Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
The Life of Jesus Christ: Lesson 2
Extra! Extra! Read All About Jesus’ Baptism!
Author’s Notes: Last week we began a new series on the life of Christ. The first lesson focused on the account of Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem, at age twelve. This week’s lesson finds us jumping forward eighteen years, to when Jesus was thirty years old. We’ll be looking at the first recorded event in Jesus’ life, following His disappearance as a youngster: and that will be His baptism by John the Baptist. It’s a short passage, but one packed with great significance in understanding who Jesus truly is. And rather than doing an activity only at the end of class, if you have the supplies available, this week the students will be completing the activity during the course of the lesson.
Activity Preparation: If you have the supplies available, encourage the students to work along with you, through the lesson, to complete the handout/activity sheets. A sample is provided as this week’s handout a. However, you can create your own, if needed. You will only need paper and writing utensils. Divide the paper into three sections, one for each verse.
In the first section, write “Jesus Is Baptized – Mark 1:1”. Then underneath, list the “w” words, so it looks something like this:
Jesus Is Baptized – Mark 1:1
Then repeat that process with the other two sections, labeling the second “The Mysterious Dove – Mark 1:10” and the third “The Voice from Heaven – Mark 1:11.”
(see lesson handout a for more details)
Before the invention of television or even radio, if something exciting happened in the world, and people needed or wanted to hear about it, they would likely have found out by reading it in a newspaper. And on the day that a new copy came out, the delivery boys would stand on the street corners calling out, “Extra, Extra. Read all about it!” Then, at the top of their voice, they would tell passers-by what the newest headlines said.
(If you have a copy of a newspaper, you may want to bring one to class and demonstrate how this would have been done. Then let your students look at the stories on the front cover.)
Have any of you ever read a newspaper article? They are usually fairly short, as the writer tries to get in all of the most important information in the fewest words possible. The newspaper editor wants to be sure he has plenty of room for all of his big stories, so they usually are not very long.
But that means the writers must work hard to be sure to include all of the important details. So many of them have developed a sort of pattern they try to follow. It involves asking the questions they think their readers will want to have answered. Does anyone know what those questions might be? Here’s a hint: all but one start with the letter “w.”
Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? (If you have something in the front of your classroom that you can write on, you can list these words, since we’ll come back to them later in the lesson. If not, it may be helpful to have them written on a large piece of paper that you can show the class, and refer to later.) If you can answer each of these questions, you’ll likely know most of the details of what happened in a story.
Our lesson today would make a great newspaper story! It was news the world needed to hear, and the writers who put it in our Bibles made the written account short, but included all the details we need to be able to answer those questions we just talked about. As we go through our lesson today, we’ll be just like newspaper reporters, recording all the facts from those who were at the scene. Then, at the end of our lesson, we can put all of our facts we’ve gathered together, and make a newspaper story that could have been printed the next day in the Jordan River Times.
So let’s learn our verse for today, then follow the advice of the newspaper boys and “read all about it!”
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 there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the exciting stories we read in Your Word that teach us more about who You are, and why Jesus came to this earth. Give us ears to hear and hearts ready to follow You, today. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Life of Jesus Christ: Jesus Baptism (Mark 1:9-11)
Since today’s passage is quite short, we’ll begin by reading it through, completely. Then we’re going to go back and look at each verse, to answer the who, what, when, where, how, and why we find in each one. At the end of today’s class, we’ll complete our own articles about what happened in today’s lesson.
9And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
10And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
11And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Does anyone remember how old Jesus was in our lesson last week? He was twelve years old when His parents headed back home to Nazareth, and left Him in Jerusalem. Today’s passage is the next time we see Jesus. And eighteen years have gone by. Jesus is now thirty years old. And there is no record, in the Bible, what Jesus had been doing all that time.
But now it was time for Jesus to begin revealing Himself to the world. And our lesson today is the first time, as an adult, that He is introduced to us as the Son of God. Let’s look at each verse, and see if we can use our “w” questions to learn what happened, and why it’s important for us to know.
(If you have not already done so, at this time distribute handout a to the students.)
Let’s start by looking, again, at just the first verse of our passage. Then we’ll see if we can answer some of the questions in our handout.
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. (Mark 1:9)
Since it’s the first question answered by this verse, let’s begin by looking at the third “w” - “when.” Our verse says that “it came to pass in those days.” But when were “those days?” If we look back to the verses just before this one, we would find the answer. Those were the days when John was preaching and baptizing in the wilderness, to “…prepare the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:3) And Jesus’ public ministry had not yet begun. From historical and Biblical accounts, we can figure that both John and Jesus, since they were about the same age, would have been around thirty years old at that time. In fact, in Luke’s account of Jesus baptism, the very next verse says, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age…” (Luke 3:23) So, on your handouts, next to the first “when,” you can write, “at the start of Jesus’ ministry, when John and Jesus were about thirty years old.”
