Band of Puzzlers

Face to Face with Jesus

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

The gospel writers love these stories—stories where Jesus gets the better of those who seek to outsmart him appear in all the gospels. But a key to the stories is that Jesus always engages.

Note to the Teacher

The key concepts in this lesson are “puzzling questions” and “loving answers that point toward freedom.” One icebreaker is “for the birds.” It is like some of Jesus’ interactions with religious and political authorities. Another icebreaker invites youth to figure out some riddles just like Jesus answered a riddle in our scripture reading. The discussion invites students to think about the interactions of Jesus with those who questioned him and draws attention to one of Jesus’ habits: shining a spotlight on those who were marginalized in religious conversations. The activity allows youth to think about religious conversations and how we can make them more loving and liberating. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker (10 minutes):

"For the Birds” or “Password, with Riddles”

If you’re feeling in the mood for something animated, choose the high-tech option 1. If you’re wanting a little more interaction, choose the low-tech option 2.

Option 1: High-Tech - “For the Birds”

Say something like: “In the scripture reading today, Jesus getting picked on by his colleagues, even though they could have been working together. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 to look at the birds to tell us what life is like. So, let’s observe some birds as they show us what happens when we can’t figure out how to work together peacefully.” See Pixar - For The Birds | Original Movie from Pixar.

Ask: “What could the birds have done better?”

Say: “Now, let’s look at a similar situation between Jesus and some colleagues.”

Option 2: Low Tech

“Password, but with Riddles”

Say: “The goal of this game is for the guesser to guess an answer to a riddle based on one-word clues from teammates. (You can also just choose to let the group try to figure out the riddles instead of playing the game.)

Split into two teams. Each team chooses one guesser per round. The two guessers go somewhere they can’t hear. Then, teams decide on their answer(s) to the riddles below. Once both teams have decided on their answers to the riddle, bring the two chosen guessers for that round back. Each team then gets one word per turn to try to get their guesser to answer the riddle. If the guesser doesn’t get it in three rounds, the guesser gets a chance to hear and answer the riddle.

Riddles and answers (You can skip the game element and just ask these riddles):

  • What has a face and two hands but no arms or legs? (Clock)
  • What is orange and sounds like a parrot? (Carrot)
  • Two children are born on the same day by the same parents, but they are not twins. How is that possible? (Triplets)
  • What can travel around the globe, but stay in a corner the whole time? (Stamp)
  • You can hold me in your hand and yet I can fill the entire room. (Light bulb)

Scoring (scorekeeper keeps this a secret until the end of the game):

  • 3 points: team gets the answer to the riddle AND the guesser gets the word
  • 2 points: the guesser doesn’t guess the team’s word, BUT gets the riddle correct
  • 1 point: the guesser guesses the team’s word correctly, BUT the team’s answer to the riddle is incorrect
  • 1 point: the guesser doesn’t get the team’s word or the riddle correct

The scorekeeper gives random added points to both groups for style and laughter, kindness, and helping. Don’t tell the teams about the extra points until the final scores are given.

Get teams to give each other fun points, too, in the end.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

In our scripture reading today, the famous religious teacher, Jesus, is still out and about, and some religious leaders ask him a puzzling question. They seem to want to prove themselves by asking a tricky question. Jesus assumes the best of them, answers their question, and points out a societal issue behind the question. Jesus makes the point that people aren’t to be property.

Read Luke 20:27-38.

3. Discussion (20 minutes)

  • Do you know any riddles? How do you feel when trying to solve a riddle? Interested? Annoyed? Something else?
  • What's the purpose of a riddle or tricky question?
  • Jesus was a rabbi, a religious teacher. Sadducees were also religious leaders. Why do you think one religious leader would ask another leader a riddle or tricky question?
  • If you could ask Jesus a hard question, what would be?
  • If you were Jesus in this situation, how would you feel if you knew that fellow religious leaders were going to approach you with a puzzling question about scripture?
  • How would you rephrase Jesus’ answer to their question in your own words?
  • Jesus mentions that people don’t own other people in verses 34-35. How do you think women, slaves, or others who were considered property at that time felt listening to this conversation where Jesus acknowledges their freedom?
  • Are there still times or places today where people are treated like property? Is there anything we (our church) could do about that?

Pick a few paragraphs to read from Job 38-39. These are words God speaks to someone named Job who was asking God a lot of questions he heard from his friends and wondered as he was suffering. Then read the end of God’s conversation with Job and Job’s short response in Job 40:1-5.

  • Does it sound like God has a sense of humor to you based on God’s words in this small section of scripture?
  • How is the conversation between Job and God similar to the one between the Sadducees and Jesus?
  • What is God’s attitude and what is Job’s attitude in what you read?
  • Do you think God ever changes God’s mind? Are there other stories you can think of when someone speaks or argues with God from scripture?
  • What questions do you have for God? Do you think God would care to answer your questions? Why?

Last week, we talked about Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. This week, we talked about the encounter Jesus had with fellow religious leaders as well as Job’s encounter with God. What do you think the Holy Spirit is stirring up in your mind and heart as you hear about these interactions between Jesus, God, and people.? (Hint: God speaking to you or leading you doesn’t have to be audible, verbal, or physical. It can be the thoughts you have and the gut feelings you get or words from someone else.)

4. Activity and Discussion (15 minutes)

Check out this icon by Kelly Latimore of James Baldwin, author, friend, and civil rights activist:

James Baldwin said, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving.”

  • Do you think the question that Jesus answered came from a loving or free place? Do you think Jesus was loving in his answer?
  • Have you ever been questioned in an unloving way? How did that make you feel? How did you react? Would you have reacted differently if the questions/questioning had been phrased in a more caring way?
  • Can you think of a time when you asked a question in a way that wasn’t loving? If you’re willing to share, how did that go?
  • Can you think of a time when you argued about God and regretted how you did it or a time when you were talking about God with someone, and your feelings were hurt or you felt insulted or put down?
  • Why does it matter that we ask questions or talk about God with love and freedom and the big picture in mind?

Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total Time: 50 minutes


  • YouTube clips of "For the Birds” by Pixar (high tech option)
  • Computer with speakers or TV
  • A way to view "James Baldwin” icon from
  • (optional for next level activity/discussion)
  • Phone, computer, or prints of images prepared beforehand if needed. (One of the students can look it up if you don’t have a smartphone and the student does.)

In This Series...

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Reign of Christ, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes