Transformation…It’s a fascinating thing, whether we are watching tadpoles and caterpillars or seeds and plants. What an amazing miracle that God can do such wonderful things…and that He can transform our lives, as well! In this lesson, we will take a look at one character in the Bible whose life was radically changed. Through Paul’s conversion and work, we see that anyone can be changed and used to serve God.
Lesson focus: God’s amazing love can change the life and heart of anyone; our job is to share that love with others and pray for them as well.
Passage: Acts 9:1-22
Target Audience: K-6th Grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Boxes or containers, decorative supplies, paper, noisemaker, flashlight, Paul converted coloring page
Lesson Opening: Blind transformation…play a little game with the group to test senses and observations. Have one student at a time be blindfolded (or close eyes/leave room) and have the rest of the students sit in a circle or line. There are a couple of variations here, but something will change about the circle, and the blindfolded “it” needs to guess what happened. It might be people switching spots (if a large group). Or maybe one person removes a jacket or puts hair up. Alternatively, hand one child a noisemaker and have him/her shake it for a few seconds, and then hide it. Once the guesser’s eyes are opened again, have them guess who had the noisemaker, or what changed within the circle. Explain that today we are going to talk about someone who could not see, and also about how God can change our lives.
Begin with a discussion of names…invite students to select what name they would choose for themselves if they could change their name. Or have them scramble letters within names and come up with another one, or call out names backward. Explain that we are going to learn today about someone whose whole life changed, and even how we speak of him. Often times in the Bible God changed people’s names to add new meaning (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter…). Now, Paul did not really change his name, but when we first meet him, he is called Saul. Why two names? We will explain that soon…but when first we meet him, Saul is quite wicked. Describe for children how in the first days of the church, the Jews did not like these disciples of Jesus and tried to hurt them. Saul was one of those Jews, and he was in charge of arresting and even killing Christian people.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. –Acts 9:1-2
But on his way to attack and harm Christians, something remarkable happens. Jesus comes in and takes over the show…
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. -Acts 9:3-9
At this point, make the lesson a bit interactive by having students walk around “on the road” with you (maybe even offer a “donkey ride” if appropriate). Once the voice calls out, use a megaphone or loud noise, and shine flashlight (carefully) into students’ eyes. What was happening? Even Saul’s companions couldn’t figure it out. Jesus was there taking control. Meanwhile, though, back in Damascus, there was a man named Ananias, who worked hard to serve God. One day, God shared something with Ananias:
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” -Acts 9:10-16
Imagine being told that you need to go find and talk to the head of Isis, or the school bully, or your biggest enemy. It would be pretty scary! It might be tempting to laugh and refuse. That’s probably how Ananias felt. Saul was hurting Christians. He was famous for it! Why would God tell anyone to go talk to him? What would you do? Continue with the story to find out how Ananias responded:
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. –Acts 9:17-22
Ananias obeyed (it was GOD asking, after all…), and found Saul there just as promised. Immediately, he was healed, and realized that it was God who was responsible for the experience. Saul prayed and was baptized, and started to shock people right away by spreading the word around and teaching. He was changed. Not in a week or a month but immediately. Some things take a long time to transform (a caterpillar, a new baby, etc.…), but this man went to work right after his encounter! And it probably helped that Ananias followed directions and prayed (prayer is essential!). Paul went on to become perhaps the most influential and important figure of the church spread and the new faith. Speaking of change, what about that name business we mentioned earlier? Well, Saul just so happens to be the given name, and was also the missionary’s Hebrew name. When he started his missionary work and began going around to Gentiles (people who were not Jewish), he started going by “Paul” because that was his name in Latin. Paul was very culturally-minded and wanted to be accessible to the people he taught. (Mention of the “Paul” name doesn’t begin until Acts 13)
Prayer has power to change…have students create “prayer boxes” or prayer buckets to remember people who need help, and how important prayer can be. Allow them to decorate (with paper, wrapping paper, stickers, etc.) simple containers like coffee cans, tissue boxes, or other items. Attach the verse and caption, along with papers for writing down requests and praises.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Thank God for giving us Jesus and helping us to serve Him first with all of our hearts.
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