The next “w” question we’ll answer is the first on our list, “who.” Who are the people we find in verse 9? There are two, Jesus and John. We’ll be looking more at who Jesus was in the final verse of our passage. But for now, you can put His name on your handouts next to the “who” under verse 9. And what is the name of the other person mentioned in this verse? Yes, it’s John. There are several different “Johns” found in the New Testament. One is the disciple who wrote many of the books found in our New Testament. But that is not the John mentioned here.
The one we see here had a nickname. He was John the Baptist. (Have the students write “John the Baptist” next to “Jesus” on their handouts.) Would anyone like to guess why he had that name? No, he did not go to a Baptist church. John the Baptist was well known for his ministry at the Jordan River, baptizing those who wanted to repent of their sins.
This answers the next “w” on our handout, too. What was John doing? Baptizing people. And who does this verse say came to be baptized? Yes, Jesus. (Have the students write “Jesus came to be baptized” next to the “what” under verse 9.)
The “where” question is pretty easy to answer. It’s found near the end of verse 9. Where did John baptize Jesus? In the Jordan River. Fill in the answer on your handout. Then, we’ll be ready to do a little language work to find the next answer.
To find out “how” John baptized, all we need to do is look at the original language of the New Testament. There is a Greek word that means “sprinkle;” another that means “pour.” But neither of those is used here. The Greek word translated “baptize” means to dip so that the person is completely wet. We call that immersion. And that is the method that John the Baptist used to baptize Jesus in the Jordan River. So next to your first “how” you can right “by dipping Him completely in the water” or “by immersion.”
Our last “w” for this verse is a tough one. We get a little better look at why Jesus came to be baptized from the same account recorded in the book of Matthew. Matthew 3:14 tells us, “But John forbade him, saying I have need to be baptized of thee, and thou comest to me?” Why do you think John responded this way? John had been baptizing people who were repenting of their sins. So what did John know about Jesus that made him say he shouldn’t be baptizing Jesus? John’s mother, Elisabeth, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, were cousins. And Elisabeth knew that Mary’s son, Jesus, was to be the promised Messiah. No doubt she had told John about his special cousin. So John recognized that as the Messiah, Jesus would not have had any sin to repent of.
Why, then, would Jesus want to be baptized? John didn’t understand. And Jesus’ response was simply, “suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) What did Jesus mean by that? Many Bible scholars have wondered the same thing? Jesus simply said that this is how it must be, so His baptism would be part of God’s plan to bring righteousness to our fallen human race. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (*) suggests that since Jesus would become the sinners’ substitute when He died on the cross, that this was His way of identifying with sinners. What we can be sure of is that Jesus believed His baptism was part of fulfilling His Father’s plan for our righteousness. So for “why” under verse 9, you can write, “to obey His Father’s will.”
(A Mysterious Dove)
Now that we know what Jesus did, and perhaps a reason why, let’s move on to the next verse and answer our next set of “w’s.”
And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: (Mark 1:10)
We can answer several of our “w’s” very quickly for this verse. Whose name can you write under verse 10, on the handout? Yes, the Holy Spirit. What did He do? The Spirit descended upon Jesus. And how did He come to Jesus? “Like a dove.” Now doves would have been quite common in that part of the world. So seeing a dove wouldn’t have been unusual. But what was unusual about this one? In the apostle John’s account, he said that the dove “abode on Him.” (John 1:32) In other words, it stayed on Jesus. That would have been very unusual to see!
There’s another “what” as well. Did anyone notice what else happened? Next to “what,” you can add that Jesus also saw the heavens opened. The Bible Knowledge Commentary suggests that this was God the Father’s way of showing that He was “breaking into human experience.” In other words, God was becoming a visible part of our world, through His Son, Jesus.
When did the Spirit descend on Jesus? “Straightway,” which means right away, as Jesus came up out of the water. And why? For the answer to this question, it would be helpful to read the apostle John’s account.
32And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
33And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
34And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
According to this account, God had told John the Baptist, in advance, that He would send His Spirit to assure John that this was truly the promised Messiah. And when John saw the dove, he recognized it as the sign God had promised him. So the answer to why the Holy Spirit came as a dove, and descended upon Jesus is that it was a sign that Jesus really was the One for whom John the Baptist was preparing the way.
