Sometimes what we see as ordinary is actually extraordinary. When we can see that ordinary thing or person in a new way, we discover there is much more than meets the eye. In many ways, Jesus was ordinary. He was an average human being living an average life. While he began teaching, preaching and even healing, many still did not see his divinity. But when he is transfigured on the mountainside, his closest disciples see he is indeed Emmanuel, “God with us.” In this lesson, children will explore the transfiguration story (Matthew 17:1-9) and will consider how the image of God might within them might shine for the whole world to see.
You will need:
- A Bible
- A computer with internet access connected to a data projector or a television (optional)
- YouTube video “Amazing Plants” (optional)
- Copies of paper people templates, scissors, markers, colored tissue paper and contact paper (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children what the difference is between ordinary and extraordinary. Note that while the two words sound very similar, they are quite different. We usually say something is ordinary when it is common, boring, or something we see all the time. Extraordinary things are those which are uncommon, exciting or unusual.
List several things asking the children to classify them as either ordinary or extraordinary. You can create your own list or you can use these suggestions: school, pizza with a cake on top of it,
a tree, a rock, a vacation to somewhere you have never been before, a banana, your best friend. Discuss differences in the children’s opinions.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 17:1-9):
- This reading comes from the New Testament gospel of Matthew.
- The story takes place after Jesus has spent time preaching and teaching along the shores of Galilee. (If you have been following the lectionary readings over the last several weeks, remind the children that you are referring to the Sermon on the Mount.) He has also been healing people. Many people are interested in what Jesus is doing and they see God in his actions, but they aren’t sure exactly who he is and how he has these abilities.
- As Jesus is teaching, some of the religious leaders at the time begin pushing back. He is offering a different, more open message than what they have offered. They begin asking him questions in front of others to see how he will respond.
- This story takes place after Jesus has had one of these conversations.
- Tell the children that two Old Testament figures will be mentioned in this reading: Elijah and Moses. Ask the children what they know about these people. Share a brief overview of Elijah and Moses’ importance in the Bible.
- Explain that this story is often referred to as “the transfiguration of Jesus.” Transfiguration means “to change form.”
Read aloud Matthew 17:1-9.
After reading, ask:
- Describe what happens on the mountain.
- When you imagine this event happening what do you picture?
- What do the disciples discover about Jesus on the mountaintop?
- How is the Jesus that the disciples see on this mountaintop different from the Jesus they have spent time traveling with?
- Why do you think Jesus only took a few of his disciples with him on this trip?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore the message of this passage through one or more of these activities.
- Ordinary but extraordinary nature: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and access to the video “Amazing Plants.” Tell the children that God’s natural creation can help us see and understand God. Just like the disciples see that Jesus transformed from ordinary to extraordinary in the transfiguration story, we see the amazing power of God in ordinary parts of nature. Show the “Amazing Plants” video. Ask the children to share their reflections. Brainstorm other ways that God reveals God’s beauty and power in nature.
- The light in me: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: copies of paper people templates, scissors, markers, colored tissue paper, and contact paper. Give each child a paper person and a pair of scissors. Ask them to cut out the paper person and to write their name on the person with a marker. Then provide each child with a piece of contact paper. Ask them to take the backing off and to place the contact paper with the sticky side up. Younger children may need help with this. Have the children place their paper people in the middle of the contact paper with the name side down. Then, give them colored tissue paper to place around the paper person. Encourage them to tear pieces of the tissue paper and to vary the colors so that they create a stained-glass effect. Be sure they cover the entire surface of the sticky contact paper. Have the children flip the contact paper over. They should see their paper person in the middle surrounded by the colored tissue paper pieces. Encourage them to hold their projects up to the light so that they can see the colors illuminated. Share that each of us contains the image of God. This image can shine brightly, just as Jesus did during his transfiguration. Have the children share ways they can be like Jesus, shining God’s love on the world.
Conclude your time together by saying a prayer.