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Jesus and Cousin John

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JOHN, JESUS’ COUSIN

Scripture: Malachi 3:1; Mark 1:1-9, 14, 15; Luke 1:5–25, 57–66,76–80

Memory verse: Mark 1:3

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”

Lead—In

Display several kinds of advertising materials used to announce special events (radio, newspaper, and flyer).

Explain that whenever something special is going to happen, many people work in advance to tell others about it and to prepare the way for that event by taking care of details.

Now have the students pretend they are the advance team for a Christian musician (select one they know). Tell them they are to plan for the concert. List their ideas on the chalkboard. If they need ideas, ask these questions: Where will the musician and his band stay overnight? Where will they perform? Will they need special lighting and sound equipment? How far in advance should you advertise? What media will be used (radio, TV, or newspaper)?

After the students have listed all the arrangements, ask them these questions: Who will the audience remember when the concert is over? (The musician.)  Do people usually know the names of the advance team people who work hard to take care of the details for a concert? (No.) Is their job important? (Yes.)

Explain that the advance team’s goal is to put someone else in the spotlight. They do not expect to be famous themselves. They are glad when the concert goes well because that means they did their job. In fact, if they have done their job right, no one will notice them at all!

Tell the students that in this study they will learn about the advance man God sent to prepare the way for His Son Jesus to enter the scene. This man spent his adult life telling others about the Messiah.

Hearing God’s Word

We are going to look at the life of Jesus during this study. We will look especially for clues to Jesus’ lordship—what makes Jesus the Lord or ruler of our lives.

Were people surprised when Jesus came to earth? Was Jesus birth the big news story in Bethlehem? No. People did not expect Jesus to come to earth as He did. When Jesus started preaching, even the people from His own hometown did not believe He was the Son of God.

God’s Messengers—The Prophets

God had given His people many clues. God told them through the words of prophets that Jesus would be coming. (Write the word “prophet” on the chalkboard.)

Ask: “What is a prophet?” (Let the students respond.)

The prophets in the Bible were men and women God used when He wanted to give a message to His people. Some prophets brought good news, others bad news, but each prophet brought a specific message from God.

One of the last Bible prophets God spoke through about Jesus’ birth was Malachi. God gave him a message about Jesus’ coming 400 years before Jesus was born! (Ask a student to read Malachi 3:1.)

An important part of God’s message through Malachi was this: God would first send a messenger to “prepare the way” and announce the coming of the Lord, then God would send the Saviour. God was giving His people advance notice that a messenger would come to point the way to the Saviour.

God did not tell Malachi how many years it would be before Jesus would come. But God gave the people of the world 400 years to prepare their hearts and lives for Jesus’ coming—and they wasted it. They were still living in sin 400 years later.

The Birth of John the Baptist

At last the messenger came on the scene.

Ask: “Who was this messenger?” (Allow responses.)

He was John the Baptist. The Bible tells us about John’s birth. John’s parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth. Mary, Jesus’ mother was Elizabeth’s cousin. Zechariah and Elizabeth had never had any children and they were quite old. One day an angel appeared to Zechariah and told him Elizabeth would have a baby boy. The angel said, “Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16).* The angel even told Zechariah to name his child John.

*I note that you usually use NIVUK version. Is that your intention? If so, this is not an exact quote of Luke 1:16 NIVUK that says: “He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God”. If you use more than one version, you should indicate versions as they are used.

Zechariah should have been thrilled to be chosen as the father of God’s messenger. But what the angel said was so fantastic, Zachariah did not believe! What do you suppose happened then? (Ask a student to read Luke 1:19, 20.) The angel told Zechariah he would not be able to say a word until after John was born.

When the baby was eight days old, relatives and friends gathered. They assumed the parents would name the baby Zechariah, after his father. That was the custom of Jewish families.

Elizabeth made a startling announcement. She said the baby’s name would be John. The relatives and friends were confused, so they turned to Zechariah, wanting to know what he had to say. Zechariah could not talk, so he wrote on a tablet: “His name is John.”

Suddenly Zechariah could talk again. He started praising God! Malachi’s message about John was being fulfilled.

