As with many passages, writing a children’s sermon on Matthew 4:1-11 is made challenging by the sheer amount of weighty detail, and the theological puzzles.
- Do I discuss all three temptations? Complicated.
- Do I try to explain the concept of temptation? Pretty vague.
- Do I discuss the paradox of God in the flesh experiencing temptation at all? Too confusing.
When I worked on my Monday Meditation for this passage, I was struck by how much of the conversation sounded like schoolyard taunting. That prompted me to think the relevant parallel in a child’s life might be bullying. After all, “temptation” and “trial” are closely aligned concepts, and what’s more trying for a child than being bullied? Here’s where I went with that…
Of course I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. And of course if you find it useful you can feel free to use it.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 4:1-11
I wonder if you have ever had to deal with a bully.
I did, when I was a kid. There were several of them, actually, who liked to make my life quite miserable.
In today’s story from the Gospel, Jesus faced a bully: he went out into the desert, and there was a bully waiting for him. The gospel calls that bully “the devil.”
You may have noticed that bullies do a couple of different things.
- Some bullies try to beat you up — they seem to enjoy being stronger and seeing you hurting.
- Some other bullies try to trick you so you get into trouble.
When Jesus faced a bully, the devil tried to do both of those things.
One time the bully tried to hurt Jesus’ body.
The devil took Jesus to the top of a big building and said “Jump off, Jesus! Prove that you are the Son of God.”
Well you know that nobody should jump off a big building. The bully was trying to get Jesus to jump off so that Jesus would get hurt when he hit the ground.
The devil also tried to get Jesus in trouble.
Three times, that bully told Jesus to do things that God had said not to do.
And three times, Jesus said,
No. I’m not going to do that. God said NOT to do that.
Each time Jesus quoted something from the Bible to prove that God didn’t want him to do what the bully had said.
Then Jesus said a surprising thing to the devil. Jesus stood up tall and said, very firmly,
And you know what? When Jesus told that bully
the Bible says the devil left.
I like the way Jesus told the bully to go away.
Sometimes that works in real life. One time when I was in grade school, I stood up to a bully — and after that he stopped bullying me.
- I wonder if you ever have to face a bully?
- I wonder how Jesus was strong enough inside himself to say “No!” when the bully wanted him to do the wrong thing?
- I wonder what would happen if you stood up tall and shouted “Bug off!” to someone who was bullying you?
- I wonder, if someone bullies you, how you could come close to Jesus for comfort?
- I wonder if Jesus is more able to comfort us since he was bullied too?
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