Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
New Testament Women of Faith
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Author’s Notes: This week we’ll begin a new series of lessons on New Testament Women of Faith. And we’ll begin right at the beginning…with Jesus’ mother, Mary. She’s the first woman mentioned in the New Testament, after the genealogy of Christ was recorded. And we’ll see that Mary is an excellent example of what God can and will do when, in faith, we submit our own plans and dreams to His perfect will.
Coloring Page for Young Visitors
Have any of you thought about what your lives might be like when you grow up? Do you want to get married some day? Have children? What sort of job do you think you’d like to have? (allow the students to share their dreams of the future with the class)
Sometimes we have dreams for the future because God puts them in our hearts so we’ll move forward in the direction He has for us. But when our dreams don’t match His, sometimes He’ll come along and do something special in our lives to change our dreams, and our lives. And when He does, it’s always for the best. Only God knows for sure what He has created us to become. It’s our job, as we grow up, to look for His leading, and ask Him what He wants us to do.
Our lesson, today, is about a young lady who had plans and dreams for her own life. She even knew, already, who she was going to marry. But though she was living a life that was pleasing God, His plans for her were very different than what she ever could have imagined.
When God sent an angel to tell this young woman about His plans for her, she could have rejected His plan, so she could move ahead with her own. But instead, this young lady named Mary listened carefully to what the angel told her, and humbly accepted the Lord’s plan for her. How was she able to do that? It required a lot of faith! And with that faith, she was able to continue living a life that was pleasing to God. It would be a very different life than the one she had probably ever imagined. But it would be a life blessed by God.
We’ll look closer at the faith of Mary, in just a moment. But first, let’s learn today’s memory verse. It reminds us that the only way to live a life pleasing to the Lord is to live in faith, as we’ll see Mary did. Let’s learn our verse together.
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.)
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Faith of Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Luke 1, 2)
A young woman named Mary already had her future planned out. She lived in the town of Nazareth, and was engaged to a wonderful man named Joseph. Before long, they would be married, and raising a family of their own. At least, that’s what Mary thought. After all, it’s what all the young women in her town did. And why should her life be any different?
But what Mary didn’t know was that the Lord had very special plans for her – plans that might seem, for a time, to put her own dreams in danger of never coming true. How would she handle this potentially life-shattering news? Let’s find out.
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
What unexpected visitor was sent by God to talk to Mary? God sent the angel Gabriel to talk to her. This was the same angel who’d been sent to talk to Daniel in Old Testament times. God used Gabriel to deliver very special messages. And this was probably the most important message He ever delivered!
So, how did Mary respond to an angel standing before her and talking to her? She was afraid! She had probably heard of men and women long ago who had seen angels. But she’d probably had never personally known anyone who’d ever seen an angel. So the first thing Gabriel did was reassure Mary that she had nothing to fear.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
Had Gabriel come to deliver good news or bad news? It was good news! Gabriel told Mary that she had found favor with God. That means she’d been living a life that was pleasing God. And because of that, God had chosen Mary for a very special job. It was something that would change her life, forever; and make her a very important part of history. But it would not come without a price. It would mean exchanging her own plans for God’s.
Here’s what God had in mind:
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Wow! That was some pretty incredible news. God had chosen Mary to be the mother of a son; but not just any son. This baby boy would be named Jesus. He would be a King, inheriting the throne of David. And He would be the Son of the Highest. This was going to be a very special baby!
But Mary recognized right away that there was just one problem… a big one:
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Remember, Mary was engaged to Joseph. But they were not yet married. So she didn’t understand how she would have a baby when there was no father. But God had a plan for that, too.
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Gabriel had just delivered a message to Mary from God, Himself. It was full of great wonder and blessing! She had been specially chosen, by God, to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. Somehow God’s own Spirit would make it happen. And not only that, but Gabriel said Mary’s cousin Elisabeth, who had never been able to have children, and was now passed child-bearing age, was going to have a baby, too.
On one hand this was all very exciting news. But what about Joseph? What would he think of Mary having a baby that wasn’t his? What would other people think? They might wonder who the baby’s father was. Or they might say bad things about Mary and Joseph having a baby before they were married. It would be so hard to explain all this to others. And would others really believe that an angel had personally come to talk to Mary? And that her baby had no earthly father?
Mary’s life would never be the same, again, once people found out she was going to have this baby. So she had to decide: would she trust God to be doing what was best for her? Would she trust Him to take care of all the details? To take care of her?
