The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop
Stories in this challenge
Jesus feeds a crowd Luke 9:10–20
Jesus walks on water Matthew 14:22–33
A man can see John 9:1–11
A man is well Mark 5:1–13
Lazarus is alive John 11:38–44
COMMON tips for this and every challenge
- Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
- Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:
- Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
- Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
- Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
- Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
- The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
- Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
- When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible
Jesus’ miracles confirm that, in Jesus, God has come into the world in a new way. They take different forms. In the Gospel accounts, they are nearly always linked in some way with the revelation of Jesus’ true identity.
The feeding of the 5,000 is reminiscent of God’s act of provision through the manna in the desert. The miracle is set in the context of teaching about the kingdom (Luke 9:11) and is linked with Peter’s recognition of who Jesus is, ‘the Christ of God’ (Luke 9:20) – Christ being the Greek version of Messiah or Anointed One.
After the storm, the disciples acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 14:33). The blind man, with perception the leaders lack, sees that Jesus must have come from God (John 9:33). The demons recognise Jesus as Son of the Most High God with ultimate authority (Mark 5:7). Martha, like Peter, sees Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God (John 11:27). The raising of Lazarus becomes a living parable of what lies ahead for Jesus, in his own life, with a powerful mixture of empathy and authority.
The miracles demonstrate that God’s kingdom has arrived (see Luke 11:20), a time of healing and peace and life when all that opposes God will be eradicated. It may not have arrived in all its fullness – but it has truly arrived.
CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge
This challenge adds to your growing picture of who Jesus is, what his kingdom is like and what he invites his followers to be a part of. These five stories show God’s kingdom in action; Jesus demonstrates that he has the power to bring freedom, rescue and healing (see Luke 4:18–19).
Each of these stories stands on its own, so follow the passages as they are presented in the book. As you do, note how each story shows aspects of Jesus’ power and character. Throughout all five stories, you will be struck by how kind and compassionate Jesus is, and how no one but God would be able to do these things. And together, they show that he has power over nature, and over illness, disability, evil spirits and death.
Look at the picture on pages 81 and 82 of the Big Bible Challenge book. It shows scenes from each story and a (simplified) map of the area. Each story location is marked with a dot. As you read each story, use the Bible text to work out the name of each town or location. If you work through the stories in the order they appear in the Big Bible Challenge book, it will work like this:
- Story 1 (‘Jesus feeds a crowd’) takes place at Bethsaida, at the top right (north-east) corner of lake Galilee.
- Story 2 (‘Jesus walks on water’) takes place later that day in the midst of the stormy lake of Galilee.
- Story 3 (‘A man can see’) is further south, in Jerusalem, near the famous Pool of Siloam.
- Story 4 (‘A man is well’) is back on the shores of lake Galilee, this time south-east in the Gerasa or Gadara region.
- Story 5 (‘Lazarus is alive’) takes place in Bethany, near Jerusalem.
CONSIDER: what this challenge means today
Sometimes these passages can seem like great stories – but they seem to have little relevance to our own lives (or to the life of a child). We need to make sure that the child does not relegate them to the world of fantasy and fairy tales. So it is important to try to place yourselves in each story by using your imagination.
For example: in the story of the healing of Lazarus, imagine that you had been there mourning for him. What would you have seen, heard and smelled? How would you have felt when Lazarus came out? What would you have done? If you had lived in a neighbouring village, would you have believed people who told you? What would have convinced you?
Then, the challenge is to relate these stories to life today. You might share personal stories of how God has intervened in your own lives when you have needed healing or protection – or stories you have found on the Internet or in Christian books. (They don’t have to be spectacular!) With older children, you could talk about how the power of God is shown in the world today. We often fail to notice the things God is doing, so it’s good to set time aside to think about how we see God at work everyday.
Think about how kind Jesus was in every story – he noticed the situation and felt sorry for the people involved. After that, he stepped in with a miracle. Now let’s get into the habit of noticing the difficulties people find themselves in – and then ask God to do something special for them. He might choose us to be part of the solution!
CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge
Where is the boy in the story of the hungry crowd?
This is a story retold in each of the Gospels. Children who are familiar with this story from the Gospel of John might wonder why the stories are different. The Bible (God’s Word) was written by many people – and in this case, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote down the things that they remembered most from the incident. They don’t contradict one another; but John adds more detail.
If Jesus can do all these things because he is God, why doesn’t God heal sick people, help hungry people or protect people in disasters today?
This question of suffering is a huge one and there are many commentaries and websites that will help you think through this issue. Remember that God does do these things today – though he usually does them through people like us (doctors, people who give to the poor and so on). However, there are certainly times when we long for him to intervene and he does not. So be especially sensitive to children who may have been praying for someone close to them who has illness, or who may be devastated by the TV images they see of natural disasters.
We live in a world that has been spoiled by selfishness and sin – it is not the way God created it but it is the way that we human beings have made it to be. It is right to keep praying that God will change things and it is right for us to work together to make a difference. And it is also right to talk to God about the pain that we feel when it seem that he has ignored our prayers and wishes. (The Psalms are full of such instances.)
What about the man who owned the pigs?
It seems unfair, doesn’t it, that the healing of a man results in the loss of livelihood for others? Perhaps Jesus was demonstrating how much one human life is worth – that is the value that he places on this man of whom everyone else was afraid. Remember that we don’t know the end of the story.
What about the poor pigs?
That seems very unfair, too. They were defenceless animals, not involved in what was happening between Jesus, the evil spirit and the man. The people who had seen what happened were concerned for the pigs as well (v 16). It’s not easy to explain what seems to be Jesus’ lack of concern for animals – his creation. So let’s think about what we know about God. We know that God cares about animals because they were part of his ‘good’ creation. When God made a promise to Noah to protect his world, he made it not just to human beings but to all animals (Genesis 9:9,10). But what is happening in this story is bigger than we can imagine: a battle between supernatural forces of good and evil. The sacrifice of the pigs seems to have been an unfortunate consequence of that battle.
Why was Jesus upset when he knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead?
Jesus was human. We know that this was a family he visited often and he was sad for the sisters and friends who were grieving. But he was also upset because he knew that there were some in the crowd who continued to find reasons to criticise his every action (or lack of action).
COMMUNICATE: talk with God
Jesus showed the love and kindness he had for people. He cared for them and met their needs. The miracles also show his power over the natural world, over sickness and even over death.
Work together to write a list of any family members, friends or even people you have heard about in the news who need Jesus’ kindness.
When you have at least five people on your list, help your child place one hand on a blank sheet of paper and spread out their fingers. Draw around their hand and then cut out the shape. Reverse roles, with your child drawing around your hand. Explain that you are going to use these paper hands to talk to God.
Using your list of people, fold down one paper finger each time you say or think a prayer. Take it in turns to pray for each person on the list, asking Jesus to help them in whatever situation they face. If you have more than five people to pray for, unfold the fingers – and start again! Finish by thanking God for his power to change things.