James is Transformed by Jesus (Forever Changed Lesson #1)

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James is Transformed (Forever Changed Lesson #1)
In this post-Easter season it’s a great reminder that not only did Christ’s resurrection make all the difference for our own faith, but even those who personally knew him on earth were drastically changed when he came back to life. In this first lesson of the new series, “Forever Changed,” children will learn how James (the half-brother of Jesus) was miraculously changed by Christ’s resurrection.
 OBJECTIVE: To outline the difference it made in James’ life when Jesus was resurrected.
MAIN IDEA: James, Jesus’ half-brother, was incredibly changed by Jesus’ resurrection. We too should serve God in a way that shows others we have been changed because of our relationships to Christ.
SCRIPTURE PASSAGES: Matthew 13:55-56, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Acts 12:16-17, Acts 21:18-19, James 1:1, James 4:17
MATERIAL(S): card stock paper, scissors, tape, markers, popsicle sticks, white board or poster board, paper lunch bag
IN SERIES: Browse all the lessons in this series 1) JamesJohn 3) Mary Magdalene 4) Peter 5) Paul
Introduction (10 minutes)
OPENING PRAYER: “Lord, help us learn from others and choose obedience to your word. Thank you for dying for our sins and giving us victory over death through your resurrection. Amen.”
Preparation: Cut two 5-inch circles out of the card stock paper for each child.
Say, “Today we are going to start a series of lessons about people in the bible who were incredibly changed because of Jesus’ resurrection.” Share with the class how you became a believer and the emotions you felt before and after accepting Christ. With the children’s help, make a short list of emotions on the board “before” knowing Christ (sad, angry, mean, etc) and “after” accepting Christ (happy, joyful, nice, etc). Then give each child two card stock circles, a popsicle stick, and markers. Instruct the class to write “BEFORE” at the top of one circle and draw a sad face. Then ask them to write “AFTER” at the top of the second circle and draw a happy face. Say, “As we discuss our lesson, I want you to write words on both circles that represent before knowing Christ and after knowing Christ. You can use the list we’ve already created and also come up with your own.”
Lesson (20 minutes)

  1. Explain to the class that today’s lesson will address how James was forever changed by Jesus’ resurrection. Read Matthew 13:55-56. Ask, “Who was James (one of Jesus’ half-brothers)? What else is interesting about these verses (Jesus also had half-sisters)?” Comment that “James” was a common name during Jesus’ time, so there were also two disciples named James. Say, “We can conclude that James the brother of Jesus was not a believer because this is the only place in the bible where his name is mentioned before Jesus’ resurrection.” Read 1 Corinthians 15:7. Ask for a volunteer to state what happened and apparently changed James’s heart (Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection). Comment, “Christ specifically appeared to his earthly brother, James! This event must have been the turning point in James’ life.” Suggest to the class to write words such as “unbelief” or “amazed” on their craft circles.
  2. Next, tell the class there is much evidence of James’ changed heart after Jesus appeared to him. Briefly discuss who Peter was: one of the twelve disciples, a close friend to Jesus, a leader of the church, etc. Then say, “In Acts 12 Peter miraculously escaped from prison and spoke about James. Let’s read Acts 12:16-17.” Ask the children to think about why Peter would have mentioned James when he hadn’t even been around before Christ’s crucifixion (e.g. because they must have become friends and fellow leaders). Comment, “Something changed in James, and he apparently became a leader of some sort because Peter mentioned him by name! Let’s dig deeper to see what kind of leadership role he had obtained.” Read Acts 21:18-19. Tell the class that we know James became the lead pastor of the Jerusalem believers (church) because Peter specifically addressed his name with “and the elders” (a sign of James’ leading position)! Comment, “How awesome is it that James, a former unbeliever and the very half-brother of Jesus, became the lead pastor of the Jerusalem church?! He definitely had a change of heart.” Then suggest the children write “responsibility” on the “AFTER” craft circle because we are all expected to serve God when we become believers.
  3. Lastly, ask the class if they know which book of the bible was written by James (the book named after him). Say, “The book of James gives much wisdom on how to live as a growing and strong Christian.” Read James 1:1 to address his humble claim as a servant and the example he sets for all of us. Lastly, read James 4:17. Comment, “James knew that knowing to do the right thing but choosing to do the wrong thing instead would only hurt our faith. We honor Jesus’ sacrifice when we obey God’s word.” Ask the class if anyone can think of more words to list on either the “BEFORE” or “AFTER” craft circles (such as prideful, humble, etc). Remind the children that Christ’s resurrection defeated sin and death so we should live differently, like James did, because of the difference it has made on our lives.
  4. Lastly, ask the children to set the two craft circles in front of them and think about which side they are on. Say, “Becoming a believer in Jesus doesn’t mean we are perfect and we’ll never feel unhappy again. However, if you have never had a heart change – like James – then I invite you to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Outline the saving, gospel message and mention that the punishment for our sins (apart from Jesus Christ) is a forever separation from God and an eternity in hell. Advise the children to speak to you or another Christian adult today if they have questions about their salvation. Then let the children tape or glue the craft circles on either side of their popsicle sticks with the words and faces directed outward. Advise the children to flip the faces back and forth when contemplating how we should be different because we know Jesus.

Hangman Game: “I’ve Been Changed” (15 minutes)
Preparation: Write or type the following prompts on paper. Then cut the prompts out, place them in the paper lunch bag, and shake the bag to shuffle.

  1. Going to church
  2. Reading the bible
  3. Praying
  4. Giving to others
  5. Helping my friends
  6. Obeying my parents
  7. Saying kind words
  8. Telling others about Jesus

Explain that we are going to play “I’ve Been Changed” hangman, and volunteers will write enough spaces on the board for the phrase they pick from the bag. Class members will then take turns calling out letters until the hangman is either complete or the correct answer is guessed. The person who correctly guesses the answer receives the next turn. Remind the children that because of Jesus’ resurrection and because of our relationships to him we should behave differently than unbelievers.
 Conclusion (5 minutes)
RECAP: James, Jesus’ own brother, was miraculously changed because of the resurrection. We too should use the gifts God has given us to tell others about Jesus and serve him.
CLOSING PRAYER: “Lord, we know we are changed because of the resurrection. Help us follow James’ example of dedicated and faithful servanthood. Amen.”

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