The story of Easter is of course the critical crux of the entire Christian faith. Sometimes, in the midst of the excitement of egg hunts and chocolate rabbits and outlandish hats, we lose sight of the enormity and miraculous nature of Christ’s work during Holy Week. For some students, the significance might be enhanced by focusing on elements of prophecy. Avid readers are often excited by story elements, and peeking at prophecy fulfillment brings those elements to life. Grab and retain attention by encouraging students to examine the events of the passion in relation to older prophecies.
Lesson focus: We can trust that Jesus is the true Messiah and that Scripture is infallible by verifying how His life fulfilled former Biblical prophecies.
Passage: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Matthew 27, Isaiah 50, Psalm 41, Zechariah 11
Target Audience: Older students (upper elementary/middle school)
Materials Needed: Bibles, pictures, verses…
Lesson Opening: How do we know? Open things up by discussing truth with students. How can we know if things are true or not? What kind of evidence is required to agree on facts? We are talking about something that is central (sometimes too obviously) to our faith: Jesus. When it comes to Him, we ought to be certain of our facts. Now, one method of proving veracity can be the word of people…but how about people who came years before?
Ask students if they have heard of prophecy. What is it? Where does it appear? Discuss books and stories that include this element…a prophecy is usually a declaration or prediction of something to come. What do we know about Biblical prophets? Some pronounced evil. Others gave hope with the foretelling of a coming savior. Let’s look at the death and resurrection of Jesus through the words of the prophets…
The format of this lesson is slightly unique in that there are multiple options for organizing and communicating the message. One suggestion is to conduct a “sword drill” matching game…have students look up each verse provided and determine which prophecy aligns with the gospel verse. For speed or greater ease, this could be modified to provide students with verse print-outs, and after matching they could glue to paper. Or for more challenge, have kids look up the prophecy and find the corresponding cross-reference. The important thing here is to communicate how the details of Christ’s life echo and make true former statements. So here are a few possible suggestions of Old Testament foreshadowing verses that are fulfilled by Jesus:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Matthew 27:46
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. –Matthew 27:41
8 “He trusts in the LORD ; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Isaiah 53:12 (NIV):
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. –Matthew 27:35
Isaiah 53:7 (NIV):
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. –Matthew 27:12
Isaiah 50:6 (NIV):
I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. –Matthew 27:30-31
Zechariah 11:12-13 (NIV):
12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. –Matthew 26:14-15
Psalm 69:21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. Matthew 27:34
Psalm 41:9 (NIV):
Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Matthew 26:23-24
Again, these are but a few of many possible verses that can be used to discuss the miraculous events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection. Share with students other facts, artifacts, pictures, and messages about Christ’s final hours. Look at the story with fresh eyes. Think of the hope, the meaning, the beauty in these fulfillments. God knows what He is doing. He is risen! Hallelujah!