Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ – Submission
Teacher’s Notes: We, who call ourselves “Christians,” are called to be like the One whose name we bear, Jesus Christ. In our last few lessons, we have learned what it means to be Christ-like. We have studied examples of His knowledge and use of God’s Word; His great compassion, and His incredible humility. This week, our lesson will focus on Jesus’ submission to His Father. As has been the case with each characteristic we’ve looked at in Christ, submission is not an easy thing. Our sin nature compels us to want to be in charge. But, as Christians, we are new creatures in Christ! And with the Holy Spirit’s help, we, too, can learn to be submissive to our Heavenly Father; even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Begin by asking the students who were with you last week if any of them tried to imitate Christ this week by doing some task that before may have seemed like it should be left to someone else. Ask them if they would like to share what they did, how they felt while doing it, and how the person they did it for responded. Encourage them to remember that Jesus wants them to act in humility like He did. Then ask if anyone remembers the verse they learned last week, and if time permits, review the verse with them, to help reinforce what they’ve already learned.
Last week, we looked at an example of one of Jesus’ greatest accomplishments while He was living on this earth. Does anyone remember what great thing He did? (remind them that Jesus acted in great humility, washing the dirty feet of His own disciples). Jesus wanted us to realize that no one is too important to serve others. We should all be looking for ways to reach out to those around us in love. Putting them first!
This week we’re going to learn about another word that describes Jesus. Submission. Does anyone know what the word “submission” means? (allow the students to share their definitions of the word, then share this one with them: submission is yielding to authority, or accepting someone else’s will.) It’s a lot like humility. It doesn’t mean you have to let everyone else tell you what to do all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re too weak to make your own decisions and do your own thing. Submission is making a choice to do what someone else asks you to. Jesus was asked to do something most of us would not be able to do, and certainly would not want to do. We’ll find out in just a few minutes what that was.
But first, we also need to understand how stressful it was for Jesus to do what His Father had asked. So we’re going to take a few minutes to put ourselves in a stressful (but fun) situation, to see how we react:
Suggested activity: Using a baseball bat, or other long stick, have the students take turns holding the stick upright, with one end on the ground. Have the student bend over the stick, with their forehead touching the top of the stick. And have the student spin themselves around the stick by running in a circle, while their heads remain touching the stick. After they have made 5 full circles, have the student try to run to the other end of the room and throw a ball into a basket, or perform some other task. If you have some way to time the students, you can give a prize to the one who is able to complete this task the quickest. Then ask the students these questions: Think about how you felt as you waited for your turn to come. How did your hands feel when it was almost your turn? Did they get a little shaky? Did they feel sweaty? Did your legs shake as you knew it was your turn? Have you ever done anything else that made you sweat, just thinking about how hard or how scary it was going to be? When we are about to do something scary, or difficult, or maybe competing against someone else, our bodies react. Our heart begins to beat faster, sometimes we start to breathe a little quicker, and sometimes, we even start to sweat.
Today, in our lesson, we’re going to look at an occasion where Jesus faced the hardest thing He would ever have to do. We’ll see that He reacted the same way we just talked about. But we’ll see that it didn’t stop Him from submitting to His Father’s will. And we’ll see that He did it willingly, without complaining.
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the opportunities you gave us this week to act as humble servants for You. Please help us now, Lord, to understand what it means to be submissive. And help us to see when our hearts need to be changed, so that we can become more like You. Open our ears and hearts to Your lesson for us today. Amen.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross...” Philippians 2:8
This Week’s Lesson:
(Jesus submits to the will of His Father)
(Suggested Bible Reading): Matthew 26:36-56 (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
36Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
43And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
47And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
48Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
49And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
50And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.
51And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
52Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
53Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
54But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
55In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.
56But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
We’ve already talked a little bit about what submission means. We all have people or rules in our lives that we need to submit to. And submission is generally for our own good, even though it may not feel like it at the time. Who are the people in your lives that you are asked to submit to? (perhaps parents, teachers, older brothers or sisters, other relatives, those in charge at work) Do they have any rules that are hard to follow? Has anyone who makes the rules in your life ever asked you to do something that could get you hurt? Have they ever asked you to do something that might cost you your life? What do you think you would do if your mom or dad asked you to let someone else hurt you, in order to protect a younger brother or sister?
