This is lesson continues our curriculum for preschoolers about knowing Jesus. Each lesson is based on a passage in the Gospel of Mark. You can read the series introduction for more explanation and links to the other lessons.
This particular lesson is from Mark 8:31-38 where Jesus warns the disciples about the cost of following him. This includes a portion where Jesus predicts his coming death to save his followers from sin. Preschoolers will understand that Jesus is the Messiah and He suffered, died, and rose again in order to redeem us from our sin. They will know following Jesus is sometimes difficult, just like carrying a cross. This lesson includes age-appropriate learning activities and a simple Bible memory verse.
Bible Passage: Mark8:31-38
Bible Lesson Title: The Cost of Following Jesus
Target Age Group: 4-5 years old (preschool & Kindergarten)
Target Time Frame: 37 minutes
Original Teaching Context: Preschool Sunday School
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Knowing Jesus through the Book of Mark: Lesson Nineteen
Scripture: Mark 8:31-38
Exegetical Idea: Jesus reveals God’s plan for the Messiah; He teaches His followers about the cost of following Him.
Pedagogical Idea: As the Messiah, Jesus will suffer, die, and be raised from the dead. As His followers, we are to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him.
Cognitive Aim: Preschoolers will understand that Jesus is the Messiah and He suffered, died, and rose again in order to redeem us from our sin. They will know following Jesus is sometimes difficult, just like carrying a cross.
Affective Aim: Preschoolers will feel love for Jesus’ sacrifice and a desire to live their lives for Him.
Behavioral Aim: Preschoolers will memorize Mark 8:34.
Memory Verse: Mark 8:34, “If anyone wants to come after me, they must forget about themselves, pick up their cross, and follow me.” (mixed versions)
- Kindle Curiosity (5 minutes) Description: Put on Bible outfits, learn about crosses, introduce lesson. Supplies: Bible outfits, wooden cross (small or large), preferably with grooves and texture for them to feel, soft blanket, Bible
- God Revealed (15 minutes) Description: Experience the Bible story; Supplies: Bible, soft blanket
- Personal Pursuit (10 minutes) Description: Apply this lesson to our lives; Supplies: Paper, crayons, pencils, markers, wooden cross
- Daily Knowing (7-10 minutes) Description: Memorize Mark 8:34, pray; Supplies: Notecards with Mark 8:34 written on them. On the back, encourage parents to begin discussing Easter with their children and why we celebrate it as believers.
**Before the children arrive, have the Bible outfits ready.
1. Kindle Curiosity (5 minutes)
- After the children have put on their Bible outfits, gather them around you on a soft blanket.
- Hold up the wooden cross. Ask: Do any of you know what this is? This is a cross. (Pass it around, encourage them to feel the wood.) During the time of the Bible, people who had done very bad things (criminals) were killed on crosses. It is a horrible way to be punished. The criminals would be forced to carry their cross to the place where they would be hung. Everyone who saw them knew they had done something very bad. This would be very embarrassing or shameful for the criminals. Does anyone know why the cross is important for Christians? (Jesus died on the cross.) Was Jesus a bad person? Did He do bad things? (No and no.) Jesus did not deserve to die on the cross, but He did it because of His great love for us and for God the Father. This was God’s plan from the very beginning. Because Jesus died on the cross, we can be forgiven of our sin and have a relationship with Him.
- State: For the first time in the book of Mark, Jesus is going to tell His disciples about God’s plan for Him. He is also going to tell us something very important about following Him. Pay attention to see what Jesus tells us about crosses! Let’s discover more about Jesus together in God’s Word! (Hold up your Bible).
2. God Revealed (15 minutes)
- State: Jesus had been performing even more miracles! The disciples now knew that He was the Messiah. The Messiah is the one who was sent from God to save His people. Can you say Messiah? (Repeat the meaning of Messiah.) Now at this point in Mark, Jesus had been walking with His disciples. Does anyone remember how many disciples Jesus had? Peter, one of the twelve disciples, had just declared that he believed Jesus was the Messiah. Now Jesus has something very important to teach them about God’s plan for the Messiah. Are you ready to find out??
- State: Jesus said to His disciples, “The Son of Man (Jesus) must suffer many things and be rejected by all human authority (the people in charge). He must be killed and after three days, rise again.” Jesus told them exactly what was going to happen to Him. This is not what the disciples expected to hear about Jesus! They believed He was the Messiah and that He was sent to earth in order to save them from their sins, but they thought He would be more like a king and rule over everyone right away. Jesus is the Messiah, the one sent by God to save us! But instead of a kingly Messiah, Jesus will first be the servant Messiah; He will suffer and die for our sins.
