Lesson: John the Baptist is Beheaded

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids how to resist temptations from peer pressure.

Needed: Bibles, soft balls or paper wads

Intro Game: Despite All Obstacles 

Set up an obstacle course with two mirror paths. Divide the students into two teams. One student from each team runs the obstacle course at a time while the other team members line up along the length of the obstacle course. When they’re not running, the members of the opposite team throw soft balls or paper wads at the runner from the sidelines.

If a student makes it through the obstacle course without being hit, they score a point for their team and return to the sidelines. If they are hit, they go to the sidelines to throw but not run again. After each pair runs the course, gather the balls or paper wads again for the next two to run.

The game ends when all the students have run the course. The team with the most points wins.

Afterward, explain that we have to do the right things in life even when it seems difficult. There might be things that get in the way of us doing the right thing. There might be people who try to keep us from doing the right thing or try to get us to do the wrong thing, but we have to keep doing what we know is right.


Ask students, Can anyone think of a time when one of your friends, or maybe a brother or sister, wanted you to do something wrong? (The teacher should share a story here as well, in order to encourage the students to share.)

Can anyone think of a time when you wanted to do something wrong to show off for your friends? (Again, the teacher should share as well.)

Well, today we’re going to read about a man who did something very wrong because someone else wanted him to and because he wanted to show off to his friends.

(Read Matthew 14:3-4.)

“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’”

King Herod had arrested John the Baptist because John kept telling the king that the king shouldn’t steal his brother’s wife and marry her. It would be like if your uncle stole your mom away from your dad and married her. That’s a wrong thing to do.

Do you think the king liked it when John told him he was doing something wrong? (No.)

The king didn’t like it when John told him he did something wrong, but John knew that he had to say what was right, even if the king put him in jail for it.

(Read Matthew 14:5-8.)

“Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

“On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.’”

So, what happened in this part of this story?

The wife’s daughter, King Herod’s niece, did a dance for him on his birthday. He liked the dance so much that he said he would give her anything she asked for.

And what did she ask for? (She wanted the king to cut off John the Baptist’s head and give it to her.)

Why did she say she wanted that? (Because her mom, the king’s wife, told her to say it.)

The king’s wife was doing something wrong too. She left her husband so that she could go marry the king. John the Baptist said it was wrong for her to do that, so she wanted to kill him.

Do you think King Herod should cut off John the Baptist’s head just because the girl asked him to? (No.)

(Read Matthew 14:9-11.)

“The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.”

Why did King Herod agree to cut off John’s head? (He made a promise that he would give the girl whatever she asked for and because he wanted to show off in front of the guests at his birthday party.)

Do you think God wanted King Herod to cut off John’s head? (No.)

Sometimes, our friends ask us to do things that are wrong, or we want to do things that are wrong just to show off for other people. But we have to remember that doing the right things that God wants us to do is more important than doing what other people say or showing off for other people. The most important thing is what God wants us to do.

If your friends ever ask you to do something that’s wrong, what can you say to them? (Suggestions: No, God wouldn’t want me to do that, That’s not a good thing to do, That could hurt someone’s feelings, Suggest a better idea, etc.)

(Read Matthew 14:12-13.)

“John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

“When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns.”

When John’s followers told Jesus what happened, what did Jesus do? (He went off by Himself.)

Why do you think He wanted to be by Himself? (Because He was sad that John died.)

Jesus is sad when bad things happen to people, and they die. But one day, Jesus will bring John the Baptist and everyone else who believes in Him back to life, and we will never die again.

Activity: Peer Pressure Playacting 

Have students form groups of three. Give them a few minutes to think of how to act out a scene in which one or two of them pressure the other(s) to do something wrong, but then, the person resists them. Tell them to be creative in how they might say no to someone who’s trying to get them to do something wrong. Then, all the groups perform their scene for the class.

You can allow them to think of their own scenarios or give them cue cards to base their scene on. Ideas include Smoking, Drinking, Doing drugs, Stealing, Lying, Making fun of someone, Cheating, Cursing, Telling a Dirty Joke, and Watching a TV Show they Shouldn’t.

Game: Jesus Says vs. Friend Says 

Play Simon Says, but use “Jesus Says” and “Friend Says.” They should only listen to you when you say “Jesus says” first. If anyone does do what you tell them when you say, “Friend says…,” they’re out.

The last one in the game is the leader for the next round.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, we pray that You’ll help us to stay strong for You and not do wrong things just because other people want us to or because we want to show off for them. You are the person we care about the most, so help us to do the right things so that You can be proud of us. Amen.

You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, The Parables and Teachings of Jesus Vol. 1.

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