Following last week’s lesson, the box lid from a puzzle is an excellent object lesson to underscore the idea that we are trying to visualize what the whole picture mosaic of the Bible looks like. Once we know what this picture looks like, we will better understand the individual books of Scripture.
This week is a simple but essential lesson. Jesus said that the entirety of scripture can be “boiled down” to one rule: love God and your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). This is the fundamental message of the Bible, and every human interpretation must be measured against it. If we teach our children this message, they will intuitively understand that all of life is about love – loving others and being loved.
Last week we learned about Jesus’ birth, and that His life is recorded in the first four books of the New Testament. These books are called the Gospels. The word “Gospel” means “good news.” Jesus is God’s Son, and His birth into the world is God’s “good news” to us. In the book of John (the fourth Gospel), Jesus is called the “Word” (John 1:1-18). He is the “Word” that comes from God and teaches the world about the Father’s love.
We begin to understand the Father’s love by “watching” the way Jesus, His Word, lives and interacts with the people around Him. John says that Jesus was near to the “Father’s heart” and “full of unfailing love” (1:14, 18). Jesus explains the Father’s love through His own actions. He feeds the hungry, heals the sick, comforts the brokenhearted and protects the helpless. Jesus said of Himself, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9)
Jesus lives His message, but He also teaches with authority, as God’s Son. His teachings about God and the Old Testament Scriptures (the books in the Bible written before His birth) differ from many of the religious teachers of His day. Jesus claims that only His teachings can lead to a true understanding of God – this angers the religious leaders and eventually leads to Jesus’ death. These teachings are recorded in all four Gospels and instruct us how to love God and our neighbor. When we love our neighbor, we show our love for God. His most famous teaching is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” You will read some of it this coming week.
Note: All of the scriptural compilations I list in this blog are from the New Living Translation (NLT). I purposely left the verse numbers in the text so that your children would be familiar with the “look” of the Bible. Please explain to them that chapters and verses are a way of “breaking down” the Bible into smaller reading sections. Also, the “Notes” are for your understanding – you can choose to share them with your children if you wish.
It’s also a good practice, with each reading, to have your children recite, in order, the biblical books as they learn them. This will help them gain confidence in “handling” the Bible.
Day #1 – Matthew 5:1-12
[Note: The following passage is from The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew, chapters five through seven.]
1 One day as he [Jesus] saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples [followers] gathered around him,2 and he began to teach them.
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice [the right actions],
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.
Day #2 – Matthew 6:1-13
[Note: The following passage is also from The Sermon on the Mount.]
1 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites [people who say one thing but do another] do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues [a place of worship, like Church] and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation [the desire to do the wrong thing],
but rescue us from the evil one.
Day #3 – John 14:9-14
[Note: In the passage below, Jesus is speaking with one of His followers named Philip. Philip is confused and wants Jesus to show him His Father – God.]
9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.
12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!
Day #4 – Matthew 22:37-40
34 …the Pharisees [religious leaders]… met together to question him [Jesus] again.35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question:36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses [teachings in the Old Testament]?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets [more teachers in the Old Testament] are based on these two commandments.”