Bible Studies: Jesus Rescues Us
group magazine: January-February, 2008
Jesus rescues us
by ned erickson
Editor’s Note: This is the third of a yearlong series of Bible studies that will help your teenagers explore what it looks like to follow Jesus with their whole heart.
• two 16-ounce plastic foam cups per person
• one larger cup
• sharpened pencils
• pitcher of water
Overview: John 4:5-26—Drinking of Jesus is the only way to be filled.
Once teenagers arrive, hand them each a plastic foam cup and ask them to carve their name in the side of it with their fingernails. Then play the Cup Game. The Cup Game is a rhythmic passing game that’s easy to learn. The cup is placed upside down like a drum. The taps are on the “drum,” and passing is to the right (counterclockwise). Here’s the standard Cup Game pattern:
Clap, clap, tap, tap, tap. Clap, up (lift cup), down (put cup back down and rest). Clap, grab (grab cup with right hand on left side), pop (tap bottom of cup into left hand palm), down (tap bottom of cup on floor). Switch (tap bottom of cup into left hand and let go, switching the cup to the left hand), down (right hand to floor), pass (left hand passes cup over right hand to the person on right).
So, again, the simplified cues are:
Clap Clap Tap Tap Tap
Clap Up Down (rest)
Clap Grab Pop Down
Switch Down Pass (rest)
For more help, watch a demonstration of the Cup Game at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVMH8yFIZuA.
To transition after the game, say something like: Tonight we’re going to meet a broken woman from Samaria. Ever since she was a girl, she chased after life, but in the end she always wound up empty.
Explain that Samaria was between Judea and Galilee—it was the fastest way to get from the one place to the other. But if you were Jewish back then, you’d never think about going that way. Jews hated Samaritans. They thought they were dirty and dangerous. The fact that Jesus went through Samaria to get to Galilee means that he's fearless, and no one is too dirty or dangerous for him.
Read aloud John 4:5-9.
Ask: How is it that the Son of God is tired, thirsty, and hungry? What do you know about Jesus from this description?
After a few kids respond, add these insights if no one else does: Jesus was fully human. He hungered. He got tired. He needed food and sleep just like we do. He wasn’t too proud to ask this lady for a drink, or to ask his disciples to get him food.
Ask: What else is surprising about this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman?
Say something like: It may not seem shocking to us, but back then, it was taboo for a man to be caught talking to a woman in public like this. And it was the sixth hour (noon). Folks usually got their water in the evening when it was cooler; this woman likely went to the well at noon because she was some kind of an outcast.
Ask: Why would Jesus break a cultural taboo to associate with this outcast woman?
After kids respond, ask: Who would be a modern-day equivalent to a Samaritan woman?
Read aloud John 4:10-26 as kids follow along.
Then say something like: In verse 13, Jesus says: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” But as he continues, we learn he isn’t really talking about water. He’s talking about life—that as long as we keep trying to get filled by “earthly wells” we’ll never be satisfied.
At this point take a pencil and a plastic foam cup in your hand. Say something like: Imagine we’re like this cup. We’re made to be filled with life, but over time, either by the things we’ve done or the things done to us, we wind up broken and empty. Take the pencil and puncture the cup.
Ask: What “earthly wells” do you think this woman went to in order to be filled?
After a few teenagers respond, say something like: Likely, this Samaritan woman tried to get filled through relationships. She’d been married and divorced five times.
Say something like: I think we can all relate—all of us want desperately to be filled.
Ask: Where are some “earthly wells” (things people chase after) that people go to in order to get filled in our culture?
Tell kids to poke a hole in their cups as each “earthly well” is mentioned. (For example: popularity; excelling in school, sports, music, or the arts; boyfriends, girlfriends, and friendships; being good or well liked; and being bad, wild, or cynical.
Say something like: Our cups (lives) also get punctured and broken by the things that happen to us. For this woman it was broken relationships.
Take a pitcher of water and pour it in your holey cup. Say something like: No wonder we feel empty.
Ask: If this is what we look like (point at the cup), what would we have to do to “hold water”?
Say something like: All of our solutions require an outside solution. That’s the truth: the only solution is an outside one.
Read aloud John 4:13-14 again.
