Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
The Promised Messiah
Teacher’s Notes: For the next three weeks, we’re going to settle into some lessons on a very familiar, and well-loved topic…Christmas! We’ll begin this week by looking at the promised Messiah: why He had to come, what He was foretold to be like, and who He was promised to. Let me take this opportunity to wish you who will be sharing these lessons a very Merry Christmas! God bless you as you share with your students the wonderful story of the birth of Christ.
In just a couple of weeks, many Christians around the world will be celebrating a wonderful holiday. Would anyone like to guess what that might be? Yes, Christmas! And who can tell us what we are celebrating at Christmas? Yes, the birth of Jesus Christ, here on this earth.
Christmas is a time when many gather together with friends and family to share the joy and peace that the angels spoke of, when they came to the shepherds near Bethlehem. And everywhere, people celebrate Christmas with their own special traditions. There are probably more Christmas traditions around the world than any of us could name.
What are some of the traditions your family has, to celebrate the birthday of Jesus? (encourage your students to share what they do at home, school, or church to celebrate Christmas)
A new baby is a wonderful reason to celebrate. And the arrival of a King is usually cause for great festivities. Do you think Jesus’ family or friends, or anyone in Bethlehem did any of the things you’ve mentioned doing in your celebration? If not, why not?
The Jewish people had been waiting for a very long time for the Messiah (the Deliverer) that had been promised to them. And yet, when Jesus came, there was no great celebration. There were only a few who came to quietly worship. Next week, we’re going to read about Jesus’ birth, and who was there to celebrate with Joseph and Mary.
But this week, we’re going to do a little background work, to see why, perhaps, Jesus was not the Messiah the Jews were expecting…even though Old Testament prophecies should have helped them see that Jesus was just the One God had promised to send.
Our memory verse for today is a look ahead into one of those Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus:
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for this wonderful time of year, when we remember the birth of Your Son, Jesus. Help each one here, today, to carefully consider all that was promised, and then fulfilled in Your Word; and be able to celebrate the birth of Jesus, as their Savior. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (The Promised Messiah )
(Why a Messiah had to come)
The story of Jesus’ birth doesn’t start in the New Testament, with the baby in the manger. It goes way back to the Garden of Eden, in the Book of Genesis. You see, as soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and sin came into their hearts, they needed a Savior. And our Heavenly Father already had a plan to redeem them. Let’s go back to that passage in Genesis, to see what God had in mind.
1Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
9And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
11And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
12And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
13And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
14And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The story of Jesus coming to this earth to be born, and then die on the cross starts back with the very first people that God placed on this earth; the couple who chose to listen to the lies of Satan, rather than obeying the instructions of God – Adam and Eve. And because they were the parents of all mankind, they passed that sin nature on to all generations to come after them.
Do you think that was fair…for all of us to have a sin nature, just because Adam chose to disobey God? Before you answer that question, and maybe begin to doubt the fairness of God, we need to look at the rest of His plan. Listen again to what verse 15 said would someday happen: “[the woman’s seed] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” God was speaking here to the serpent, which had been indwelt by Satan. And He was letting Satan know that there would one day come a man, from the family line of Eve, who would be the promised One from God, the Messiah. And while Satan would be able to inflict suffering on this One (to the point of dying on the cross), the wound would not be permanently fatal…it would only be a bruise to His heel.
The bruise that Satan would receive from this promised Seed, on the other hand, would be a wound to the head. Does anyone know what happens if you cut the tail off of a snake? (allow the students to guess) Often, the snake will slither off to live another day. Now, has anyone here ever stepped on or smashed a snake’s head? What happened to that snake? Did he recover? A smashed head generally results in death. And that was God’s very point to Satan. He may have won that first round with Adam and Eve, tempting them to fall into sin. And he would one day appear to win an ever greater battle…putting the Son of God to death on a cross. But ultimately, this passage foretold that the Promised seed of Eve, the Messiah, would have the victory over Satan and sin.
So God’s plan to conquer sin was to send a Messiah, a Savior, into the world. But how would the life and death of One make up for the sin nature of all mankind? Paul explains it for us in Romans chapter 5:
(Romans 5:12, 15, 18, 19)
12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Paul’s argument is this: if spiritual death because of sin could come upon all men through the sin of just one person (Adam), then eternal life could also come through just one. The problem was that the one whom life would come through had to be sinless, to be a perfect sacrifice for sin. So it couldn’t be just anyone. It had to be God, because only God is sinless.
That is why God’s plan was fair! He would condemn us for one man, Adam’s, sin. But He would redeem us by One man’s sacrifice. And it would not just be any man. It would be a God-man, Jesus Christ. And that meant God the Father would have to send His very own beloved Son to live as a man on this earth, for the sole purpose of being the sacrifice for our sins. God must love us very much, to have thought of such a perfect plan that would mean His giving us His own Son…knowing that He would have to die! But remember that the story doesn’t end there. The serpent’s head was to be bruised…and Jesus would not stay dead. He rose again, and is our living Redeemer; and His sacrifice paid our way to Heaven. So as we celebrate Christmas, we should not only remember Jesus birth. But we should remember why He came to this Earth – to be our Redeemer, our Messiah.
Have you accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah, the One who came to take away your sins? Adam’s sin has already been credited to you, so that Christ’s death can pay for that sin. But Jesus’ righteousness is not credited to you until you ask Him to do so. If you’ve not yet done so, why not make that God’s special gift to you, this Christmas; and ask Him to come into your heart, to cleanse you from that sin nature that you were born with. God would love nothing more than to bless you with His eternal life, as you celebrate the birth of His Son.
