Key Scriptures: Mark 4:1-34, Luke 24:13-35, Proverbs 3:1-35, 1 Corinthians 13:1, Luke 2:19, Romans 8:5-6, Philippians 4:8, Colossians 3:1-2, Psalm 19:14, 2 Corinthians 10:5, 2 Timothy 2:7, Proverbs 15:28, Psalm 104:34, 1 Peter 1:13, Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 119:15, Isaiah 26:3, James 1:19, Mark 7:21-22
Guiding Question: What does it mean to reflect on God’s words, and is it something we should be doing regularly?
Introductory Activity: Explain to students that the standard way to practice meditation is to make your mind absolutely empty. Tell students you want them to try it for 2 minutes. Remind them, they are to think of nothing. If a thought comes into their head, they need to stop it. (There is no need to go into the tie between some Eastern religions and meditation.) After two minutes, ask students what they thought about that type of meditation and how difficult it was to make their minds totally empty for that amount of time. Explain that the Bible talks about using meditation in a different way. Instead of making the mind a total blank, biblical meditation revolves around thinking about a specific verse or passage of scripture. Write the verse “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4) where students can see it. Tell them this time they are to think about this verse during their time of meditation. After two minutes, ask them to share some of the thoughts they had during their meditation time on this verse. What added value could meditation have if focused on a scripture, versus “nothingness”?
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read Mark 4:1-34. This passage contains several parables…what is a parable? What purpose did parables serve? How obvious are the meanings to these parables? Jesus explained two of the parables, but didn’t really give an explanation of the other two…why do you think that was?
We don’t know all of the reasons why Jesus chose to explain some parables and not others. We know some of them, Jesus chose to explain only to his Apostles. Perhaps, he wanted to make sure they understood those particular parables correctly. At other times, Jesus made it clear that at least some of the parables would be clear to those who believed and not clear to those who refused to see the truth. Even when Jesus explained them to the Apostles, however, they still seemed a bit confused at times.
It’s quite possible that Jesus told parables because he wanted people to think about not only the meaning of the parable, but what impact that meaning should have on their lives. One of the reasons oral history is told in story form is that stories are often easier to remember than a list of facts. Jesus perhaps, was taking advantage of the fact that parables and their lessons would be easier for the people to remember once he went back to Heaven and until the first books of the New Testament were written down.
But Jesus probably hoped that the people would go beyond just remembering the details of the parables. They would spend time thinking about them and pondering what they should do in light of the meaning of the story. It also made it easier for them to tell other people and their own children the things God wanted them to know.
Meditation didn’t begin with the parables. Many scholars believe the first time meditation on God’s words was mentioned was in Genesis. In Genesis 24:63, it tells us Isaac went out in the field one evening to meditate. The Psalms also contain several references to meditation. Read Psalm 19:14, 104:34 and 119:15. What do these verses tell us about the way the writer(s) of these Psalms practiced meditation?
Read Proverbs 3:1-8. Although these verses don’t use the word “meditation”, what are some ideas that align with the idea of meditating on God’s words? There are a couple of passages in the Gospels that again don’t use the word “meditation” but depict a process that is similar to the meditation we are describing. Read Luke 2:19 and 24:13-35. What did these people do that is similar to meditation?
Notice it says that Mary pondered all of the things she was experiencing in her heart. Pondering is more than just giving it a passing thought once. It implies that she thought about these things multiple times – attempting to understand the full impact of what was happening. In fact, since Luke was a careful historian, it is quite possible he only knew this because Mary herself shared how she had felt at the time. No one knows for sure how many of the stories in the Gospel – especially those of the birth and early life of Jesus – came directly from Mary (it is thought Joseph died before Jesus was an adult).
The men on the road to Emmaus, demonstrated a slightly different form of meditation. They weren’t quietly thinking personal thoughts, but they were discussing what had happened and what it might mean as they walked along the road. They were reflecting – another way to describe a type of meditation – on what had just happened. Jesus came along and explained everything to them. Today, we might pull out the Bible and read his words instead.
The New Testament actually contains several passages where the writers discuss the need for Christians to meditate on various things without using those exact words. Read Romans 8:5-6, Philippians 4:6-8, Colossians 3:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:5, 2 Timothy 2:7, 1 Peter 1:13, James 1:19 and Mark 7:21-22. In each passage, what words indicate a type of meditation? On what does the passage say we should be meditating? What reason (if given) or benefit might there be to meditating in that way?
Did you notice there were slightly different purposes for meditation? Some passages want us to meditate on God’s commands and precepts (general principles meant to guide behavior and thought). Perhaps this type of meditation is to make sure we know these so well, it is easy to make choices based on them. But meditation on these things can also be used to help us control our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors and ultimately, our hearts. Regular meditation means God and His words are always in our thoughts….guiding us.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Since meditation is not a common practice in our world (although some might claim the term “mindfulness” used in education is the same – it’s really a bit different), your Bible students will need help in developing practical ways for them to meditate on God’s words.
The most difficult part of meditation or reflection for many of your students will be the ability to focus on God’s words and what they mean for their lives for even several minutes. They may struggle almost as much as they would in standard meditation when one has to keep a blank mind. It can be helpful to give them some ideas that will help them stay focused on God’s words for long enough to get some benefit from them.
Let students experiment with some of these ideas in class and when applicable give them materials to continue their meditation or reflection at home in the ways that seemed to work best for them. For most, if not all, this will also be a new habit they need to establish. Giving them tips, ideas and encouragement can make it more likely this will become a habit – a spiritual discipline – for their entire life.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Scripture coloring pages
- Bible journaling in a wide margin Bible or notebook
- Creating scripture art
- Scripture shawl (knitting a shawl or scarf for someone while meditating on specific verses)
- Memorizing the verse(s)
- Refer to it on their Bible app multiple times during the day
- Rewriting the verse in their own words
- Writing a children’s book based on the verse or passage
- Draw a scripture map showing other scriptures and stories to which the verse or passage connects
- Pray the verse or passage
- Think about all of the ways the verse or passage could or should apply to life
- Think about what change or changes need to be made to better obey the command or precept in the verse
- Think about how the world would change if everyone obeyed the command or precept in the text
- Think about how this verse or passage could be explained to others so they would be interested in obeying it or at least learning more about God
It’s important to note that for many students deciding the verse or passage on which to meditate can be a stumbling block. There are some creative ways to help.
- Encourage them to use the Bible verse of the day as the scripture on which to meditate
- Let the class work together to create a month’s worth of suggestions with a different verse each day
- Pick a book of the Bible, like Proverbs. Encourage students to read a chapter each day and then post or text a verse they want to meditate on for either that day or the next day
- Text students a verse for them to meditate on each day
Application Challenge: Read the scriptures from the lesson. Choose one of the verses from the study to meditate on each day this week. What works best for you when you try to meditate on scripture…time of day, location, lighting, noise level, activity, verses, etc. Experiment until you find the conditions that help you have the most productive time meditating on God’s words.