Our next section in our inductive study for kids through the Gospel of John is our biggest section yet! I feel like we are actually making progress…finally! The first section of the book of John is so foundational; not only to the book itself, but to the gospel message. No amount of review is too much in the foundational things if we want our children to know who Jesus is and why He matters. Thus, we have expended a LOT of energy on the first 18 verses of the book. We should be able to move a little quicker for the forseeable future.
Let’s get to it!
What else would you expect me to begin with other than review? We started our day by talking about the author of the Gospel of John and the man from God, John. We made sure we remembered what his job is – to be a witness, to testify about the Light. Then we talked about what he said about Jesus in verse 15.
Today we are going to talk about the testimony of John. A testimony is what a witness says when they testify about what they have seen, what they have heard, and what they know about something. (I wrote the word Testimony at the top of our chalkboard table)
Then we read verse 19:
This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
Do we already know the answer to this question? (Yes – John is a witness, he is supposed to testify about Jesus)
Ok, so we know who John is but the religious leaders from what town? (Jerusalem) want to know who John is. And who is John supposed to talk about? (Jesus) I wrote “Who are you?” on the table.
Let’s see what he said, verse 20:
And he confessed and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
What was John’s answer? (I am not the Christ) I wrote this on the table.
Who IS the Christ? (Jesus!)
They have more questions for John. Read the first part of verse 21:
And the asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”
Do you remember the books of the Old Testament? (they sang the books of the Old Testament song they know) Well Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament and we can read about him in 1 and 2 Kings. But in order to understand why they asked this question to John, we have to go back and read one of the prophets of the Old Testament, Malachi. We are going to talk about that later, but first let’s finish our list of questions.
What was the second question they asked John? (What then, Are you Elijah?)
And what was his response to this question? (I am not.) I wrote the question and the answer on the table.
Let’s read the rest of verse 21:
“Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
What was the third question they asked him? (Are you the prophet?)
And what was his response? (No!) He has a simple answer this question, doesn’t he? (I wrote the third question and answer on the table.)
Do you know what a prophet is? (No.) A prophet is a man of God who speaks the word of God to the people of God. Can you say that with me? (A prophet is a man of God who speaks the word of God to the people of God.)
God told these men what to say to His people and they told them. What they told God’s people was always true.
And God told one of His prophets, Daniel, that he would always tell His people what He planned to do through His prophets. Prophets told the future!
Can you tell the future? (No!) But God’s prophets could!
Why do you think God’s prophets could tell the future? (God told them!)
Yesterday, we heard the beginning of the testimony of John. The religious leaders in Jerusalem sent some men to John to ask him some questions. And we remember those questions and John’s answers, right?
Is John the Christ? (No!)
Is John Elijah? (No!)
Is John the prophet? (No!)
We know who John is already, don’t we? (he is a witness) And we know why he was here, right? (he was going to testify about the light)
Since the religious leaders needed an answer to this important question, John gives them an answer. And his answer is a bit odd for us, but it made good sense to them. Let’s look at it today.
Verses 22 and 23
They said then to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.
What did John say about himself? (I am a voice) I wrote this on the top of our chalkboard table.
What is a voice? (it is the thing that makes a sound when you talk and sing)
Can a person be a voice? (NO!)
But that is how John describes himself. He is merely a voice. Not even worthy of saying he is a man. Just a voice.
John, the voice, has something to say, doesn’t he? What is it that he has to say? (Make straight the way of the LORD.)
When I mark something a prophet has said in my Bible, I draw a megaphone. And what John has to say here is a quote from a prophet. Which prophet is John quoting? (Isaiah) I drew a megaphone on the table followed by the phrase make straight the way of the LORD.
Now there is something special about the way the letters are here in John’s gospel. Do you notice anything about the letters? (they are all capital letters)
That’s right. We call that “all caps.” And in the Bible,the words that are in all caps are a direct quote from the Old Testament. That means, the phrase “Make straight the way of the LORD” are the actual words Isaiah used in his writing.
Do you remember what a prophet is? (a man of God who speaks the word of God to the people of God)
Yes. And Isaiah was a prophet. See where it says that in this verse?
And do you remember I told you that a prophet can tell the future? (yes)
Well, Isaiah talked about John and Jesus! He said very specific things about John and Jesus. But he did it 500 years before John and Jesus were born!! Isn’t that amazing! God told Daniel that he would always tell His people what He was going to do. And He did through Isaiah – 500 years before Jesus!
Let’s look at what Isaiah said about John that John is quoting right here.
What does it mean to make something straight? What is the opposite of straight? (crooked! like there was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile!…)
And who is the LORD? (Jesus!)
So, the words of John (and Isaiah) are talking about Jesus coming. And he has instructions for the people who hear his voice. What are those instructions? (make straight the way) How do you make straight the way?
How do we prepare for someone to come to our house? (we clean!)
Yes, when we have someone coming to our house, we want to let them know we thought of them before they came over and we wanted them to feel comfortable in our house. This is in some small way, what John was saying. Get ready for the LORD!
Day 3 – Malachi talks about John
Alright, remember I said there was a reason these people sent from Jerusalem asked John these questions? We are going to look at some verses in Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) to see why they asked this question. Remember: Malachi is a prophet. What is a prophet? (a prophet is a man of God who speaks the word of God to the people of God)
Let’s look at Malachi 4:5-6.
“Behold I am going to send to you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD, and he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”
Who do you think is talking in this verse? (Malachi.) And Who is he speaking for? (God.) How do you know? (He is telling what is going to happen.)
Who does he say He is going to send? (Elijah) What does He call Elijah? (the prophet)
When is He going to send Elijah? (before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD)
And what will this Elijah do? (restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers) I drew a big heart person and a little heart person on the table.