- State: Peter believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but not this type of Messiah! When Jesus told them that He must suffer and die, Peter rebuked Him! This means he told Jesus that he did not think what He was saying was good or right. But Jesus immediately rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not thinking of the things of God, but of the things of man!”
- State (slowly): After saying this to Peter, Jesus gathered many people around Him. He said, “If anyone wants to follow me, He must forget about himself, pick up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the Gospel’s will save it. What good is it for man to have everything in the world, but to lose his own soul?”
- State: I am going to read what Jesus said again. I want you to close your eyes and listen very closely to His words. Pretend you were there listening with the disciples and the rest of the crowd. (Read Jesus’ words again.)
3. Personal Pursuit (10 minutes)
- State: Jesus taught the disciples and the crowd something that really surprised them, things they had never heard before and did not fully understand! Jesus was completely focused on God’s plan for Him. Peter was completely focused on who he thought Jesus should be instead of God’s plan. This is why Jesus said to him, “You are not thinking of the things of God, but of the things of man!” God wants us to change our way of thinking. Instead of thinking about ourselves all of the time and about what we think is right, He wants us to think as He thinks. How can we transform our minds to think how God thinks? (Reading our Bibles, praying, coming to church, talking about God to our parents and teachers.)
- State: When Jesus called the crowd to Him, He told them they must “forget about themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him.” Remember what we learned about the cross? (Hold up the cross.) The criminals would carry their crosses; they were bigger than grown-ups! The crosses were very heavy and difficult to carry. It was also very embarrassing or shameful to be carrying a cross. Everyone looked down on them. Why would Jesus say we need to pick up our cross and follow Him? (See if they have any ideas. Explain that Jesus did not mean a real cross; this may be hard for them to understand cognitively, though I believe God can still allow them to begin to spiritually grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words. Further explanation for what it means to carry our cross is in the next paragraph.)
- State: Following Jesus is not easy. It means obeying Him when we do not feel like it. It means not giving into our sin but living like Jesus lived. It means doing what God wants us to do even when it is hard. It means not thinking about ourselves but thinking about others. It is hard, just like carrying a cross. Jesus carried His cross and gave His life for us. Jesus wants us to give our whole lives to Him, to live for Him and not ourselves, no matter how hard it is for us to do.
- State: I want us to all go to the table. We are going to draw pictures. First, I want you to draw pictures of what it means to live for ourselves. What kinds of things would we do if we were just living for ourselves? On another sheet or on the back, we are going to draw things we do when we are living for Jesus, when we are carrying our crosses. (Now again, this is more abstract than their minds can probably handle, but help them through giving them concrete examples of living for self and living for Christ. Emphasize that carrying their cross means living their lives fully for Christ and not themselves. Hard things will happen as a result.)
4. Daily Knowing (7-10 minutes)
- State: Easter is coming up soon. Easter is when we celebrate Jesus, our Messiah, rising from the dead. Because He rose from the dead, we can be forgiven from our sins and have a new life. Today you heard Jesus teach for the first time what God’s plan for Him is. He is going to suffer, die, and after three days, rise again. I want you to remember that this is why we celebrate Easter. It is not about hunting Easter eggs, but remembering and praising God for Jesus, our Messiah, thanking Him for carrying His cross to save us from our sins.
- State: Let’s come to know God more through memorizing His Word! Today we are going to memorize Mark chapter 8 verse 34, “If anyone wants to come after me, they must forget about themselves, pick up their cross, and follow me.” When we pick up our cross and follow Jesus, we are following His example of picking up His cross and dying for us. This is a very special verse to help us remember what Jesus has done for us and what He calls us to do as His followers. Do you think we can memorize this verse using hand motions?
- Spend time in prayer, praising God for His perfect plan and asking Him to show you how to daily carry your cross for Him.
- Make sure you review with them the next week or when you have encounters during the week one-on-one. Remind the parents how important it is for them to help their children review their verses all throughout the week. Encourage them to memorize the verse with their children. Provide each parent with a notecard that has Mark 8:34 written on it. On the back, ask each parent to discuss with their children the meaning behind celebrating Easter as the holiday draws near, and to discuss the entirety of Jesus’ teaching, verses 34-38, with their children.