Sometimes we make the message of salvation more complicated than it needs to be. Or we can become so caught up in Bible stories and individual characters that we neglect the most basic and critical overarching element of what and why we teach. At any time of year, but especially in preparation for Easter, it is helpful to review with children how important Jesus is to our faith. It may sound obvious but can be all too easily taken for granted. This lesson takes students on a brief tour of Old Testament rules and trends, ultimately pointing to the wonderfully transformative power of the Messiah, who changes requirements and lives.
Target Age: Elementary students (variable depending on age)
Materials: Bibles, note cards, Rulers, markers
Open with a bit of a mock game. Explain to students that they will be playing a game called “perfection.” The goal is to follow directions carefully and perfectly. Provide a series of complicated instructions (vary according to age group), perhaps written on note cards for students of reading age. Tasks to perform may be simple, like shaking a neighbor’s hand or touching toes; or they might be challenging or even silly, like drawing an octopus with wings. Regardless of detail, make sure things are difficult and near-impossible to do perfectly. Act highly critical of performance and feel free to change the rules at whim or make up new ones. When students grow frustrated with their apparent failure, stop to discuss what is going on. Explain that all too often people view the Bible as a series of impossible rules and directions. If all we had to count on was our own merit, certainly it would be so. What changes thing??
Mankind messes up: Whirlwind Old Testament tour…
Take students on a quick trip through the Bible to set up a need for a savior and explain God’s overarching plan. Begin with the Fall. God had things set up beautifully in the Garden of Eden…until Satan entered the picture and Adam failed. From that moment forward there was a gap between humanity and God. The beautiful thing is that the Father had a plan. The story of His people is one marked by constant mistakes, failures, and starting over. Again and again God reclaims Israel and yet they wander again. We see in the Old Testament so much pattern of (a) people mess things up; (b) people repent and make effort to improve; (c) God forgives; (d) people mess it up again. The Old Testament is also fraught with rules and regulations. If this is what is required for salvation, we are already pretty sunk. Invite students to consider….
- The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)…how many of them can students list? Challenge them to recall what the rules are and specifics. Have we successfully kept them? Think about it…have you ever talked back to mom or dad? Ever told a “fib”? Ever wanted something that wasn’t yours? It is nearly impossible to perfectly keep all of God’s rules all of the time. And if you thought those ten were rough, think about the specifics, too!
- Take a peek at the book of Leviticus for some very specific rules. Just a sampling of some verses from these regulation passages highlight how precise and precarious doing “good” and being clean seems. Consider, for example, the specifications simply for a “guilt offering:”
“‘These are the regulations for the guilt offering, which is most holy: 2 The guilt offering is to be slaughtered in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered, and its blood is to be splashed against the sides of the altar. 3 All its fat shall be offered: the fat tail and the fat that covers the internal organs,4 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which is to be removed with the kidneys. -Leviticus 7:1-4
Just to make an offering involves so many rules, and that is only one tiny element of what had to be done! Thank goodness we do have to maintain such rigid standards. But that is not the end of Old Testament history.
- Consider the book of Judges…when Israel fell into disobedience and defeat, God raised up judges to lead. But even these tended to head a roller coaster of behavior, wavering between temporary faithfulness and long periods of apostasy.
- Up and down…God loves His people tremendously and continues through the Old Testament to welcome them back. But we mess up. We stray again. What can we put hope into?
Jesus Changes the Rules!
Into the dark and apparently hopeless picture comes Christ. He is the savior, the Messiah, the final offering and need we could possibly hope to have. Thanks to Jesus, our sins are taken care of and we don’t have to fret over rules. Does this mean we don’t have to try to obey God’s Word and commandments? Of course not! We still follow His directions because we love God; but we do not rely on legalism for our salvation. Jesus takes care of that for us. Our job is to do the best we can and trust God for the ultimate “coverage.”
Craft: “Ruler of all…” Have students decorate small (6 or 12-inch) rulers to serve as bookmarks, pointer sticks, or just decorations. The keepsakes will help to remind kids that we don’t “measure up” to God’s standards, but Jesus “rules” it all and takes over for us!
Close with a prayer, giving thanks to God for sending His son and washing out our human sinfulness. Remind students of God’s control and love.
- The Gospel for Children: The Importance of Jesus in Every Kids Church Lesson
- 20 Non-Negotiable Principles for Evangelizing Kids
- Jesus Brings Peace: A Gospel Lesson for Christmas
- Gospel Coloring Pages: What Makes Jesus the Best King?
- Gospel Coloring Book: How Do I Follow Jesus?