Challenge 14 God’s great plan

CONTENTS

 The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

Stories in this challenge

The Last Supper                   Luke 22:14–23

Jesus on trial                         John 18:28–40

Jesus dies                             John 19:16–30

Jesus lives                           John 20:11–20

Jesus goes to heaven          Acts 1:1–11

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:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • 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

God’s answer to the sin and failure of humanity is found in the cross of his Son, Jesus. Each of the Gospels devotes a disproportionate amount of space to the last week of Jesus’ life. This, as he had recognised and taught, was the point to which his life was leading. This was the culmination of God’s plan, the moment that throughout John’s Gospel is seen as the moment of glory ( for example, John 12:20-36).

The intimacy of the Last Supper is fragile, marked by the presence of the betrayer. Despite knowing this, Jesus still chooses to celebrate Passover with Judas… and with Peter, who he knows will deny him. It provides a key link with the Old Testament models of salvation. Jesus is the ultimate Passover sacrifice who will guarantee the deliverance of men and women from the power of sin. There are also overtones of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (John 18:22; 19:3).

Through it all, Jesus is the obedient Son who, although he may shrink from the fate that awaits him, he will do it because this is the way that God, Father, Son and Spirit, has determined. At no point is Jesus an unwilling victim. He voluntarily goes to the cross, drinking the cup of God’s anger against sin (Luke 22:39-46). He is crucified and dies, but not in defeat: ‘it is finished’ is his final cry of victory; the price has been paid in full. Jesus’ body is taken from the cross and buried.

On the Sunday morning, the tomb is found to be empty. Jesus’ resurrection is the vindication of his death and the confirmation of his victory. It, too, was foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures (John 20:9).

His final appearance to the disciples includes the promise of the Holy Spirit, their commission to be his witnesses, and then his ascension into heaven with the promise from an angel that ‘he will come back in the same way that you have seen him go’. Having returned to the Father, and with his work complete, he reigns in glory and sends his followers into the world (John 20:21–23; Acts 1:8).

 

 CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

This challenge takes children immediately to the last week of Jesus’ life (sometimes known as ‘Passion week’ or ‘Holy week’) when Jesus’ disciples share the Passover with him. Go back to the picture of Moses (Challenge 4) and remind yourselves of the first Passover – and God’s command that his people should celebrate this rescue every year. Older children can connect this with Holy Communion (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, ‘fellowship meal’) where the church celebrates a greater victory – Jesus defeated sin for ever and for all people. That victory is the subject of this challenge.

You will need to supply some background about why someone who did so many wonderful miracles and spoke such wise words could become the target of a hate campaign. Mention how Jesus threatened those who were in power (politically and religiously) because he was bringing in a kingdom where the poor, the humble and the outcasts would be welcomed – a kingdom where people who bullied or looked down on others would be uncomfortable. Look back at Challenges 12 and 13 and spot some of the times when Jesus’ wonderful words and deeds were not always thought of as ‘wonderful’ by everyone. Powerful people arranged for Jesus to be arrested and killed. They had no idea what he had meant when he had said that his kingdom was not of this world – the power they thought they had was no match for the power of God in bringing Jesus back to life (the ‘resurrection’).

The key story in Challenge 14 is this story of the resurrection. It transforms an apparent disaster into hope for all people everywhere. But, unless children are very familiar with the whole story, then it is best to begin with the story of the Last Supper and then proceed through each passage chronologically. Keep the ‘pace’ moving, as you follow this challenge. The events from the Last Supper to the resurrection took just over a week. So this was fast-moving. And there were only six weeks from the resurrection until Jesus returned to heaven (the ’ascension’).

So many themes come out of this challenge: amongst them, the jealousy, brutality, betrayal and weakness on the part of the people around Jesus – his enemies and his friends. In fact, they were people a bit like us. But it’s God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s power and victory that shine through, offering to all of us the possibility of forgiveness, welcome and ‘life to the full’ where we work with God in building his kingdom on earth.

 CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

There are some very ‘human’ questions raised here about the way in which we react when faced with unfairness. You’ll find these in the Big Bible Challenge book.

