Title: John the Baptist
Scripture: Matt 3:1-10; 14:1-12, Luke 3:1-20
Target Age Group: 3rd-5th grade
Main Point: We must prepare our hearts for Jesus
Supplies: Copies of “I Have/Who Has” cards (download here)
- Ask: What does it mean to prepare for something? (To prepare means to get ready.)
- Ask: If the President of the United States was coming over to your house, what are some things you would have to do to prepare for his visit? (Pick out a nice outfit, take a bath, clean the house etc.)
- Say: Since the President is an important person we would probably spend a lot of time getting ready to see him. But there is someone even more important that the President who we need to prepare for…Jesus!
- Say: Have you ever thought about how we need to prepare for Jesus? We don’t need to clean our houses for Him, or even take a bath, but there is an important way that we can get ready for Jesus.
- Say: Today we’ll hear about a man named John the Baptist, who had a very important job from God. He was a prophet, or messenger, and helped the people of Israel see that we must prepare our hearts for Jesus.
Pray that God would open our hearts to His Word today and that we would come to know Him better through our story and lesson.
Tell the Story
Ask: Who here has ever been on a road trip?
Say: When we travel long distances we usually go on the highway right? We might take it for granted that the road will be paved nice and smooth for us as we drive. But let’s imagine for a moment that we live in a time long ago before there were nicely paved highways. If we were to begin a journey we might see mountains and valleys ahead of us but no safe, smooth road to travel on. We might encounter large rocks and big holes. Traveling like that would be dangerous and would take a long time. Back then kings and royalty were the lucky ones. When they would travel they would send men ahead of them to prepare a road. They would clear a path and smooth out the road to make traveling more comfortable for the king.
Say: Today we are going to learn about a man named John the Baptist. Has anyone ever heard of him? He was sort of like those men who went before a king to clear the path. In fact, his job was to help clear the path for the most important king ever…Jesus! John didn’t clear a physical road for Jesus. Instead he taught that we must prepare our hearts for Jesus.
Say: We can read about John the Baptist in the gospels. Does anyone remember which books of the Bible are called the gospels? (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) Today we’ll read from the books of Matthew and Luke, but John’s story begins way back in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
Tell the Story: Many years before John the Baptist was born, God promised that there would be a special messenger who would announce the coming of the long-awaited Messiah (or Savior) for God’s people. Let’s hear what the prophet Isaiah wrote about the messenger who was to come…
Read Isaiah 40:3-5 “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”
Tell the Story: John the Baptist was the messenger God promised. And he had an important job: to prepare the way for Jesus to come! But John wasn’t out in the desert with cement trucks building an actual highway! Isaiah said that God’s messenger would help prepare the hearts of God’s people to receive Him, because we must prepare our hearts for Jesus.
Tell the Story: When he John began his ministry he moved out to the desert. Now, most people who want to share good news with people don’t usually go out in the wilderness where no one lives. But John was pretty different from most people. You see, John wore clothes made of camel hair and ate locusts and honey. He sounds pretty strange doesn’t he? The people were so intrigued by John that they would go out to the desert to see him and hear him preach.
Say: The fact that John preached out in the wilderness was important, because the desert symbolized what the people’s hearts were like.
Ask: What are some words that might describe a desert? (Dry, seemingly lifeless, empty etc.) If the desert symbolized the people’s hearts, what do you think their hearts were like toward God?
Say: The people weren’t really ready for Jesus because their hearts were dry and dead, much like a desert! They needed to hear that Jesus was coming to forgive their sins and bring their hearts back to life with the Holy Spirit. And that’s just what John did. John helped them see that we must prepare our hearts for Jesus. But how were they supposed to prepare their hearts? What does that even mean?
Tell the Story: John preached to the people saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As they listened to John, the people realized how sinful they were, and they began to see their need for a Savior. They confessed their sins and John baptized them in the Jordan River. He told them, “I baptize you with water but there is one coming after me who is much greater than I am. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
Ask: Who do you think John meant was coming after him? (Jesus)
Tell the Story: Among the people coming to hear John were some religious leaders called Pharisees and Sadducees. These were men who were very proud of the fact that they were so religious, but in reality their hearts were far from God. John had some harsh words for these men. He called them a brood of vipers (venomous snakes) and told them that if they truly were close to God, their lives would look much different. He said,
Read Luke 3:8-9 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Ask: Was John saying these men were fruit trees?
Say: John meant that when someone has real faith in God, they honor God with the way they live. Just like a healthy fruit tree produces good fruit, when we have a healthy relationship with God, we live in a way that pleases Him. The Pharisees and Sadducees cared a lot about the way they looked on the outside but they didn’t really know God or love Him. John said this to show that we must prepare our hearts for Jesus.
Say: Did you know that we must prepare our hearts for Jesus too? John taught that the way to prepare our hearts is to repent of our sin.
Ask: Does anyone know what it means to repent?
Say: When someone repents, they turn away from their sin and follow God. It’s not always easy to recognize that we have sinned against God. We all probably like to think that we’re pretty good, even if we do mess up from time to time. We might try to follow the rules and be nice to other people. That probably makes us feel pretty good about ourselves, but no matter how good we are on the outside, our hearts are still like dry deserts without Jesus.
The problem with sin is that it’s on the inside. Even though we might do nice things, our hearts are still sinful and far from God. No matter how good we try to be, we still need Jesus to save us, and we must prepare our hearts for Jesus.
Ask: So how can we prepare our hearts for Jesus?
Say: We can spend time talking to God and admitting to Him that our hearts are sinful and we need a Savior! We can repent, or turn away from, our sin and follow God.
Preparing our hearts for Jesus that doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect before we can begin following Jesus. In fact, over and over again in the Bible we see that Jesus calls very imperfect people to follow Him and know Him. Jesus loves us even though we are broken and sinful and we don’t have to do anything to make us more lovable to Him. Let’s pray and thank God for His amazing love.
Pray Dear God thank you for sending John the Baptist to teach us how to prepare our hearts for Jesus, and thank you for sending Your Only Son to live a perfect life and die the death that we deserve so we could be forgiven. Help us to confess and repent of our sin this week and turn to you. Amen.
- What was the main point from our lesson? (We must prepare our hearts for Jesus)
- What Old Testament book talks about John the Baptist? (Isaiah)
- Where did John preach? (The desert/wilderness)
- Who was the man John said would come after him? (Jesus)
- How can we prepare our hearts for Jesus? (Repent/confess our sin to God)
Bible Skils Activity: “I Have/Who Has”
Supplies: I have/Who has cards (Created by www.Biblefunforkids.com)
- Pass out the “I have/who has” cards (one to each child.)
- Explain that this activity will help us learn the books of the New Testament.
- The child with the first card (Matthew) will read it out loud (ex: “I have Matthew, who has Mark?”) The child with the second card will stand up and read theirs, (ex: “I have Mark, who has Luke?”) Continue this way till all the cards have been read. Depending on the number of kids they might have more than one card.
- If time allows, go through the activity a second time to see if they can go faster.