What does it mean to restore? (giving full hearts)
Wonderful! I like that definition! But there is a little bit at the beginning of the word that gives it just a little bit more meaning. What does the prefix “re-” mean? We use it in words like remember and repeat. (thinking)
It means to do something again. So when we restore we give our full hearts AGAIN!
Why will he do this? (lest I come and smite the land with a curse)
Whoa! This is some serious future-telling! Do you see why the people sent from Jerusalem asked John these questions? (Yes!) They were looking to see if God’s prophecy was coming true. They wanted to know if what Malachi said at the end of the Old Testament was happening in John.
When we want to know more about something, we ask questions. The basic questions we ask begin with 5 Ws and an H. Can you think of these questions that start with 5 Ws and an H? (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
Yes! And what do each of these questions need at the end – what punctuation? (a question mark!) I asked my students to draw the question marks.
The answers we find when we ask questions that begin with these words will tell us SO much. The people who were sent from Jerusalem to find out about John had already asked one of these questions. What was it? (Who are you?)
And can you understand why they had so many questions? Do you have questions about this message from Malachi?
I DO? I need to know SO MUCH MORE! Like Who is Elijah? And is he the same as the prophet? And what is the great and terrible day of the LORD? What will happen on that day? Will I be alive when that happens? Did it already happen? Why does God say He will smite the land? And…and…and…
Just because we can read the words God spoke through Malachi, doesn’t mean we don’t have LOTS of questions. And the people who were sent to John had a lot of questions, too! They knew what Malachi said, but they still needed to know if this was it.
And now we are going to get a little preview of what question the people sent from Jerusalem asked next. Let’s read the next two verses in our John passage and you tell me when you hear one of our 5 Ws or the H. (I read verses 24 and 25) (WHY!!)
What is John doing that makes them ask Why? What does the verse say? (baptizing) I wrote baptizing at the top of the board.
We are going to find out all about this baptizing tomorrow.
NOTE: I am not sharing the passage in Matthew where Jesus calls John Elijah and explains more about who John is (Matthew 11) with my kids at this point. It is not that I am afraid of sharing what some may call a contradiction. I just don’t think it is necessary to the inductive study for kids through the Gospel of John. When we get to Matthew, Lord willing, we can tackle that.
Today we will look at another one of the 5 Ws and an H questions. A question which revealed their real reason for coming out to the wilderness to ask about John. Let’s look at verses 24 – 25.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. And they asked him, and they said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet.”
What is the W word that started their question to John? (Why.)
We know who John is not and we know who he is, right? (John is NOT the Christ, not Elijah and not the prophet but he is a witness)
Do you remember what John said about himself – what he was crying out? (I am a VOICE crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the LORD.)
What is it they say he is doing? (baptizing)
This is the reason they had been sent from Jerusalem to talk to John. He was baptizing people. This act made the religious leaders wonder who John is and why he was baptizing people. Let’s look at verses 26 and 27 to see what John had to say.
John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
What does John say he does? (baptizes)
Where or in what? (water) I drew a wavy line on the chalkboard table and wrote water and baptizing.
That is what he is doing that makes the people come out to ask about him, but what is John sent from God to do? (be a witness, testify about the light)
Do you remember when John said that He who comes after him has a higher rank than he because He existed before Me? Do you remember we drew John like this? (Yes!) I drew John as before, with arrow for arms, one pointing ahead and one pointing behind.
So when these people come from Jerusalem and ask these questions, is he going to talk about himself and what he is doing or is he going to talk about Jesus? Let’s see. Read the verse one more time.
It sounds like there are people gathered around John, right? I am going to draw some people and you can draw people in a few minutes, too. (I drew 3 people) And in the middle of these people was standing ONE. (I wrote ONE in the middle of the people)
We need to figure out who this ONE is. Let’s look at what John says about Him and make a list. (among, stands, He, comes after John, John is unworthy)
Do you remember when John said someone would come after Him that has a higher rank than him? Who is that? (Jesus)
Is he saying something similar here, too? (Yes!) So is he talking about Jesus again? (Yes!)
Now that we know he is talking about Jesus, we need to talk about what he says – this sandal thing. Back in Bible times, they didn’t wear sneakers and close-toed shoes, they only wore sandals. And they used straps to tie them up. And John lived out in the wilderness, which is kind of like our desert – sandy and dusty. They walked everywhere! What do you think happened to their feet as they walked out in the sand and the dust (they got dirty!)
Yes! And they had people who were servants, who had to take their dirty sandals off their feet and wash their dirty feet. (Eww!)
John is saying that he is not even worthy of being the servant of Jesus. Do you remember we made our V.I.P. lists? (Yes!) On John’s V.I.P. list Jesus would be right at the top. And John would consider himself to be at the very bottom. He is what we call: humble. He doesn’t think more highly of himself than he ought to.
One last thing. Let’s read the verse 28 to find out where John was saying this.
These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Where is this happening (Bethany beyond the Jordan)
The Jordan River flows down from the Sea of Galilee… (to the Dead Sea long in Judah, just east of Jerusalem) This is a song we learned in school this past year – so the kids LOVE singing it. As they sang, I drew a crude map of what the song describes.
Now if these people were sent from Jerusalem to Bethany beyond the Jordan, which way did they travel to see John? (East)
Do you think John was baptizing people in the Jordan River? (maybe!)
At the end of the lesson, I let the students draw what they were excited about from the lesson. They drew people and sandals and feet.
This week, we worked through the Bible study tools of listing and asking questions. We also did a LOT of review! I hope our conversations help you to teach your young ones.
A programming note:
We are about to take a short school break, so we won’t be doing our inductive study of the Gospel of John for a little while. We will be back around the beginning of July 2019. Thanks for being patient and following along!