 Timothy 1:15

NEXT WEEK
● “Jesus Was Born” (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-20)

Unit 19, Session 1: From Abraham to Jesus

The prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth are numerous, and many of them refer to Jesus’ lineage. Old Testament prophecies tell of the promised Messiah being born from the seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15); from the seed of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), Isaac (Gen. 21:12), and Jacob (Num. 24:17); from the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2); from the line of Jesse (Isa. 11:1); and from the house of David (Jer. 23:5). The prophecies said He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and would be the Son of God (1 Chr. 17:13-14; Ps. 2:7). Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies.

In Bible times, Jews took great care to accurately record family genealogies. The family a person belonged to was directly linked to property rights. Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 both chronicle the genealogy of Jesus. The account in Matthew presents Jesus as the king of the Jews—the legal heir to the throne of David. The account in Luke was written to Greek Christians and focuses on Jesus’ descent from Adam.

Jesus came to earth as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus had earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, but His true Father is God. Through Jesus, God kept His promises to Abraham and David. Jesus saves people from their sin and adopts them into God’s family.

When Jesus was born, He took on humanity—meaning He was fully God and fully man. As fully God, in Him “the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). As fully man, Jesus has a human body, human mind, and human emotions. (See Luke 2:7,52; Matt. 26:38.) He is our sinless representative (2 Cor. 5:21), sympathetic high priest (Heb. 4:15), and substitute sacrifice (1 John 4:10).

Use this Bible story to review Jesus’ ancestors and their stories in the Old Testament. Help your kids recognize that God had been working out His plan to send Jesus over hundreds of years—through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesse, David, Solomon, and Josiah. God sent Jesus to earth to save people from their sins.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

 2’s
○ Jesus is God’s Son.
○ God promised to send Jesus to earth.
○ God’s people trusted God to keep His promise.
○ Jesus came to earth because He loves us.

3-5’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is God’s One and Only Son.
○ Jesus had a family.

6-8’s
○ What makes Jesus different? Jesus is fully God and fully man.
○ Jesus’ earthly family included Abraham, David, and others.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
1 Timothy 1:15

NEXT WEEK
● “Mary Praised God” (Luke 1:26-56)

Unit 18, Session 6: Malachi the Prophet

This week was our final week in the Old Testament as we looked at the Book of Malachi. After many years living as prisoners in Babylon, God’s people had returned to Judah. They had worked hard and overcome opposition to rebuild the temple and the walls around Jerusalem. Surely God would restore them … finally! But nothing happened. As they waited, they faced drought and economic uncertainty. God’s people probably didn’t feel like God had blessed them at all.

“It is useless to serve God,” they said. “What have we gained by keeping His requirements?” (Mal. 3:14).

Did God still care? It wasn’t long until they fell back into the same patterns of sin that led to their exile in the first place: idolatry, covetousness, hypocrisy, arrogance, and abuse of the poor.

But God did still love His people. He had been working out His divine plan of redemption, and He never gave up on them. God sent a message to His people through the prophet Malachi.

Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He spoke to God’s people approximately 100 years after the end of the Babylonian captivity. Malachi’s message from God was a wake-up call.

God communicated through Malachi that the people’s lack of blessing didn’t mean that God didn’t care. God exposed His people’s sin and made clear that their actions merited a curse. God’s people needed to repent and turn back to God. “But for you who fear My name,” God said, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Mal. 4:2).

Malachi was a messenger—a prophet—who told God’s people to repent. Malachi also told about another messenger God would send. This messenger, John the Baptist, would call people to repent and get them ready for a final Messenger, Jesus Christ. Jesus would bring good news of salvation.

Help your kids understand that 400 years of silence followed Malachi’s prophecy; God did not communicate to His people. This period brings us to the New Testament, when the silence would be broken by the last prophet before Jesus, John the Baptist. His words about Jesus in John 1:29 offered hope to all who heard: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ God keeps His promises.
○ Malachi told people God’s words.
○ God promised to send a messenger before the Messiah.
○ Jesus is God’s Son, the Messiah.

3-5’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful.
○ God told His people to repent.

6-8’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful even when we are not.
○ God told His people to repent and get ready for Jesus.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
Lamentations 3:22-23

NEXT WEEK
● “From Abraham to Jesus” (Matthew 1:1-17)

Unit 18, Session 5: Ezra Read the Law

Ezra traveled to Jerusalem with a purpose. God’s people had spent 70 years in exile, and they needed to be reminded how to live. As a scribe, Ezra was an expert on the law of Moses, and he had “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the people had rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls. They gathered together at the Water Gate to hear the law of Moses. Men, women, and children—anyone who could understand—came to listen to the reading of God’s Word.

