Writing a children’s sermon on John 6:35 & 41-51 is challenging the way much of John’s Gospel is challenging.
That’s the lectionary Gospel for “Proper 14(19)” in Year B. I wrote a meditation on it a while back that you can see here. It’s part of a five week journey through John 6 looking hard at Jesus’ teaching on himself as “the Bread of Life.”)
The challenge is that most of it is a long speech by Jesus. Wonderful stuff, theologically rich, inspiring — but a long speech without much action around it.
If you are a regular here, you know my preferred approach to children’s sermons is to tell a story. Usually I retell the Gospel narrative in a way that fills in some of the gaps, highlights some of the possible issues at stake, and feels light and maybe sometimes funny.
This week I’ll just be chatting with the kids. A children’s sermon on John 6:35 & 41-51 should aim to help them understand something central to the text. That’s another of my core commitments on the way to making a children’s sermon a children’s sermon.
You can let me know if you think this hits the mark or not.
A Children’s Sermon on John 6:35 & 41-51
Hello kids! I’m so glad you are here. Thanks for coming up for the children’s sermon.
The passage we read this morning from the Gospel is a little bit different than usual.
Usually, the Gospel has stories—stories about Jesus and his friends, or stories that Jesus told when he was with his friends.
Well today’s Gospel passage isn’t really a story. It’s part of a long speech Jesus gave. I want to talk to you about one thing Jesus was trying to help people understand in that long speech.
Why People Follow Jesus
One thing Jesus is explaining is why some people follow him, and some people don’t.
I wonder if you’ve ever thought about why some people are followers of Jesus.
The reason some people follow Jesus is not that they are better than other people, or smarter than other people, or anything like that.
It isn’t really even that someone convinced them that it was a good idea to follow Jesus.
You probably come to church and hear about Jesus because your parents or some other grown-up brings you. But eventually you’ll decide for yourself if you want to follow Jesus, like his friends Peter and John, and Mary and Martha.
Here’s what Jesus said:
No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me;
John 6:44 NRSV
People follow Jesus because God is doing something to make them want to be close to him. It isn’t so much our big decision. It’s God’s invitation inside our hearts.
I wonder if you feel like you want to be close to Jesus. If you don’t feel like it today, that doesn’t mean you never will. You might tomorrow, or next year, or when you are a grown up.
How does God draw us to follow Jesus? He talks about three ways in this passage of the Gospel.
When you start to want to be close to Jesus, it’s a lot like when you meet someone who seems like they could be a really good friend.
When you meet someone who seems fun, and who seems kind, you start to trust them. The word we use for that trust is “believing.” We believe that our new friend will treat us well and be good to be around.
That’s one of the words Jesus used for what we do when we belong to him. Jesus said, “believe in me.”
When God helps us see that Jesus is kind and good, that he’s reliable and treats us well, we start to believe in him.
Another thing that happens when God is starting to draw us to follow Jesus is that we feel something inside. It’s almost like being hungry. We want more and more of Jesus just like we want a great big sandwich at lunch time.
Jesus actually said that he’s kind of like the bread in that sandwich.
“I am the bread of life”, Jesus said. He said he was a special kind of bread that came down from heaven to fill us up.
That’s actually a very important idea: Jesus is like bread that fills us when we are hungry.
You hear about that whenever we have the Lord’s Supper in worship. The pastor holds up a loaf of bread and says words that Jesus said about bread: “This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat!”
When God draws you to want to belong to Jesus, we start to want more of him inside, just like we want bread when we’re hungry.
A third thing Jesus said about how God, his Father, draws us close to Jesus is simply that we come.
“Come to me!” Jesus said, in this passage and in other parts of the Gospels.
If we draw close to Jesus, if we come to him, then he feeds us inside.
The nice thing about Jesus saying we can come to him is that there are ways we can really do that.
Jesus says it helps if we try to learn from God, his Father. That’s part of why people come to Church, and Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School. And that’s why we read the Bible. We listen, and we watch, and we read, and inside we start to learn from God.
But even when we aren’t at church, there is a very good way to come to Jesus, to draw close to him. It’s called praying.
Any time you want, you can turn your attention to Jesus and talk to him. It can be in the morning when you wake up, or when you are out playing, or at bedtime–or any other time.
When you pray, you can tell Jesus anything you want to. You can tell him what you are grateful for. You can tell him what you are mad about. You can tell him what confuses you about your friends or your family. And Jesus always listens.
The more you come to him in prayer, the closer you’ll be.
- I wonder if you feel like Jesus is someone good, and kind, and fun to be with.
- I wonder if you ever feel like you want more of Jesus in your life, kind of like when you feel hungry.
- I wonder if you ever try to come close to Jesus by praying.
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But please, if you use it, do one (or more!) of the following.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
- You can put a little notice in your church bulletin that your children’s sermon is adapted from one published on GaryNealHansen.com.
- You can support my work over on Patreon. (Just $1 per month brings my children’s sermons straight to your inbox. And every little bit keeps me going…)