Key Scriptures: Luke 1, Matthew 3, Mark 1, Mark 6:14-29, Matthew 14:1-2, Matthew 11:1-19, Isaiah 35:4-6
Guiding Question: What characteristics of John the Baptist do we need in our lives in order to effectively share our faith with others?
Optional Introductory Activity: Divide the students into teams. Give them three minutes to think of as many people as they can who use the fact that they look or dress differently to get people to listen to a message they think in important. You may want to provide copies of newspapers and magazines to help them. Have the students share their lists.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Today we going to study a man who not only was willing to act differently for God and be different from the people around him, but evidently he was willing to look a little different, too! Read Luke 1, Matthew 3 and Mark 1. What do we learn about John the Baptist from these chapters? What are some of the things that made John the Baptist stand out from the crowd? Usually when a crowd gathers around someone who is different, what is the crowd doing? Do you think some or all of the people went to the Jordan River to see John for the dame reasons? Why or why not? Although there were people who lived very austere lifestyles and ate somewhat strange foods, they were by far in the minority. (People still eat insects in many countries such as France and Asian countries Thailand).
How did John react when the people began to show up where he was? We don’t know for sure whether John dressed and acted that way as a way to draw people to hear his message or as a statement of how dedicated he was to serving God and sharing God’s message. Either way, it is obvious John took every opportunity to preach to anyone who would listen.
What was John’s message that he was preaching? How did the people react? Would you have the same courage and faith to live a lifestyle similar to that of John the Baptist? Why or why not? Do you think God wants us to look different, act differently, and speak out boldly for God or some combination? Can you come up with scriptures or examples from the Bible to support your viewpoint? What do you think it was about John the Baptist that gave him so much courage, faith and confidence? Can we tap into the same sources and be modern John the Baptists (okay, maybe without the bug eating!)?
We are not really sure how long John the Baptist preached in the desert region near the Jordan River before Jesus went to see and was baptized. How did John react when Jesus asked to be baptized? Why do you think John reacted that way? Do you think his confidence was shaken in any way because of this experience? Why or why not?
Evidently, John continued preaching after baptizing Jesus and it sounds like he became even bolder. Herod the tetrarch was the ruler of Judea under the Roman Empire. He considered himself a king, but was underneath Caesar. Herod was not known for being the most moral or the nicest guy.
John the Baptist was giving Herod a tough time for his behavior when Herod divorced his wife in order to make his brother’s wife his mistress. Read Mark 6:14-29 and Matthew 14:1-12 to see what happened.
John was so faithful and willing to stand up and be different for God that he got his head chopped off. Not really the happy ending fairy tales tell us to expect for the “good guys”. In fact, after John was placed in jail, he must have had a moment when even he wondered if being different for God was going to be worth what was probably about to happen to him (all of the Herod’s were pretty will known for being more than willing to kill anyone they felt was a treat). Read Matthew 11:1-19.
What was John’s question? Did Jesus get angry with John for having some doubts or questions? No, he merely encourages John by confirming he was doing what the Messiah was supposed to do. John would have been very familiar with Isaiah 35:4-6. By telling John he was fulfilling the prophecy, what was Jesus doing? We also know Jesus was not angry, because of what he taught about John right after speaking to John’s disciples. How did Jesus talk about John in this passage?
Do you think God gets angry when we sometimes have doubts about being willing to be different and stand out for Him? Why or why not? When would God get upset? Can you point to scriptures to back up your arguments? What are they?
Application Challenge: Take time and read the passages about John the Baptist in the Bible. Spend some time thinking about ways you can begin sharing about God with the people you meet – even if it makes you appear to be very different from most people.
Author: Thereasa Winnett