This is where Mary’s faith came in. There was no way for her to foresee how her life would turn out if she agreed to follow through with God’s plan. She would simply have to put all her faith in Him, and His ability to work all things for good. She would have to believe that what Gabriel had said really was a message from God. And that He would make it all happen, just as He said.
We don’t really know how long Mary thought about this message from Gabriel. We don’t know if there was ever even a moment of doubt. What we do know is how Mary responded to Gabriel’s announcement. Let’s read her humble response.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Gabriel had said that Mary found favor with God. What does our memory verse tell us Mary must have had in order to please God? Mary must have had faith! That’s what helped her consider all the possibilities that could come from agreeing to God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus, and still say “yes!” Mary must have believed that God loved her so much that He would never do anything to harm her. And that He would work out all the difficult details that might lay ahead for her.
Now, that doesn’t mean that life as the mother of Jesus would always be easy. Mary would need to hold on tightly to that faith throughout her life. There would come a time when, at the age of 12, Jesus would stay behind in Jerusalem, as the family left a feast there to return home. Mary’s faith must have helped her trust that, although she and Joseph were quite concerned about where Jesus was, God would take care of things. In fact, Luke 2 gives a little idea how she felt at that time.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
These verses make it clear that Mary and Joseph didn’t really understand why Jesus chose to stay behind. But rather than continue to be upset about it, Mary simply trusted God to take care of them, and tucked Jesus’ words deep into her heart.
And when Jesus was 30, and began His public ministry, it was His mother Mary who encouraged others to follow Jesus’ instructions as He performed His first miracle – turning water into wine. She firmly believed He was the Messiah, as Gabriel had told her. And she wanted to encourage others to put their faith in Him, too.
Then, as Jesus hung on a cross, Mary was still there with Him. She probably felt like her life was in danger, too. But she continued to trust God to take care of her then, too, as she stayed close by her Son. And taking care of His mother is just what Jesus did, as He asked His disciple John to take Mary as his own mother from that moment on.
God certainly knew what He was doing in choosing Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Over and over again, she demonstrated her faith in God. And in doing so, lived a life that pleased Him.
Do you think someone could say the same thing about you? If an angel were to come and visit you, today, would his message be that you have found favor with God? What do we need to do in order for God to feel that way about us? How does our verse say we can please God? We have to have faith! Because “without faith, it’s impossible to please Him.”
And what does the rest of our memory verse tell us about what sort of faith God is looking for? Does He just want us to believe that He exists? Or is there more? Hebrews 11:6 tells us that we must first believe that “He is.” So yes, we need to believe that He exists. But more than that, we need to believe that He is EVERYTHING that He says He is. He is our Creator, our Lord, and our Savior. And He’ll one day be our Judge.
Then, our verse says we need to believe that “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” There are two things we must not miss, here. First, we can completely place our trust in God because He has promised to reward us for our faithful service to Him. If we really believe that God will follow through on that promise, then we’ll be working hard to live faithfully for Him.
And the second part is this: His promise isn’t for those who take service to Him lightly. It isn’t for those who just try to do the right thing now and then, hoping it’s enough to make God happy for a while. No! God says that faith that is pleasing to Him will lead us to “diligently” seek Him. That means we’re doing all that we can to find out what God wants us to do, and we’re doing it… believing that God will be pleased with our service to Him.
Having someone say of us that we have found favor with God is not out of our reach for any of us. God is pleased with us when we demonstrate our faith in Him by living obedient, faithful lives. Sometimes that might mean turning our own plans over to Him, and taking His instead. But when that happens, we can be certain that, like Mary, we can trust that God’s plan will be best.
Let’s all make a special effort this week to live lives of faith, letting our obedience to Him demonstrate how much we love and trust Him.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Mary, and the way she pleased You through her willingness, by faith, to give up her own plans to live out Yours. Help us to have that same faith that is pleasing to You. And to live out that faith by lives of obedient service to You. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
As we close today’s lesson, let’s put ourselves in Mary’s place for a moment. But we’re going to make it a little closer to our own experiences. Let’s make a list of things we think we would like to have or be most. (You may need to make some suggestions to get them started. Perhaps some special toy, or a new friend, or new pet. Or maybe something as simple as a favorite thing to eat.) Write those things on the list below.
Now, think about each of the things on this list. What if God were to let you know that those things are not what He has planned for you. But that He has something else in mind. Would you be willing to give up those things on your list, and trust that if God wants you to give them up, that He has something even better in mind for you? Carefully consider each thing on your list. And if you trust God enough to give that thing up for Him, if He asks, then put a star next to it. Then thank Him for providing whatever He thinks is best. That’s exactly what Mary did as she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)