Our Scripture passage, today, picks up right where last week’s left off. Last week, we found Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. And we mentioned that this took place just as Jesus was about to be taken and crucified on a cross. Jesus knew the time had come for what would be the most difficult, painful hours of His life. You see, the Bible tells us in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” God had decided, long before Jesus came to this earth, that His death on the cross and His resurrection would be the only way to redeem men from sin and Hell. It was not a surprise to Jesus that it should be this way. But it was not something He looked forward to, either.
Remember a few minutes ago, when we ran around the stick, then tried to run and throw a ball. Remember how you felt, knowing your turn was coming up? Did you feel anxious about looking silly, or maybe not being able to do it right? Were you afraid that you might even fall and hurt yourself? Did your heart beat faster? Did you get a little sweaty? As Jesus came closer and closer to the time when the Jewish officials would come to arrest Him, how do you think He was feeling? He didn’t even have to guess about what was going to happen. He knew it all! He knew he would be laughed at. Stripped of His clothes. Taunted. Beaten. Falsely accused. Tortured. And hung on a rugged cross with spikes holding Him there by His bleeding hands and feet. But, for Jesus, that was not the worst of it. For Jesus, the part He dreaded the most was the moment when all of our sins – yours, mine, our neighbors’, even the sins of those who would put Him on that cross – all of those sins would be put upon Jesus, so that He could pay the penalty for them, by His death. And in that moment when He would bear those awful sins, His own Father who loves Him so dearly, and from whom He’d never been completely separated, would have to look away from His Son. He would forsake Him. That is why when Jesus is on the cross He cries out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) What a terrible time is coming in Jesus life!
How do you think Jesus was feeling, knowing all of this was about to happen? Do you think His heart was beating a little faster than it ever had before? Do you think His head and hands became sweaty? Jesus knew just what He needed to do to get through this tough time ahead. He needed to take some time to talk it over with His Heavenly Father. So He took His disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He had gone many times before. And listen to how the Bible describes how Jesus was feeling. In verse 38 Jesus says to them, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” Jesus was so sorrowful, it was as if the very things He was feeling were enough to kill Him! So He asked His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, to come a little further with Him, into the garden. And told them to watch and pray while He went on alone. Verse 39 then tells us that “He went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Have you ever been so upset or concerned about something that you just wanted to throw yourself right down on your face and cry? That’s just what Jesus did, here. He was feeling the weight of the world falling on His shoulders, and fell down before His Father to talk to Him about it. And what did He ask? (that if possible, the “cup” be allowed to pass from Him) What do you think Jesus meant by “this cup?” Do you think He had a literal cup with Him? If not, what? If we were to look back just before Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, we would find Jesus talking about another cup. He called it “the new testament” in His blood. That cup was symbol of the blood He was about to shed to take away the sins of the world. So for Jesus, perhaps the cup He was talking about here was that “new testament” or new promise that would be brought about by the sin He would have to bear on the cross. And for a holy God, there is no greater burden to bear than sin. Especially when it would mean that His Father would have to turn His back on Him for a time. No wonder Jesus asked if there might be another way!
Do you think if there had been any other way to save us from our sin that our Heavenly Father would have taken it? When John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is “the Way…and no one comes to the Father but by [Him],” we can be sure that it is true. It must be the only way, or The Father would never have required such a sacrifice from His own Son!
And at the end of verse 39, we see our first sign in this passage, of our word for today, submission. It is only for a moment that Jesus asks for the cup to pass. Then, He uses a big word…a great word: nevertheless. That big word means that even though He knows all the bad stuff that’s going to happen, and that His Father is going to turn away, still…He is going to do just what His Father asks. “not as I will, but as thou wilt.” That is submission! Jesus was just as determined as ever to go through with the plan His Father had for Him, no matter how hard it might be.
Now, I would like to tell you that Jesus had the support of His friends, as He went through this very difficult time. Have you ever gone through something very hard, like losing a loved one, or suffering some sickness yourself? Did you have close friends there to encourage you and help you through that tough time? Remember how Jesus had brought His three closest disciples into the garden with Him and asked them to keep watch? Well, as Jesus finished His sorrowful prayer, He went back to find His disciples. I’m sure He would have liked to get some support and encouragement from them! But do you know what Jesus found them doing, instead? He found them sleeping! In the absolutely lowest point in Jesus’ life, His disciples let Him down. They were tired and weak, and of no help when Jesus could have used it.
