He came to show us God is with us. He came to fulfill the law. He came to free us from our sins. All of these (and many more) are answers to the question, “Why did Jesus come to live among God’s people?” But Jesus gives us an answer to this question—or at least a partial answer—during his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. In this lesson, children will explore John 3:1-17 noticing what Jesus he has come to do. Then, they will consider where they see Jesus’ work alive today and where God might be calling them to continue Jesus’ mission.
You will need
- A Bible
- Several common household objects and a few uncommon household objects in a paper bag
- Copies of a dramatic reading of John 3:1-17 (optional)
- Copies of the Jesus/sun sheet and crayons or markers (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “What Is Your Purpose? 0-100” video
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children sit in a circle on the floor or around a table. Tell the children that you will be passing around a bag filled with objects. Each child will pull an object from the bag without looking inside it. Pass the bag around the group.
After each child has drawn an object, ask:
- Do you know what this object is?
- If yes, what is this object? What is it used for?
- If not, what do you think it might be? What might it be used for?
Note sometimes it is easy to figure out or understand the reason why something exists. Other times, the answer is not as easy to come by.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (John 3:1-17):
- This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of John.
- In this story, Jesus has a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is part of a group of Jewish people called Pharisees. Many of the Pharisees that Jesus encounters during his public ministry dislike his message. They do not like the following that he has gathered, and they do not believe what he teaches and preaches reflects God.
- This conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus takes place at night. It is a somewhat secret conversation.
- In the story, Jesus mentions Moses lifting up a serpent (snake) in the wilderness. While Moses and the people of God were wandering in the wilderness waiting for God to show them the land that would be theirs. The people complain over and over about the journey, so poisonous snakes are sent to bite them. They ask God to save them, saying that they are sorry for doubting God. God directs Moses to capture a snake and place it on a pole. When the people are bit by a snake in the future, they will be able to look at the serpent on the pole and be healed. This story shows God forgiving and healing God’s people.
Read aloud John 3:1-17. Because this text is fairly wordy, you may choose to use this child-friendly script from Carolyn Brown’s Worshiping with Children blog. There are three roles: the liturgist (narrator), Jesus and Nicodemus.
After reading, ask:
- Why do you think Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus?
- In verses 13-17, Jesus explains what he’s on earth to do. What does he say?
- Where do you see these actions in the world?
- Which do you think had the greatest impact on the world?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore the message of this passage through one or more of these activities.
- Where do you see Jesus in the world?: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: copies of the Jesus/sun sheet and crayons or markers. Give each child a copy of the Jesus/sun sheet. Ask the children to describe what they see on the sheet. Then, ask the children to use crayons or markers to write or draw different ways Jesus brings light and love to the world at the tips of each of the sun’s rays. Have the child share their work with the group.
- Called for a purpose: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with internet access connected to a data project or a television and the video “What Is Your Purpose in Life? 0-100.” Ask the children if they have heard someone talk about their “purpose in life.” What did they say? What does it mean to have a “purpose in life”? In today’s Scripture reading, Jesus tells Nicodemus about his purpose, to show the world God loves it so much that God sends God’s only child to earth to be close to us and show us we will be with God forever. Human beings all have a purpose or purposes, reasons why we feel we are here on earth. Show the video “What is Your Purpose in Life? 0-100.” After watching the video, discuss the different purposes people mentioned. Then, ask the children to wonder about their roles. How might they make the world a good place to live?