Today I was honored to teach my Sunday school class again. I LOVE to teach the Bible, so it is such a blessing for me when I am asked. To be honest, this past week was so unusual and crazy that it slipped my mind. Coach had to remind me. I came up with an interesting lesson plan on the birth of Christ and it worked wonderfully this morning.
The class split up into 4 groups. Each group took one of the gospels and answered the following questions:
- What are the events of the birth of Christ as described by the author?
- What does the birth story tell us about the nature of God?
- What does the birth story tell us about the nature of Jesus?
The groups worked for about 20 minutes at which time I gave them a brief history about the four gospels. It went something like this.
- Matthew was written around 80CE for a very Jewish audience, to tie the story of Jesus and the church to the Old Testament.
- Mark was written around 60CE, making it the earliest Gospel in the cannon. Mark was concerned with recording the information surrounding Jesus’ ministry and crucificxion. Matthew, Luke, and John would have had access to his text. And while it is first chronologically, it is second in the cannon because it does not serve as a clear link between the Old and New Testament in the way that Matthew does.
- Luke was written around 80CE also, but for a very Gentile audience. Luke, a physican, wrote like a scientist.
- John was written around 100CE as more of the theological statement about Jesus’ life, ministry, and death. The other three gospels had already told the stories; he explained the theology.
Each group felt that this information supported their answers, so we began a time of sharing. Here are some interesting things we discovered and reconciled as we discussed.
- Mark and John spend no time on the birth narrative itself. Mark is more interested in getting to the ministry and starts with his baptism. John is more interested in the theology of Jesus and God and the birth story has already been recorded by both Matthew and Luke.
- Matthew spends a great deal of time talking about Joseph while Luke mentions him once. Matthew’s Jewish audience was highly patriarchal. Luke’s Gentile audience was more comfortable with female dieties.
- Each story regardless of how much time was or was not spent on the birth narrative revealed the nature of God and Jesus. The authors revealed what each of their audiences needed to hear and understand.
As the groups shared their answers to the three questions and we made these discoveries together, I recorded the words they used to describe God and Jesus.
God: mysterious, in charge, challenges us, all-knowing, with us, uses people for His work, miraculous, has unexpected plans, has angels, part of the Trinity, and the one that they all shared, promise keeper
Jesus: came as a child and that entails, always with God, grace, truth, and the ones they all shared, God with us, flesh and blood, and the promise God kept
Once everyone had a chance to share, I reread these lists. Everyone seemed pleased and reaffirmed by the list. A man sitting next to me, brave that he sat next to the teacher, said, “Sounds a whole lot better than the Old Testament.” That got a laugh. A lady spoke up and said, “It doesn’t matter which gospel you read, the essence of God and Jesus is the same.” How right my friend is!
God is a promise keeper.
Jesus is the promise.
It’s that simple. During this Christmas season, find a place and time to worship and thank God for keeping His promises and Jesus for being that promise!