From early morning until midday, Ezra read from the book of the law of Moses. He stood on a high wooden platform where everyone could see and hear him. Ezra opened the book of the law, and everyone stood up. The Levites helped the listeners understand the words of the law.

The people reacted strongly to hearing and understanding the law of Moses. Verse 9 says the people were weeping. The law revealed their sin.

God’s Word is powerful. When Ezra read God’s Word, the people changed their ways and loved God more. The Bible says that Jesus is “the Word.” Jesus is God who came to live with people on earth. Jesus has the power to change our hearts.

Help your kids recognize that we cannot meet God’s requirements. We need a Savior. God sent Jesus to obey the law perfectly and die for our sins. We can trust in Him for salvation.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ God keeps His promises.
○ Ezra read God’s words to the people.
○ The people heard God’s words and loved God.
○ Jesus spoke God’s words.

3-5’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful.
○ Ezra taught the people God’s Word.

6-8’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful even when we are not.
○ Ezra read God’s Word to teach the people how to obey God.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
Lamentations 3:22-23

NEXT WEEK
● “Malachi the Prophet” (Malachi 1—4)

Unit 18, Session 4: Jerusalem’s Walls Were Rebuilt

City walls and gates were very important in Bible times. Walls were built to be several feet thick. They protected a city from its enemies and provided a sense of safety and security. Gates were the center of city life, the meeting place for commercial and social transactions. Without these structures, the surviving remnant of God’s people struggled and was vulnerable to attack.

Nehemiah traveled from Persia to Jerusalem to lead the effort in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Nehemiah’s leadership was effective. Nehemiah 3 describes all the people working together to rebuild the gates and walls.

But it wasn’t long before Nehemiah met opposition from local governors who planned to attack God’s people. God’s people armed themselves and kept working. They completed the wall in just 52 days.

Note how their enemies reacted: “All the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God” (Neh. 6:16). Now God’s people were protected from their enemies.

Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem to protect them from their enemies. Jesus came to protect us from our enemies. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to rescue people from sin and death.

Help your kids see that God provided the way for us to be protected from our enemies, sin and death. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. When we repent and trust in Jesus, He frees us from sin and death. We still sin, but we are no longer slaves to sin. (See Rom. 6:17-18.) We may die a physical death as a result of sin, but we have eternal life. (See John 11:25-26; Rom. 6:23.)

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ God keeps His promises.
○ Nehemiah led the people to build the city walls.
○ God kept His people safe as they worked.
○ Jesus always obeyed God.

3-5’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful.
○ God led Nehemiah to rebuild the walls.

6-8’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful even when we are not.
○ God used Nehemiah to lead His people as they rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
Lamentations 3:22-23

NEXT WEEK
● “Ezra Read the Law” (Nehemiah 8:1-12)

Unit 18, Session 3: Nehemiah Heard News of Jerusalem

This week and the next two weeks, we are studying the story of Nehemiah and Ezra. Nehemiah was a Jew living in Persia. He served as the king’s cupbearer, a position of great trust; the cupbearer made sure no one poisoned the king’s drink. Sometimes the cupbearer even tasted some of the drink himself to ensure it was safe.

When the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians, King Cyrus allowed God’s people to return to Judah. Two or three million Jews had originally been deported, but only a remnant—50,000 people—returned. They set up their homes and rebuilt God’s temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s story takes place after Ezra led a second group of exiles back to Judah.

Nehemiah received word about God’s people who had returned to Judah. They were in trouble and living in shame; the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the city gates were burned. They lived in fear, unprotected from their enemies. Nehemiah sat down and wept.

Nehemiah fasted and prayed for days. He remembered God’s promise to His people. Their disobedience led to exile, but if they turned back to the Lord, their obedience would lead to blessing. God promised to restore their fortunes and give His people a home. (See Deut. 30:1-10.)

The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness, and Nehemiah was afraid. No one was supposed to be sad in the presence of the king; it was an insult to his greatness. Nehemiah explained the plight of his city. The king granted him leave and gave him letters to ensure his safe passage. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem. He encouraged the people to rebuild the walls and stood confidently against opposition.

Nehemiah trusted that God would keep His promise to protect His people and give them a home. When we trust in Jesus, we believe God will keep His promise to give us—His people—a home. Jesus obeyed God perfectly. He died on the cross and rose again so we can have a home with Him forever.

Help your kids understand that when we repent and trust in Jesus, we can trust His promise to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house, where we will be with Him forever. (See John 14:3.)