(What was foretold about Him)
Now that we know why Jesus came as the Messiah, let’s take a few moments to look back at some Old Testament prophecies, to see what God told the Israelites that they should expect of Him.
But before we do that, let’s think for a moment about our heroes, today. If you lived in a place where you were being beaten or put in prison for what you believe, and you were told that someone was coming very soon to rescue you, what do you think you would expect your hero to look like? Let’s make a list of what we usually think of our heroes looking like: (allow the students to answer, and help with these possible suggestions)
And how do you think your hero would act?
The Israelites had been told for many, many generations that their Messiah would come to deliver them. They were probably looking for many of the same things we have listed. But many of them were looking for the wrong kind of Messiah. They wanted someone who would come and overthrow the rulers who were making their lives difficult. They weren’t, necessarily, looking for a Deliverer who would come to rescue them from themselves and their own sin. But that was the Messiah that God planned to send. And He wouldn’t fit the picture many were looking for.
Listen to the description the prophet Isaiah gives of Christ, in Isaiah chapter 53:
2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
And the words of David, in Psalm 22, as He describes the suffering Messiah:
6But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
There would even come a time when Christ, the promised Messiah, would fulfill the words of Isaiah in chapter 52 which say, “As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” (Isaiah 52:14) Isaiah was speaking here of the disfigurement the Savior would endure, as He went on obediently to the death He came to Earth for.
And as for where He would come from, it wouldn’t be Jerusalem, the city where the Jewish kings traditionally lived. Listen to Micah 5:2 tells us, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” According to the prophet Micah, the Messiah was to be born in the tiny town of Bethlehem, which is the town King David lived before he became king of Israel. But even with this prophecy, no one was watching that little town for the birth of their Messiah.
This was not the Messiah the Jewish people were looking for. He was not wealthy. He was not always popular. He probably was not particularly handsome, since Isaiah said there would be “no beauty that we should desire Him.” One day Christ will again come to this Earth, and then He will come as the Conquering King that the Jewish people expected. Then He will fulfill all of the expectations of the Jews. But the first time that He came, as a baby in a manger, He came as a humble servant.
(Who received the promise of a Messiah)
And just who was it that had received the promises of a coming Messiah? We already named a few people who were told of His coming. Can anyone recall them from earlier in the lesson?
Yes, Adam and Eve were the first to hear of God’s plan to send His Son into the world. But there were many others, throughout Jewish history who also received such a promise, and shared it with the Jewish nation.
The patriarch, Abraham was promised, in Genesis 12:3 that “…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Many believe that this was a reference to the fact that the Messiah would be born as one of Abraham’s descendants.
We also saw several verses written by the prophet, Isaiah. God gave him many prophecies concerning the Messiah, including today’s memory verse. And it was Isaiah who predicted a Savior who would suffer and die as a lamb led to slaughter.
But the final two people who received the promise that the Messiah was coming were his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. They were both visited by an angel, and told that it was time for the promised Messiah to come!
In Matthew 1:21, Joseph is told that Mary, his wife, was going to have a baby; and that the baby would be the Savior of the world. This is what the angel said, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” Do you suppose that Joseph ever imagined that His Messiah would come into the world in such a humble way…to such an ordinary family?
Then, in Luke 2:31-33, the angel told Mary,
31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The time of waiting and anticipating was over. The Messiah was on His way. And Mary and Joseph had been chosen by God to bring Him into the world. Do you suppose that either Mary or Joseph ever thought that Jesus would come into the world this way, into such an ordinary family? Or do you think that they, like most other Jewish people, expected someone very different for their Savior?
Next week, we’re going to look at the humble birth of this promised Messiah, and find out why He might have chosen to come into the world this way. Could Jesus have come into the world riding on a white horse, swinging a mighty sword, and saving the Jewish people from the rule of the Romans? (allow the students to respond) Yes, He could have come that way. But He chose not to. Join us again, next week, to enjoy another look at the birth of Jesus Christ; and to learn why the Messiah came as the humble Lamb of God.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for setting a plan in motion, even from way back in the Garden of Eden, to save us from our sins. And thank You for loving us so much that You would be willing to send Your very own Son to be the One who would save us. We love You, Heavenly Father, and thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ; and His life here on Earth. Help us to remember, this Christmas season, that Jesus is the reason we celebrate. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Let me encourage you right now, as you may be getting your houses decorated, and perhaps thinking about gifts you might be giving to loved ones this Christmas; be sure to take some time, this year, to really think about why Jesus had to come to Earth in the first place. The story of the little baby Jesus in the manger sometimes makes us forget the reason He came…and that was to die for our sins. Do take some time to thank Him for that in the coming days and weeks. He certainly deserves our love and gratitude!
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. God’s plan to credit us with Adam’s sin was fair. (true)
2. Jesus was the Messiah that God had promised in The Old Testament. (true)
3. Jesus fulfilled the Jews’ expectations of their promised Messiah. (false – He was not what they expected)
4. An angel explained to Mary and Joseph that Mary’s baby was the promised Savior of the world. (true)
5. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be strong and handsome. (false – he said that we would see no beauty in Him)
He wasn’t what they expected,
But surely was prophesied;
Not welcomed as Messiah
By those with blinded eyes;
But to the ones who understood,
The Babe was God in man;
He was the One they’d waited for,
Their sacrificial Lamb.
Lisa DeVinney, December 2018