John Prepares the Way

When John grew up, he did just what the prophets had said he would do. He preached to the people that the Messiah, or Saviour, was coming soon and they should repent of their sins. Part of John’s message is our memory verse. He would say to the people, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Mark 1:3).

Ask: “What does that mean?” (Allow discussion. Then repeat the verse two or three times in unison.)

People from Jerusalem and all around the countryside went out to the wilderness to hear John preach. John was known for wearing clothing made of camel’s hair with a leather belt, and eating locusts and wild honey. Many people might have gone just to see the preacher with the weird clothes and strange eating habits, but many people believed God’s messenger and repented. Then John baptised them in the Jordan River. God had told him to baptize new believers as a sign to everyone that they had asked forgiveness for their sins. This act symbolized the beginning of a new, clean life. This is why people started calling him John the Baptist, which means “the baptizer.”

Since John the Baptist was giving the people a message from God, he was a prophet just like Malachi. People began calling themselves his followers. Some even thought he might be the Messiah God had promised.

John Gives Jesus First Place

Ask: “What if you were famous and well liked? Would it not be easy to believe you deserved to be in the spotlight?” (Allow some discussion.) Wouldn’t it be easy to forget that God gave you all your abilities?

John the Baptist never became selfish or envious of Jesus. He obeyed God and never forgot that God had given him a job to do. That job was to prepare the people to accept Jesus.

Let us turn to Mark 1:7 and read part of John’s message. (Ask a student to read the verse.)

Years ago many rich people had servants or slaves. Sometimes the servants had to do lowly tasks for their masters. Try to imagine yourself as a slave. Would you enjoy untying your master’s shoelaces? John told the people someone so great would come after him that John would not even be important enough to untie His sandals! John always kept in mind that Jesus is the important one.

When the time came for Jesus to start preaching, he went to the Jordan River to be baptised in water by John. Jesus was baptised as an example to all believers. (Explain that they will learn more about this event in a couple of weeks.)

John Fulfils His Purpose

Not long after Jesus’ baptism, King Herod had John the Baptist thrown into prison. Little by little the spotlight began to shift away from John toward Jesus.

King Herod ordered his executioner to cut off John’s head. John’s disciples heard about his death, so they took his body and buried it. Then they told Jesus about it. John’s death must have made Jesus sad, not only because they were cousins, but also because John had faithfully prepared the way for Jesus. Not once had he tried to gain popularity for himself.

When Jesus was ready to start His work among the people of Palestine, it was time for John the Baptist to step out of the way. John fulfilled his purpose. He was willing to do God’s will by letting Jesus be the important one. (Ask a volunteer to read John 3:30.)

Accepting God’s Word

God has a specific job of each of us. Most of us will not be as well-known or as popular as John the Baptist. But if we study God’s Word and pray each day, God will give us a place to fill—a job to do. We have to remember that God gives us our place and when God wants us to change places, we should do so willingly. Our lives are most rewarding when we keep the “attention” off ourselves and on Jesus.

Rugged Terrain

After driving 20 kilometers off the main road along the southern bank of the Wami River, Tanzania, we finally reached the targeted Doe village. Our driver’s expertise at the steering wheel had been taxed to the limit!

The entrance to the village is at the top of a hill. The primary school is located immediately on the left, and the road reflects the creativity and hard work of teachers and students. Trees planted on both sides of the road are linked together by beautiful flower beds. It seemed as if we were entering a small town. Civic pride was evident!

REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for Full Surrender

1. Doe to call out to God for salvation,
2. Accept Jesus as their Saviour,
3. Surrender totally, completely to the Lord.

Prayer Promise

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart...soul...mind...strength" (Mark 12:30).

Remember: JOHN, JESUS’ COUSIN

Memory verse: Mark 1:3

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”

1. Message of salvation must be proclaimed.
2. The focus must be on Jesus.
3.I will introduce Jesus to my friends.

Pray for the total surrender of the Doe tribe to Jesus.

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Study 2 | Will of God / Jesus is Lord | africaatts.org/go-teach

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