Take out another slightly larger cup with the name Jesus carved into it. Say something like: Jesus was the perfect cup. When Jesus says he gives living water, he’s really giving himself. It’s like this:
Take your cup and fit it into the Jesus cup. Then pour water from the pitcher into your cup. Say something like: When we give our lives to Jesus, he covers our broken places so we can be filled.
Hand each person a new cup. Then say something like: Jesus offers himself to each one of us. All we must do is place ourselves in his hands.
• image of a sycamore fig tree—Google “sycamore fig tree image”
Overview: Luke 19:1-10—Jesus knows who we are but loves us too much to leave us that way.
Once kids arrive play a game of Hide-and-Seek. You’re the Seeker. Limit the boundaries of the game so that wherever kids hide they’re within earshot. Also tell kids they’re not allowed to hide together, and they should return to the youth room when they’re found. While they’re hiding, set out candy and games and leave a note telling the kids to have fun until you return. Give them one or two minutes to hide. Go seeking, but make sure you leave one or two kids hidden. Shush folks if they point out that someone is missing. If more than 10 minutes go by, have everyone search to find the missing teenagers.
Ask the ones who were left behind: What was it like to feel forgotten?
Ask the rest of the group: What was it like to join in the fun even though we were missing folks?
Ask everyone: When have you felt like you were uninvited, forgotten, or on the outside of what was going on? How did that experience affect you?
Say something like: We’re going to look at a man who was a hider on the day that he was found.
Read aloud Luke 19:1-4 as kids follow along.
Ask: What kind of person do you think Zach was? What do you think other people felt about him?
Say something like: As uncool as Zach probably was, he had one cool thing about him: “He wanted to see who Jesus was.”
Show kids the picture of a sycamore fig tree.
Say something like: Sycamore fig trees are very wide, and their leaves are heart-shaped and very broad. It’s an ideal tree to hide in.
Ask: Zach wants to see who Jesus is, but why doesn’t he want Jesus to see who he is?
Say something like: We want to learn about Jesus, but it isn’t always cool to be a Jesus freak. Like Zach, we want to keep him at a safe distance.
Now read aloud Luke 19:5-7 as kids follow along.
Ask: Even though we know better, most of us think we can hide from Jesus—why?
Say something like: Put yourself in Zach’s shoes. You’re hiding. Suddenly Jesus stops right under you and looks up. He calls you by name to come down. Remember, Zach’s hated by pretty much everyone.
Ask: What would you be thinking? How do the others react? Why do you think they acted that way?
Finish reading aloud the story in Luke 19:8-10.
Say something like: The Bible says Zach “stood up.” To add to his embarrassment, he must have fallen out of the tree as he was coming down!
Then ask: Now imagine again that you’re Zach—would your response be similar to or different from his? Explain. What did Jesus intend to communicate when he said, “This man is a son of Abraham”? What does it say about Jesus that he told Zach he was going to hang out with him?
Say something like: Maybe Zach didn’t think Jesus would like him, or maybe he was afraid Jesus might ask him to change. Jesus does neither.
However, from that moment on, Zach’s life was never the same. His heart is transformed from selfishness to generosity. Beware, if you get too close to Jesus, the same might happen to you!
• poster board
• video camera
• AV cords
Overview: Luke 10:25-37—Jesus tells us how to act toward those around us.
Say something like: An “expert in the law” comes up to Jesus and asks: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” That’s a great question.
Because Jesus is a great teacher, he doesn’t answer him straight. He answers with a question. And so he asks the “know-it-all” what he believes. And the expert says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the exact answer Jesus gives at another time.
Read aloud Mark 12:28-34.
Ask: Why are these the two most important commandments? What does it mean to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength?
Write kids’ answers on a poster board. Merge them into one sentence that answers the question.
Ask: Is this humanly possible for us to do? Why or why not? Why would Jesus ask us to do something that seems almost impossible? What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? In verse 29 it says the man “wanted to justify himself”—why did he need to justify himself?
Say something like: Jesus tells a story instead of just giving the man an answer. So instead of talking about the story, we’re going to make a video of it.
