This series is a guide for the highs and lows of the Easter Season as we follow Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus was like us, experiencing the highs and lows of life. God was with Jesus the whole time, just as God is with us all of the time. In these lessons, we are encouraged toward awe in response to the grace of God’s constant presence with us, like a shepherd guiding us through this season and all seasons of our lives. God’s presence is intimate, like a counselor growing in relationship with us in our highs and lows and in-betweens and giving us tools to help us follow the best path for all the different terrain that we come upon.
Note to the Teacher
The keywords in this lesson are “acceptance,” “rejection,” and “steadfast.” One icebreaker invites youth to dance and clap along with one another through a lesson on African dance that uses the hands of a clock as a guide. Another icebreaker invites students to guess the time stuck to their forehead with clues from others. Both Icebreakers remind us that God is with us all day and all the time. We are never alone since God’s presence goes with us. The discussion invites students to think about the change in how Jesus was treated throughout his life and how God was always with him through the highs and lows, acceptance and rejection. God’s love remained steadfast even when things changed for Jesus. The activity allows youth to think about seeing themselves and others through a lens of steadfast or unconditional love like the love God has for us. Students will grow in awe of the grace of God’s presence and steadfast love as they continue through the stories of Easter in the next few weeks. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Icebreaker (5 minutes)
“Dancing Around the Clock” or “What Time Is It?”
If your group likes to move and clap, choose the high-tech option 1. If they are more of a seated group, choose the low-tech option 2. Either way, have some fun!
Option 1: High-Tech: “Dancing Around the Clock”
Since this series is about God’s presence with us all the time and we are never alone, do an internet search for “Dancing on the Clock” from the Kennedy Center and use that or something similar to watch or attempt to learn a shared dance together. If some don’t want to dance, ask them to encourage those who are dancing by clapping along to the rhythm. Encourage students by joining in yourself. For those who cannot dance, let them know that they can join in by encouraging those who are dancing.
After the dance, make sure that you let the youth know they did a great job. Acknowledge those who were brave to get up and dance in front of others and thank those who clapped along and offered additional rhythm for the dance! Remind youth that we dance around the clock because of the awesome grace that God is with us all the time! Way to go, everyone!
Option 2: Low Tech: “What Time is It?”
Ask the youth to guess the time stuck to their foreheads. Tell them to use one another’s clues as a reminder that God is with us all the time and we are never alone. Give everyone a sticky note with a time pre-written on it. Make sure they know not to look at the time but to stick it on their foreheads. Then, have them go around and talk to one another. Instruct them to give clues so that individuals can guess the time on their own forehead. If you need to, have a practice round, then switch times and try again.
For an additional challenge, see if the youth can get faster and faster at guessing their times or see if they can give one another clues without talking.
Have the times written out beforehand. Use common times like 7:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., or 10:00 p.m.– times that have common associations such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime, and so on. Tell the students that they cannot use their hands to show the time, but should describe what might be happening around that time of the day. Another creative option is to write words that have “time” in them, such as “bedtime” “game time,” “halftime,” and so on.
2. Read Scripture (10 minutes)
In our scripture reading today, the famous rabbi, healer, and teacher, Jesus, is headed to a big city for a festival. First he is accepted and welcomed by cheering crowds. Next, he is rejected, betrayed, tortured, and killed as the crowd watches. While you read, focus on three things: (1) How are these stories similar? (2) How are these stories different? (3) What connects both stories? Write down a list, keeping track of the similarities, differences, and connections as these two stories are read. Share your findings with one another after the reading, using the discussion questions below.
Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
3. Discussion (20 minutes)
- What makes these two stories about Jesus from Matthew similar?
- What makes these two stories about Jesus from Matthew different?
- What connects these two stories?
- What is one word for how you think Jesus felt during the first story from Matthew 21? Why did you choose that word?
- What is one word for how you think Jesus felt during the second story from Matthew 26? Why did you choose that word?
- In Matthew 21, Jesus is accepted. In Matthew 26, Jesus is rejected. Can you think of any stories from today’s news or instances at school where someone has gone from being accepted to rejected? How did that happen in those stories? Did the affected people ever get back to being accepted? How so? Have you ever gone from acceptance to rejection? (Share as much as you are comfortable with.)
- How do you think it feels to go from being accepted to being rejected?
- If we describe Jesus as “God’s Son,” how do you think God, the parent of Jesus, felt while Jesus was going through all of this?
Search for the words “rejected” and “chief cornerstone” using your favorite search engine. Then read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29.
- Read verse 22 from Psalm 118 again.
- From the results of your search, what do you think the word “rejected” means?
- From the results of your search, what do you think “chief cornerstone” means?
- Who is often referred to as the “chief cornerstone,” according to the internet search?
- Search for answers about why a “cornerstone is important to a building” and share your answers. (The answer should be something such as, “every other block or brick in a building will line up according to how the cornerstone is situated.”) Do you think that our church lines up well with the example that Christ set? Why or why not?
- Can you think of any other people, like Jesus, who were rejected in their own time and went on to start other great movements?
- How do you feel about people like Jesus who continue to lead, teach, and heal other people even though they have times of rejection in their lives?
- Do you think it helps for Jesus and others to be surrounded by steadfast love from God or others as they experience the highs and lows of life?
- How might it help a person to know that God’s steadfast (unfailing and unconditional) love is always with us through our highs and lows?
This week, we will continue to talk about the highs and lows that come up in our lives and in the life of Jesus. What do you think the Spirit of God is speaking into your life and heart as you hear about how the way that Jesus was treated changed throughout his life?
4. Activity and Discussion (15 minutes)
Take this lesson to the next level by making creative reminders to help one another remember that whether others see us through a lens of acceptance or rejection, God always sees us through a lens of steadfast love.
Just as 3D glasses help us see 3D movies properly, these glasses that we’ll design for one another can remind us to see ourselves and others through the lens of God’s unfailing or steadfast love. Students decorate and then cut out the paper glasses (click here to print copies of the templates for students ahead of time) for one another with words and images of encouragement. Encourage the youth to exchange the glasses they decorate. Introduce this activity by reminding students that they should design these glasses with the idea that they would help a person to see another person as God lovingly sees us.
Once everyone has finished, take a picture to help students remember that God is with us and we can learn to see ourselves and one another they way God sees us— through a lens of steadfast love. As you take the picture, have everyone say, “God always loves meeeeeeee.” Option: Post the picture on social media, have it printed and placed in the youth area, or give copies to students the following Sunday.
Discussion: Ask students to keep the glasses as they answer the following questions:
- What was your experience designing these glasses for someone else?
- If you were to look in a mirror with these glasses on, how do you think the glasses would help you see yourself this way–with unconditional love?
- Do you have to wear physical glasses like these to remember to practice unconditional or steadfast love for yourself and others?
- Is seeing yourself with unconditional love different from seeing others with unconditional love? How so? Which seems easier for you?
Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns or highs/lows from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total time: 50 minutes
- YouTube clip of the five-minute African dance around the clock (high-tech icebreaker, option 1)
- Computer with speakers or TV and space to try this dance!
- Sticky notes, pens, or markers (low-tech icebreaker, option 2)
- Printed copies of the paper eyeglasses and colored pens, colored pencils, markers, and so on.
- Bibles or smartphones to look up the scripture verses.
- Scrap paper and pens for students who like to take notes or doodle.