(A Voice from Heaven)
The third and final verse of our passage introduces one more “who” for our list. Let’s see who that will be.
And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mark 1:11)
I hope this verse sounds familiar to you, since it is this week’s memory verse. Let’s take a closer look at it, and find the answers to our list of questions. And this will be a special “who” because it means all three members of the Trinity (or Godhead) are mentioned in these three verses. Who can tell me what the Trinity is? The Trinity is a special term used for the three members of the Godhead. We have one God, but He exists in three separate forms. In our first verse, we saw God the Son, Jesus Christ. In the second verse was God the Holy Spirit. And the third member of the Trinity, God the Father is the one speaking, in our third verse. How can we tell that He is the one whose voice is mentioned? Because He calls Jesus His “beloved Son.” So next to “who,” under verse 10 on the handout, you can write, “God the Father.”
What does verse 10 tell us that God the Father did? He spoke to Jesus following His baptism. (Which is the when of this verse.) How did He do that? With a “voice from heaven.” Once you’ve filled in those three answers (you can leave the “where” blank for this verse), we’ll get to the “why” of this last verse in our passage.
Why did God the Father speak to Jesus in a voice from Heaven, and why did He say what He did? The answer is in the words that He said. Can anyone tell me what that message was? The Father said, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This message from God the Father to Jesus has two very important parts. The first is the Father’s affirmation of Jesus as His Son. It is not clear how many of those at Jesus’ baptism were able to hear the voice. Perhaps everyone could hear it. And if that were the case, then this would have been a clear message to all that Jesus was, indeed, the Son of God.
If, however, only Jesus could hear the words from Heaven, then perhaps the message was meant as a great encouragement just for Him, as He began a ministry that would at times be very rewarding, and at others be very difficult. In fact, Mark 1:12 tells us that immediately after hearing these words, Jesus was driven into the wilderness to be tested by Satan. Certainly God the Father’s testimony of being pleased with His Son was what helped Jesus get through such a difficult time.
So our answers to why God spoke to Jesus in a voice from Heaven are “to confirm that Jesus is the Son of God, and to encourage Jesus as He began His public ministry.”
Now that we’ve broken these verses apart to understand who was involved, what they did, and why, let’s take just one more moment to put it all back together and consider how we can apply all that we’ve learned to our own hearts, today.
While we may not completely understand why Jesus being baptized was part of the Father’s plan, we do learn that Jesus’ obedience in following it through, even when John questioned Him about it, was of great importance to His Heavenly Father. Because of His obedience, the Father was able to testify that He was well pleased with His beloved Son.
Some day, each one of us is going to stand before God. At that moment, will He be able to say the same thing about you and me: that He has been well pleased by the things we have said and done? For those of us who are His children, God is watching even now to see if we will obey His will for our lives. He loves us, and wants to be able to say of each of us that we are His beloved children, and that He is well pleased with us.
So let’s consider, as we go through this new week, whether the things that we are saying and doing are well pleasing to our Heavenly Father. Jesus made a point to identify with us, in being baptized. Obeying the Father is our opportunity to identify ourselves with His beloved Son, Jesus.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, what an odd thing it is, to imagine Jesus going through the same motions as sinners, to be obedient to You. And yet, that is exactly what He did. Help us to learn from this lesson that You are well pleased by our obedience. And remind us that one day we will stand before You, wanting to hear those same words: that You are well pleased with us. So help us, even this week, to say, and think, and do only those things which would allow You to say that You are pleased. Amen.
Closing Comments/ Activity:
Now that we have all our facts together from the information in our lesson today, let’s see if we can put those facts together to fill in a newspaper article that could have been on the front page, the day after Jesus was baptized.
Take a few moments to review the first handout (handout a), going back over the answers for each verse. Then, have the students go through the second handout (handout b - the newspaper article), and add a headline and picture from our lesson. Finally, have the students fill in the blanks in the article from the facts they learned in the lesson. The answers are below.
In yesterday’s news, Jesus of Nazareth came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, even though Jesus is not a sinner! As soon as Jesus came up from the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, in the form of a dove, and it stayed on Him. Jesus had the added excitement of seeing Heaven opened. And then there was a voice, right from Heaven. It was the voice of God the Father. And He said that Jesus is His beloved Son, and that He was well pleased with Him. Stay tuned for more upcoming news of His public ministry.
(If they’d rather, the students could use their facts to create a television-type news report to act out in front of the class)
* Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: an Exposition of the Scriptures / Old Testament. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1983. Print.
Lisa DeVinney, January 2022