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ God keeps His promises.
○ Nehemiah prayed for God to keep His people safe.
○ God used Nehemiah to build the city walls.
○ Jesus hears us when we pray.

3-5’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful.
○ Nehemiah prayed that God would help His people.

6-8’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful even when we are not.
○ Nehemiah prayed that God would help His people rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
Lamentations 3:22-23

NEXT WEEK
● “Jerusalem’s Walls Were Rebuilt” (Nehemiah 3:1—6:16)

Unit 18, Session 2: God Saved His People through Esther

During the time of Queen Esther—more than 450 years before Jesus was born—the Jewish people were scattered around the Persian Empire. The Book of Esther tells the unlikely story of a young Jewish woman who, as the queen of the Persian Empire, saved her people.

After Esther was chosen as the queen of Persia, she received news that an evil man named Haman had a plan to kill all of the Jews. The Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God by name, but God clearly worked through Esther and her cousin Mordecai to save the Jewish people. Mordecai even suggested to Esther that God’s hand was in the situation: “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14)

If Haman was successful in killing all the Jews, his evil plan would put God’s promises in jeopardy. God had promised to bless the world through Abraham’s family and to send a King from the line of David who would rule forever.

Esther had a choice to make. She could do nothing and face destruction (Esth. 4:13-14), or she could risk her life by approaching the king to plead for the protection of the Jews. Esther and the Jewish people prayed and fasted for three days before Esther went to the king.

Esther was welcomed by the king, who offered to give her anything she wanted—up to half of the kingdom. Esther told the king of Haman’s plot against her people. The king ordered that Haman be killed instead!

God was in control over Haman’s evil plan to destroy the Jews. Like Haman, Satan wants to destroy believers. Satan thought he had won when Jesus died on the cross, but God raised Jesus from the dead and defeated Satan once and for all.

Help your kids understand that Jesus is the greater Esther. Esther risked her life to rescue God’s people but Jesus gave up His life to rescue God’s people.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ God keeps His promises.
○ Esther trusted God to help her talk to the king.
○ God used Esther to keep His people safe.
○ God sent Jesus because He loves us.

3-5’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful.
○ God used Esther to save His people.

6-8’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful even when we are not.
○ God used Esther at just the right time to save His people.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
Lamentations 3:22-23

NEXT WEEK
● “Nehemiah Heard News of Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 1—2)

Unit 18, Session 1: Esther Became Queen

This week we began a two-part session on Esther and how God used her to save His people. The Babylonian captivity had ended while Cyrus was king of Persia. Some of God’s people—now referred to as Jews (people from Judah)—traveled back to Judah to rebuild the temple, the city, and their lives. Others, however, stayed in Persia where life among the pagans was relatively comfortable.

The king of Persia was now Ahasuerus, also known by his Greek name, Xerxes. Esther was a young Jewish girl whom Ahasuerus had chosen to be his queen. The former queen had defied the king and was promptly replaced. Esther did not reveal to the king that she was a Jew.

Esther had been an orphan, so her cousin Mordecai adopted her. Mordecai kept in touch with Esther while she lived in the palace. One day, the king gave Haman the Agagite a very important position in the kingdom. The king even commanded the people to bow down to Haman. But Mordecai refused.

Haman was a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites. The nations of Israel and Amalek did not get along. Haman was angry about Mordecai’s defiance, but instead of just punishing Mordecai, he planned to kill all the Jews in the kingdom.

Mordecai turned to Esther for help. After all, she was in a position of power, and the Jews were her people. The stakes were high. Esther could be killed for approaching the king without permission. But Esther was willing to take the chance and explain her people’s plight.

God’s plan all along was to send the Messiah through Abraham’s family. Haman’s evil plan might have stopped God’s plan, but God was in control. He was working out a plan to use Esther to rescue His people and make the way for His Son, Jesus, to come into the world.

Help your kids understand that the survival of God’s people was essential to God’s plan and that Satan tried to stop God’s plan any way he could. But God used Esther to rescue His people and make the way for His Son, Jesus, to come into the world.

FAMILY STARTING POINTS

2’s
○ God keeps His promises.
○ God made Esther queen.
○ Esther asked God’s people to pray for three days.
○ Jesus hears us when we pray.

3-5’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful.
○ Esther became queen.

6-8’s
○ Does God keep His promises? Yes, God is always faithful even when we are not.
○ Esther agreed to help her people.

UNIT KEY PASSAGE
Lamentations 3:22-23

NEXT WEEK
● “God Saved His People through Esther” (Esther 5—10)