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Bible passage: Mark 1:1-15
Background: Mark’s Gospel begins with the voice of John the Baptist, as God’s chosen messenger, preparing the way for Jesus. This session explores what it means for the long wait to be over; for God’s people then and for us today to see Jesus as he reveals himself in these opening verses.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle and invite them to share their news from the past week. You may choose to share some refreshments together. Ask the group: “Are you good at waiting for things? When do you find this easy or difficult?”
You will need: a start and finish line; appropriate props as follows
Set up a series of races for the children to participate in. These could be on a large scale, such as team obstacle relay races, or a small scale, such as wind-up toy races. These could even be challenges, such as first one to drink a glass of water, depending on the size of your group and the facilities available. Ensure that you begin each race with the words: “Ready, steady, go!”
You will need: a candle
Gather the children to sit in a circle with you. This story should be told in a quiet, reflective way. It may help to light a candle in the centre of the circle to help the group focus. Begin the story as follows:
God’s people had been waiting. Waiting so long. God’s people had been waiting. Waiting for God to fulfil his promise.
Then, after so many years of waiting, God kept his promise. It was just as the prophet Isaiah had said it would be: “A messenger, in the desert, calling to the people: ‘Get ready! Get ready for the Lord to come.’” John was the messenger in the desert.
John had wild hair, scratchy camel-hair clothes and enjoyed a diet of grasshoppers and honey!
He called to the people: “Get ready for the Lord to come. Turn back to God and be baptised. God will forgive you.”
One day a man came to the river and asked John to baptise him. John recognised the man. He pointed to the man and told the people: “This is who I’ve been telling you about!” The man was Jesus. John wanted the people to see Jesus as he saw him.
John baptised Jesus, just as Jesus had asked. When Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down on him like a dove, and Father God called out over him: “You are my Son and I am very pleased with you!”
Jesus had to prepare himself for the work Father God had sent him to do. So Jesus took himself off into the desert. While he was there he was tested in every way by Satan, but Jesus stayed true to Father God and the angels looked after him.
The long, long wait was over. God had sent his Son to save his people, just as he had promised so very long ago. The wait was over and Jesus’ work was about to begin.
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:
- What is your favourite part of the story?
- Do you have any questions you want to ask?
- What things are important for Jesus to do before he begins his work?
- How do you think it would feel for the people to discover that their long wait was over?
- Why did Father God use John in this way?
- If it was up to us to save God’s people, how might we go about it?
- Why do you think Jesus does it in this way?
You will need: a large piece of paper; paint or marker pens; Bibles or printout of the text
In this story, many things are said about Jesus and over him. Use this response time to think together about some of these things and what they mean to us.
Place a large sheet or roll of paper on the floor and ask a volunteer to lie on the paper to be drawn around. Explain to the group that this outline represents Jesus and you are going to write words or phrases, or paint images or symbols onto, over or around him to represent some of the things we have discovered about Jesus from the words in this passage. Provide Bibles or copies of the text so the children can check for themselves, supporting those who may have difficulty accessing written text.
Encourage the children to work together as a group, or in multiple small groups depending on the number of children you have. They may choose to paint images such as the dove appearing over Jesus’ head, or the angels around him, protecting him. Or they may want to write words that are used in the text to describe Jesus, such as ‘Dear Son,’ ‘Powerful’ or ‘Tested’.
Point out to the children that it is verse 15 before Jesus utters a word, and yet we are already able to discover so much about him from the things he does and the words other characters speak. As they work together, encourage the children to talk about the things they notice and what this teaches us about who Jesus is.
When complete, find a suitable place to display your artwork so that it can be reflected upon further, both by the children and other members of your church.
This passage provides a perfect opportunity for children to respond to the gospel. Remind them that John tells the people: “Turn back to God and be baptised, then your sins will be forgiven.” Jesus also says: “Turn back to God and believe the good news.”
Provide a simple, appropriate invitation for children to turn back to God, and lead those children in a prayer of commitment. Ensure that you follow this up appropriately with the children and their parents after the session.
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