Lesson: Jesus’ Final Instructions and Ascension (Matthew 28 & Acts 1)

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Lesson: Jesus’ Final Instructions and Ascension (Matthew 28  & Acts 1)

This lesson plan is written for a Sunday School class of 3rd – 5th grade students. With a little work it could be modified for younger students or taught in children’s church. At the end of this lesson there are links to other teaching ideas for this Bible story. Please leave feedback in the comment box below.

Learning Objective: Students will desire to be obedient to Jesus’ instructions to share the Good News and will want to be found faithfully working for Him when He returns.

Memory Verse: Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples (group picture of stick figures) of all nations (picture of all nationalities), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Target Age Group: School ages 3rd-5th grade.

Bible Story & Class Discussion:

How many of you have had a parent or teacher say, “I am going to be down the hall taking care of something. While I am away I want you to clean your room or complete your homework?” Some of us get to work right away and follow the instructions that we have been given. Others put off the instructions and do what we want to do and think we have plenty of time until the person will be back to check on our work. When the parent or teacher returns which person do you think is not going to be embarrassed? Which one will be found disobedient?

It’s always important to obey the instructions we have been given immediately. We should not put off what we know we are supposed to be doing. In the case of parents and teachers we may suffer punishment for our disobedience.

If you have been saved you belong to Christ. He has given His followers many instructions. If you are obeying His instructions you will be rewarded for your obedience. Disobeying Jesus’ instructions will cause you to miss out on the blessings and rewards God has for you in this life and one day in heaven.

For our story this morning we will be looking at Acts 1:1-11 and Matthew 28:16-20. Let’s turn in our Bibles to Matthew 28 and put a slip of paper there to mark our place. Now let’s flip over to Acts 1 and hold our place there.

The disciples had experienced many emotions in their lives since the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross. How do you think they must have felt when Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross where He would die? (Sad, confused, scared) Three days after Jesus died news of His resurrection spread quickly among those who loved Him. How do you think the disciples felt at the news that Jesus was alive? (Surprised, skeptical, excited)

Let’s turn to Acts 1. Who would like to volunteer to read Acts 1:3? (Choose a volunteer) After Jesus rose from the grave how many days did Jesus show others that He was alive? (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Shares names of people and groups that Jesus appeared to.) During these forty days Jesus proved that He was really alive and He taught about God’s Kingdom.

Let’s flip over to our place in Matthew 28. In verse 16 we see that eleven disciples are gathered at the Mount of Olives because Jesus had told them to meet Him there.
How many original disciples did Jesus have? (12) Why does this passage say there are only eleven? (Judas betrayed Jesus and hung himself).

The disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions and waited for Him at the Mount of Olives. This was a public place so it is possible that there are many other people around as well. As the disciples are gathered together, Jesus appears to them. Let’s read verse 17. The people in that crowd reacted in 2 ways. What were their reactions? (Worship/doubt)

In every crowd there are those that believe in Jesus and they worship Him. In that same crowd there are those people have not believed in Jesus so they had doubts about who He really is. Without answering this out loud, which group do you fit in? Do you believe in Jesus and are here to worship or are you in the other group where you still doubt? At the end of the lesson we will be available to talk privately with you about those doubts and share with you from the Bible how you can be saved from your sins.

As Jesus meets with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, He knows that His time to return to His heavenly Father is close. He will be leaving this earth soon so He gives His disciples some very important final instructions.

Let’s read Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus instructed His disciples to go out and share the Good News about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried and was raised from the dead on the third day. The disciples were also to teach people how to be followers of Jesus and to obey His commandments.

Since Jesus knew that the disciples could grow discouraged when He returned to heaven He gave them a promise that followed His instructions. Read the last part of Matthew 28:20. What did Jesus promise (that He would always be with His disciples to the end of the age)? If Jesus was going to leave the earth soon and return to His heavenly Father how could He always be with His disciples? Jesus had promised the disciples that God was going to send the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit would live inside the heart of each of Jesus’ disciples. With the Holy Spirit living inside of believers, Jesus’ presence would always be with them wherever they went.

Let’s flip back over to Acts 1:8. Jesus also knew that the disciples could not follow His instructions in their own strength. Doing God’s Work would require His power. Jesus told His disciples that God was going to send the Holy Spirit and He would give each of them the power to obey Jesus’ final instructions.

The disciples must have listened so attentively to every word Jesus said. As they looked at their Savior and listened to Him they saw Him begin to float up in the air. As Jesus was taken up, a cloud hid Him from their sight. Imagine the look on the disciples’ faces. As they looked up in the sky their mouths would have dropped open and they may have shielded their eyes so they could watch as their Savior disappeared out of their sight.

What do you think it would have felt like to be one of the disciples as you stood and watched Him disappear out of your sight? (Sad, wished you could go with Him, confused)
As the disciples stood gazing up into the sky looking for where Jesus went, 2 men dressed in white stood beside them.

Let’s read Acts 1:11 to see what they said to the disciples. These men gave the disciples a promise that one day Jesus would return to the earth just as He left.

With that promise what do you think the disciples needed to do? Do you think they decided to get a blanket and lay on the ground gazing up into the sky waiting for Jesus to return?

Jesus had given His disciples clear instructions before He left them. They had work to do and it was important that they obeyed Jesus’ instructions so when He came back they would not be embarrassed or ashamed that He found them not doing what He told them to do.

You can find out what the disciples did after Jesus returned to heaven in the Book of Acts. You can read this in your daily quiet time if you would like to learn about more about how the disciples lived their lives after Jesus returned to heaven.

The same instructions Jesus gave to His disciples before He returned to heaven are for His followers today. If you and I are believers we need to be sharing with others the Good News about Jesus. We need to obedient to what God’s word teaches us so we can share that with others. We have the Holy Spirit living in us giving us the power to God’s Work until He returns. Are you being obedient to Jesus’ instructions? If not, will you ask Him to forgive you and ask Him to help you be obedient to share the Good News with others?

If you have not believed in Jesus you can not obey His instructions. You are separated from God because of your sins. Jesus made a way for you to have your sins forgiven so you can be saved and be in a right relationship with God. If you have questions you would like to ask us, please come to us and we will provide a safe place where you can have those questions answered.

Lead the children in prayer.

Review Questions

Use these questions to review the Bible lesson. You can be creative and use a game format to help the children maintain interest.

  • How many days did Jesus stay on the earth before returning to heaven? (40)
  • Where did Jesus tell His disciples to meet Him? (Mount of Olives)
  • What were the two reactions when Jesus appeared at Mount of Olives? (Worship/doubt)
  • What instructions did Jesus give to His disciples? (Go to all people and share the Good News and teach them how to obey God’s Word)
  • What did Jesus promise His disciples? (He would be with them always)
  • How would the disciples have the power to obey His instructions? (God was going to send the Holy Spirit to live in their hearts)
  • Where did Jesus go after He finished giving instructions to the disciples? (Back to heaven)
  • Who told the disciples that Jesus would return the same way He left the earth? (Two men)
  • How can you share the Good News with someone this week?
  • What changes do you need to make in your life that will help you be prepared for Jesus to find you obedient when He returns?

Suggested Resources

Here are some websites with coloring pages, activities or devotionals that might help with this lesson plan.  These are all free Sunday School resources that can be downloaded and printed for use in your church.

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