But the key issue to be faced is: What does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for me today? The way that you talk about this will depend on the age and experience of the child. Some children will already have made a choice to thank God for what Jesus did for us by taking the punishment for the sins of the world.  Invite them to share with you how that makes a difference to them. Share your own thoughts.

Other children may not have come to this point – and some might not yet be ready to do so. Please allow children to think through this at their own pace. It is the Holy Spirit who will draw them to God – not well-meaning friends or coaches. Your responsibility is to make clear to them the way in which we can become God’s friends. It is not a formula – it is entering into a new relationship with God because he has done everything to get rid of the obstacles in the way. God’s friend is a follower of Jesus – because we are friends with God, we try to live in ways that Jesus taught and showed. 

That’s not always easy. But the resurrection of Jesus means that sin has been defeated. It doesn’t always feel like that because we still do wrong and we still experience wrong. Please reassure the child that when we become Jesus’ friend in this way, his Spirit comes to live in us (invisible, but there – shaping our thoughts, actions and choices). It is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – so he will be with us, giving us the courage and power to live as followers of Jesus. And one day, we will live with Jesus for ever – with no sin at all!

 

 CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

Why did Jesus have to be killed and in such a horrible way?

The way in which Jesus was killed was horrible. In most countries that still execute people today, it would happen much more humanely (for example, by lethal injection). But crucifixion was the normal way for criminals to be executed by Romans in the first century. It was intended to be horrific – for the person being crucified and for those watching: it was meant as a punishment and as a warning to others. Once Jesus had been sentenced to death, crucifixion was the means of doing that. The Bible account tells us that two others were being crucified at the same time: yes – it was horrible – but, at that time and in that place, it was normal.

But Jesus didn’t just die because he had enemies who wanted him killed. This was not a random event: it was part of God’s plan all along. Jesus died because people had become ‘prisoners’ of sin with no way of freeing themselves from it. That means that we cannot live the way God wanted, no matter how hard we try. So we can’t be friends with God because he is perfect and can’t put up with any sin.

But because we couldn’t help ourselves – and because God wanted so much to bring us back to himself as his friends – God made a way to fix the problem. Someone who was not a prisoner of sin because he had never sinned would be punished instead of us. There was only one person who had never sinned – Jesus. But Jesus was not forced to die by God the Father. He made the choice himself to come to live as a human being amongst us, and he took the steps that led to his death. It’s hard for us to understand – but it gives us an idea of the lengths that God would go to so that we could be free.

(Some children might find it helpful if you mention that in Old Testament times, God set up a system of animal sacrifices: animals without any fault were killed to demonstrate that people were sorry for the wrong they had done. In a sense, the animal was punished instead of the people. But because these were only animals, these sacrifices could never actually take away sin – only Jesus’ death could remove sin for ever. God no longer requires sacrifices because Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect.) 

When will Jesus come back and how will that happen?

We don’t know when he will come back. Lots of people have had ideas over the 2,000 years since he went back to heaven, but all we know is that God will send his Son, Jesus, when the time is right. What we do know is that if we are followers of Jesus, he is coming back for us – and it will be a great day! It’s something to look forward to and something that keeps us living courageously as followers of Jesus, even if things get tough.

And we don’t have a lot of details about how it will happen either! But it will happen suddenly (1 Corinthians 15:52) – and it will be public (Matthew 24:30). Everyone will see the power and glory of Jesus!

 

COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Throughout the world, the cross is recognised as a symbol of the crucifixion. Ask your child to cut out a small cross from thin card or paper; or use a small wooden ‘holding cross’ if you have one available. Ask them to hold the cross, close their eyes and think about Jesus dying on the cross. Remind them that Jesus died to take the punishment for the wrong things you and they have done. Allow them time to respond to Jesus.

This is a very sad part of the Bible but remind your child that it was not the end. Ask them to open their eyes and see that there is no ‘Jesus’ on the cross they are holding. If you are using a paper cross, suggest they tear it in half as a reminder of the fact that the power of death was broken in the death of Jesus and the victory declared by the resurrection. 

Remind your child that Jesus ascended into heaven, but the angels reminded the disciples that he would return one day. Say the Easter proclamation triumphantly together:

Christ has died;

Christ is risen;

Christ will come again.

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