This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, so I bring you a children’s sermon on Luke 4:1-13, the temptation of Christ.
I love the story, and hope you’ll read my Monday Meditation on it here from a while back. It’s one of those texts where the details contradict every point I think I recollect about it. It’s richly complex text–but a children’s sermon needs to be simple.
I wonder if some background basics might be what kids really need here. Hmm… I’ll try to focus on the basic story, and the issues that drive it. Maybe that can keep my children’s sermon on Luke 4:1-13 on target.
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A Children’s Sermon on Luke 4:1-13
Good morning kids! Welcome. I’m so glad you are here today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Today we are in a whole new season of the church year. This is the first Sunday of Lent. For 40 days (plus six Sundays) we do things to get ready to celebrate the most important thing Jesus did to bring us back to God.
Lent is about getting ready for Easter Sunday when Jesus rose up from the grave to give us new life.
So how do we get ready to celebrate the amazing gift of Easter?
Around the world, the most traditional thing Christians do in Lent is called “fasting.” Fasting is when you give up eating certain foods for a while. For 40 days, we fast to remind ourselves to draw close to God in prayer, and try extra hard to live God’s way.
Today’s story from the Bible is about a time when Jesus himself fasted for 40 days.
Here’s what happened.
Baptized in the Jordan
When Jesus was growing up, he knew he had important work to do. When he was about 30 years old, he knew it was time to start.
The first thing he did was to go out to the River Jordan. His cousin John baptized him, and the Holy Spirit came down from heaven to be with him. He actually saw the Spirit come down like a dove. It landed right on his shoulder.
Then afterward, Jesus started to walk home to Nazareth.
But the Spirit whispered in his ear, “No, Jesus. Don’t go home. Not yet.”
Jesus said, “Why not? I’m done getting baptized!”
“That’s true,” said the Holy Spirit. “But you’re not done getting ready for your Great Work.”
“My ‘Great Work?'” asked Jesus.
“You know,” said the Spirit. “You’ll be telling everyone about God’s Kingdom. Showing what it means belong in God’s Kingdom. Inviting everyone to come along and be part of God’s Kingdom. You need to get ready.”
“I see,” said Jesus to the Spirit, who still sat on his shoulder looking for all the world like a beautiful dove.
“What do you think I need to do to get ready?”
Out to the Desert
“Three things,” said the Spirit into Jesus’ ear. “First, follow me!”
And with that, the dove took off and flew away from the river, and away from the road. It flew a little way toward the desert, and then it landed on a bush.
So Jesus followed. But when Jesus got close to where the dove had landed, it cried out again, “Follow me!” and took off, flying a bit farther away. And then farther away. Then farther away again.
When Jesus was finally just where the Spirit wanted him, the dove hopped back onto Jesus’ shoulder. Jesus looked around.
“Wow!” he said. “You led me way out into the desert.”
“That’s right,” said the Spirit. “Coming to the desert alone is the first way to get ready for your Great Work.”
“But what am I supposed to do out here?” Jesus asked.
“I suggest you pray,” said the Spirit. “The more time you spend alone with God, the more ready you’ll be.”
“But shouldn’t I be getting back to town?” asked Jesus. “It’s dinner time and I missed lunch. My tummy is rumbling.”
“No,” said the Spirit. “You need to stay.”
“How long?” asked Jesus.
“Forty days,” said the Spirit.
“But that’s over a month!” said Jesus. “And I didn’t bring any food!”
“That’s good,” said the Spirit. “You’re not supposed to have food.”
“That sounds kind of crazy,” said Jesus.
“It’s called fasting,” said the Spirit. “Fasting means giving up certain kinds of food for a certain amount of time.”
“But I don’t have any food at all!” said Jesus,
“You’re special,” said the Spirit. “You’re going to fast from all food.”
“What’s so great about being hungry?” Jesus asked.
Being hungry will remind you to pray,” said the Spirit.
Being hungry will show you that you need to depend on God.
Being hungry will show you that you are in charge of your body–and your body is not in charge of you.”
‘Hmm…” said Jesus. “So praying and fasting will help me get ready. But you said there were three things. What else?”
“Right,” said the Spirit. “The devil is going to join you here in the desert. He’s going to bring you a whole bunch of temptations.”
“Temptations?” asked Jesus. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, this and that,” said the Spirit. “Things that seem really really good, but are actually bad. Things that you’d really want to do, but that you sort of know are really dangerous. It’s actually going to be really hard.”
“That sounds terrible!” said Jesus, “Why do I have to have temptations?”
“Well,” said the Spirit, “think of it as training, If you were training for a sport you would do hard things. You would do exercises, and lift weights, and run miles and miles to get strong. Facing temptations will make you strong.”
And that’s where the Spirit left Jesus, for 40 long days.
- I wonder if you’ve ever gone somewhere alone to spend time praying?
- I wonder if your family has ever participated in a fast during Lent?
- I wonder if you’ve ever gotten stronger by facing hard things?
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