Lesson: Jesus Stays Behind at the Temple

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson about Jesus being left behind at the Temple to teach children the importance of being in church.

Needed: (Optional: a copy of the script for each of your characters)

Review Game: Putting it in Order

On strips of paper, write or print out the following sentences. Hide them around your room. See how quickly students can find the papers and put the events in order.

  • The angel tells Zechariah and Elizabeth that they will have John the Baptist.
  • Gabriel tells Mary she will give birth to God’s Son.
  • Joseph agrees to adopt baby Jesus.
  • Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem for the census.
  • Angels tell the shepherds that Jesus is born.
  • The shepherds tell the town about Jesus.
  • Simeon can die happy because he saw baby Jesus.
  • The prophetess Anna tells people in the Temple about Jesus.
  • The Wise Men follow a star to bring gifts to Jesus.
  • King Herod tries to kill Jesus, but Joseph and Mary take Him to Egypt.

Once students complete the order, re-hide the strips of paper and have them play again.

Lesson

So far, we know all about how Jesus was born. The angel Gabriel came and told Mary that she was going to have a baby named Jesus and that Jesus was going to be God’s Son.

Joseph, the man who married Mary, adopted Jesus and took care of Jesus like Jesus was his own son, even though he knew Jesus was really God’s Son.

And when Jesus was born, He was born in a barn, and the angels told the shepherds to come see Him.

Then, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple-church, two older people named Simeon and Anna saw Him and thanked God that they finally got to see Jesus, the Savior.

Then, the Wise Men can and brought gifts to the baby Jesus, but the wicked King Herod tried to kill Jesus. God told Joseph to escape with Mary and Jesus and run away to Egypt. When Herod died, Joseph and Mary and Jesus came to live in their own country of Israel. And that’s all we know about Jesus until He was 12 years old.

Let’s find out what happened when Jesus was twelve.

(Act out the following play with your students, asking questions about the lesson as you go. You can give your student characters a script and let them read their lines or you can narrate the entire script yourself and simply instruct students to mime the appropriate actions as you read. This script is based on Luke 2:41-52.)

Characters: Narrator (Leader), Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Teachers (everyone else)

Narrator: Every year, Jesus and His parents went to Jerusalem for the holiday called Passover. One year, when Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph said,

Joseph: It’s time for Passover! Let’s go to Jerusalem.

Jesus: Yay!

Narrator: Jesus shouted. The Passover was such an important holiday, that almost everyone in the whole country went to it. It would be like if America were having a really big holiday and everyone in the whole country went to Washington, D.C. to celebrate. (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walking to Jerusalem). After the Feast was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without Joseph and Mary knowing about it. (Joseph and Mary walking away, Jesus stays behind, sitting with the Teachers) Joseph and Mary walked for a whole day before they realized Jesus wasn’t with them! (Mary and Joseph stop walking.)

Mary: Joseph, have you seen Jesus?

Joseph: No, I haven’t. He must be with some of our other family members.

(Joseph and Mary keep walking).

Narrator: After a while, when they still hadn’t seen Jesus, Joseph and Mary began looking for Him among their friends and relatives. (Joseph and Mary looking for Jesus, asking random people, “Have you seen Jesus?”). When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him.

Mary: Joseph, I can’t find Him.

Joseph: Me either. We better go back.

(Joseph and Mary walk back to where Jesus is.)

Narrator: After three days, they found Jesus in the Temple-church, sitting with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished (Joseph and Mary have astonished looks on their faces). His mother said to Him,

Mary: Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been so worried, looking for You.

Jesus: Why were you looking for Me?

Narrator: Jesus asked.

Jesus: Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?

Narrator: But Joseph and Mary did not understand what He was saying to them. (Joseph and Mary shrugging their shoulders with confused looks on their faces.) Then, Jesus went home with them and was obedient to them. (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walking home) But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and in height, and in favor with God and men.

(When the play is finished, review the student’s learning by asking the following questions.)

Review Questions

Jesus stayed behind at the Temple-church because He said that He had to be in His Father’s house. Who was Jesus’ Father? God.

And what was He talking about when He said He had to be in His Father’s House? What is God’s House? (The church.)

We know that God is everywhere and we can pray to God wherever we are, but we usually say that God’s house is the church.

And what was Jesus doing at the church? (He was talking to the teachers.)

Jesus was talking to the teachers, just like you’re doing. You’re here at church, talking to us, your teachers, and God is happy when we come and talk about Him and learn about Him. He wants us all to learn about Him so that we can know Him better and better, just like Jesus was doing.

Game: Acting It Out

Divide students into groups of three or four. Have each group decide on and act out one part of your church service. After each group, briefly discuss what we’re supposed to learn about God during that part of the service.

Game: Finding Jesus

Show students one object that will represent Jesus for your game. Have them close their eyes. Then, hide the object. Remind them that Mary and Joseph had to look for the boy Jesus. When you say, “Go!” kids race to find the object. The first one to find it gets to hide it for the next round.

Closing Prayer

Father, thank You for the example of Jesus spending time at the Temple-church. Help us to know that spending time in church is important. Help us to learn as much as we can about You so that we can love and serve You better. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Jesus Stays Behind at Temple Student Script

Characters: Narrator (Leader), Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Teachers (everyone else)

Narrator: Every year, Jesus and His parents went to Jerusalem for the holiday called Passover. One year, when Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph said,

Joseph: It’s time for Passover! Let’s go to Jerusalem.

Jesus: Yay!

Narrator: Jesus shouted. The Passover was such an important holiday, that almost everyone in the whole country went to it. It would be like if America were having a really big holiday and everyone in the whole country went to Washington, D.C. to celebrate. (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walking to Jerusalem). After the Feast was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without Joseph and Mary knowing about it. (Joseph and Mary walking away, Jesus stays behind, sitting with the Teachers) Joseph and Mary walked for a whole day before they realized Jesus wasn’t with them! (Mary and Joseph stop walking.)

Mary: Joseph, have you seen Jesus?

Joseph: No, I haven’t. He must be with some of our other family members.

(Joseph and Mary keep walking).

Narrator: After a while, when they still hadn’t seen Jesus, Joseph and Mary began looking for Him among their friends and relatives. (Joseph and Mary looking for Jesus, asking random people, “Have you seen Jesus?”). When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him.

Mary: Joseph, I can’t find Him.

Joseph: Me either. We better go back.

(Joseph and Mary walk back to where Jesus is.)

Narrator: After three days, they found Jesus in the Temple-church, sitting with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished (Joseph and Mary have astonished looks on their faces). His mother said to Him,

Mary: Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been so worried, looking for You.

Jesus: Why were you looking for Me?

Narrator: Jesus asked.

Jesus: Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?

Narrator: But Joseph and Mary did not understand what He was saying to them. (Joseph and Mary shrugging their shoulders with confused looks on their faces.) Then, Jesus went home with them and was obedient to them. (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walking home) But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and in height, and in favor with God and men.

You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Miracle Children.


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