So, again, Jesus turned to the One who loved Him most – His Heavenly Father. He left His three disciples, as He’d done earlier, and went to pray, again. But this time as He prayed, Luke 22:44 tells us that “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” If any of you were sweating before, when we played our little game, I’m guessing your sweat was not like this! Jesus’ emotions were so intense that His sweat was like drops of blood. Now we don’t know for sure if that means it was really blood coming out instead of sweat. There is a medical condition called “hematidrosis” where there have been people who, under extremely stressful conditions have actually had blood come out when they sweat. It is very rare, and requires extreme stress on the body. But it has been known to happen. And it may have been what literally happened with Jesus. But whether there was actual blood or it was “as it were great drops of blood,” we should understand that Jesus was under a great deal of emotional distress as He once again came before His Father, and again considered whether there might be some other way. But in the end, He came to the same conclusion as before…He needed to submit to the will of His Father.
But submission did not come quite so easily for the disciples. After Jesus returned from a third time in prayer to His Father, He and His disciples were overtaken in the garden by Judas Iscariot (Jesus’ disciple who led the captors to Jesus), and a group of men sent by the chief priest and elders to arrest Jesus. And, according to verse 51, “behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.” We find out, in the Gospel of John, that it was Peter who pulled out his sword. And he probably was not swinging for the man’s ear. More likely, he was swinging at his head, but the man probably ducked so that the sword only caught his ear. This was not Jesus’ plan for submission. In fact, we also learn from John that Jesus picked up the man’s ear, and put it back in place. He actually healed this man who had come to capture Him! What a compassionate thing to do. Then Jesus told His disciples to put away their weapons. Because fighting back was not the plan. Submission was. And do you know how the disciples reacted to that? They ran away. How sad. The hour when their Lord needed them most, they could not, or would not submit to The Heavenly Father’s plan. They chose, instead, to have no part of it. But Jesus chose the better way. The only way. He went willingly, and with great humility right to the cross, where He took on Himself your sin and mine so that we could be free from its penalty.
What would have happened if Jesus did not submit to His Father’s plan? Verse 53 tells us that He could have called down legions of angels to fight against His captors. But He didn’t. And that is because He knew, as we said before, that His death was the only way. He had to go through with it, or we would all die in our sins and spend eternity in Hell, apart from Him. But Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to go through with the plan. Even though it brought Him such great sorrow that drops of sweat like blood fell from Him, nevertheless…He went through with it. And because He did, we can have the gift of eternal life, our sins can be forgiven.
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for being willing to submit to the Heavenly Father’s plan. Thank You for submitting to a cruel death on a cross to pay for our sins. And thank You for loving us so much that You did all this just so our sins can be forgiven, and we can spend eternity with You in Heaven. Help us to not only be grateful, but to follow Your example, and be willing to submit to the people You have put in authority over us. For that is how we can grow to be more like You. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
(Bible lesson Tic-Tac-Toe)
If you are familiar with the game Tic-Tac-Toe, you can use it to quiz your students on today’s lesson. Here’s how it can work. Divide the students into two teams. One team will be X’s, and the other O’s. Make a Tic-Tac-Toe board (draw it with chalk or even in the dirt if you have a dirt floor) with 9 spaces: three across, and three down. Number each of the spaces using the numbers from 1 to 9. The object of the game is to be the first team to get 3 of their marks (X’s or O’s) in a row on the board. Have the teams take turns earning the right to put their mark on by answering a question from today’s lesson (for example: name one of the disciples who went further into the Garden with Jesus). If the team answers correctly, they can put their mark in a spot on the board. To keep the game simple, you can let them choose where to put it. To make it a little more challenging, you can make little numbers ahead of time, perhaps writing them on little pieces of paper, and have someone from the team draw one of the numbers to determine where the mark will go if they answer correctly. Then, the next team takes a turn and is given another question to answer. If you are using the numbers to determine where their marks go, they may pick a number the other team has already picked, and replace that mark with their own if they get the answer right. Have fun! And the game works best if you have the questions prepared ahead of time.
Then encourage the students, as they are at home this week, to remember Jesus’ submissive attitude. When they are asked to do something this week, hopefully they will do as they are asked willingly, and perhaps with humility as Jesus did, even if what they are asked to do is very hard. And by doing that, they are submitting to the Heavenly Father, too!
Doing what another person asks;
Taking on a big or scary task;
Seeing it with humble, Christ-like vision;
That, my friend, is true, godly submission!
Lisa DeVinney, March 2017