Tell kids to focus on Luke 10:30-36. Give them a video camera and have them assign roles, set up the scene, and video the story however they want. They have only 25 minutes. The roles include thugs, a man, the priest, a Levite, a Samaritan, a donkey, and an innkeeper. If your group is large, split into smaller groups and give each one a camera. After kids finish, watch the video(s) together.
Then say something like: This might sound too obvious, but let’s study the main characters and discuss how they were or were not “neighborly.”
On your poster board write kids’ answers for each character in the story.
When you get to the Samaritan, make sure to point out this: He didn’t do the minimum—he went way beyond the call of duty. Sometimes we think Jesus might be asking for us to do “just enough,” but he's saying neighbors are heroes. And there are two important things to know about heroes: They’ve done the work to be prepared, and when the time comes to act, they do it.
Say something like: In the story, it’s clear who the neighbor was.
Ask: How has Jesus shown he's a neighbor to us?
Read aloud Luke 10:36-37.
Ask: Jesus says go and do likewise. How can we be heroes like the good Samaritan?
running of the pigs
• DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
• steel trash can
Overview: Luke 8:26-39—We all have demons, but Jesus can heal us.
Once teenagers arrive, watch Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring from chapter 15 to 17 (“Knife in the Dark” to “Flight to the Ford”).
Say something like: These scenes remind me of three truths: First, evil is real and is more terrifying than ringwraiths, Saruman, and orcs put together. Second, I’m more helpless than a hobbit when it comes to saving myself from evil. And third, there’s one who’s greater than Strider and Arwen who comes to my defense. Frodo might think the ringwraiths and Sauron are his greatest enemies. But his greatest foe is much closer—it’s the ring around his neck. Let’s watch another scene. Bilbo (former ring bearer) is saying farewell to his nephew, Frodo.
Show chapter 24 from The Lord of the Rings (“Bilbo’s Gifts”).
Ask: What was going on with Bilbo when his face went crazy?
After a few kids respond, say: In the movie, the ring isn’t really a possession. In fact, it possesses. It’s been said, “What you have, has you.” Beware of those things that you must have. Be careful whenever you hear yourself saying that you can’t live without something or somebody. Those are rings. Let’s meet a man who had many “rings” and had worn them for too long.
Read aloud Luke 8:26-31.
Ask: Who can restate what’s going on in this passage?
Say something like: Notice that before the demon-possessed man said anything, Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man.
Jesus is a first-mover. He’s often working in our lives before we have any idea he’s there. Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to pay attention to what he might be up to. Instead of spending our energy trying to get Jesus to do what we want, we pay attention to what Jesus wants and join him.
Ask: What was the demon-possessed man’s life like? Why did the demons behave the way they did?
Read the rest of the passage in Luke 8:32-39 as kids follow along.
Ask: Why did Jesus allow the demons to go into the pigs? How do the pig-keepers respond? What happens to the demon-possessed man? How do the townspeople respond? Why does Jesus give these instructions to the healed man?
Ask: Do you believe in demons? Why or why not? What do you know about them?
Say something like: The Bible makes it clear that demons are real. They’re messengers from Satan, and their mission is to kill, steal, and destroy your life. This man’s demon was called Legion. Let’s define demon possession this way: Whenever we let a lie shape how we live or dominate how we engage the world around us, we’ve allowed a demon an opportunity to infiltrate our lives.
Say something like: In a very real sense, we’re all battling demons. We all have listened to lies and have accepted them as truth.
Ask: What are some common lies you see people believing around you?
Hand out pens and paper. Say something like: Let’s name some of our own demons—the lies we know are lies, but believe anyway. Let’s write them down as a step toward breaking their control over our lives. This might be difficult for some of you, so I’m available to talk with you any time about this. Sometimes we’ve believed things for so long that it’s hard to let go of their hold on us.
Give kids time to write. Afterward, close by saying: Just like Frodo did to the ring, I want to give us a chance to cast our “rings” into the fire. Place an empty steel trash can near the front of your meeting room, then place your paper in the can and light it on fire. Invite the others to follow your lead. Then pray together as you watch the lies burn.
ned is a longtime Young Life leader, teacher, writer, worship leader, and speaker. He lives in North Carolina. Email him at email@example.com.
Book—Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Music—Flight of the Conchords by Pierce Pettis
Film—Nacho Libre, Blood Diamond