In the first lesson, the children are introduced to the Come Follow Me curriculum through the story of the rich ruler who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The manual references Luke 18:18-30. The same story is found in Matthew 19:16-30 and in Mark 10:17-31. The text from Mark reads:
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
The NSRV translation of Mark reads:
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
As I've been thinking about how to present this material to my children, I've decided to use the story from the NSRV translation of Mark instead of the King James translation from Luke for a couple of reasons. First, in Luke's gospel Christ tells the young man to sell all of his possessions, which makes sense to Luke's audience of early Christians living the law of consecration, but later the manual will tie this story to the parable of the 10 Bridesmaids, and I think Mark's account can connect better to that story. Second, I want to use the NSRV of Mark because neither the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Matthew contains the word "wife" in the list of things followers of Jesus might leave behind and the NSRV translation preserves this. "Wife" is unique to Luke and gives the impression that those who follow Jesus will be male, an impression not given by the telling in Mark or Matthew.
After reading the story in Mark, we will talk about how the man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life and Jesus told him to follow the commandments. The man told him he was following the commandments, but Jesus knew there was a commandment he wasn't following. He wasn't taking care of the poor (taking care of the poor is a requirement of Jewish law--see Deut 24:17-22 and Amos 2:6). This made the man sad. We are going to learn about Jesus this year. Part of learning about Jesus is learning to follow all of his commandments with our whole hearts.
Next, we will play the game suggested in the manual where one of the children does an action and then says, "Come follow me" and another child will repeat the action. I think it will be important to note here that Jesus would never ask us to do something that hurts ourselves or another person or that goes against our personal revelation. We will then sing "Seek the Lord Early".
Next we will read the Parable of the Bridesmaids in Matthew 25:
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
This parable is also found in a shorter version in Luke 12:35-36, and is flanked in Matthew by two other parables about preparation: The Parable of the Faithful Servant and The Parable of the Talents (Matthew likes to work in groups of three). For comparisons sake, here is the NRSV translation:
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us." But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Admittedly, I've always kind of hated this parable, probably because the supposedly "wise" bridesmaids always kind of seemed like Mean Girls to me. I mean, come on ladies, you have a whole extra flask of oil, what do you mean you can't spare a little bit for the other bridesmaids? Frankly, I always thought I'd rather be left outside with the "foolish" bridesmaids than inside with the stingy "wise" bridesmaids and a late and inconsiderate bridegroom. It helps a bit to know that Matthew himself gives the key to reading this allegory in 5:14-16
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And at the conclusion of Matthew 25 Jesus states, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."
The oil in the lamps is good works: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned.
In an article for The Exponent, Jenny paraphrases “The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment,” by Eckhart Tolle who writes, "In another parable, Jesus speaks of the five careless (unconscious) women who do not have enough oil (consciousness) to keep their lamps burning (stay present) and so miss the bridegroom (the Now) and don't get to the wedding feast (enlightenment). These five stand in contrast to the five wise women who have enough oil (stay conscious)" (Namaste Publishing and New World Library. Novato, California. 1999. pg. 95-96). Jenny then relates how thinking of oil as consciousness, instead of testimony, has helped her to engage with others and be present for them. She argues that "the parable is not about His second coming, but about our daily interactions with our fellow humans. Christ comes into our lives in the form of people we interact with. He gives us many opportunities to interact with people who are different from us and to gain consciousness, filling our lamps, so that we can enter the feast of love and enlightenment." (www.the-exponent.com/growing-consciousness-drops-of-oil/).
We are going to read this scripture and explain that the wise bridesmaids were wise because they did good works, and the foolish were foolish because they hadn't. Just like the young man in the earlier story, they weren't willing to take care of others and work every day to follow the teachings of Christ.
Finally, we are going to play a game called, "Fill Your Lamp", where the children will pretend to fill their lamps with good works as they travel the game board. We are going to flip a coin and move two spaces for "heads" and one space for "tails", then draw a card and answer the question for an extra space, but you could use a die instead.
You can download the game by clicking here. I have made some blank cards so that you can make up your own questions.
Matthew introduces us to Jesus through his genealogy, but this genealogy isn't exact. "Matthew's selection of names was likely influenced by the significance he found by arranging the generations in three groups of fourteen. The Jewish people appear to have been fond of presenting information in patterns and symmetries" (Olson, Camille F. Women of the New Testament. Deseret Book. 2014. Print). Interestingly, Matthew names five women as ancestors of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. These women are all examples of how God preserved the familial line of Christ through unexpected circumstances and of women who were willing to answer God with the response, "Be it unto me according to thy word". According to Amy-Jill Levine, these women also share two things in common that are consistent with Matthew's themes, "First, each--from a relatively powerless position--seeks justice not through violence but through cleverness... Second, the genealogy highlights women removed from traditional domestic arrangements... These women represent the socially vulnerable, and at the same time Matthew, following the Scriptures of Israel, empowers them" (Women's Bible Commentary, Third Edition. Westminster John Knox Press. 2012. Kindle). Because Matthew uses the examples of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba to introduce the role of Mary, I think this is an excellent place to begin the lesson. I have made a book for you to share with your children about these women in Jesus's linage using simple text and pictures. (The full accounts are not suitable for young children and so I have simplified them) You can download it by clicking here. Print it back to back (for a double sided book) or as a single sided book, then cut it in half horizontally and staple together.
Ideas For Sunbeams
I think the very easiest way to condense this lesson for very young children would be to tell them that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother knew that Jesus would need someone to take care of Him on Earth and so they gave Him Joseph and Mary. The children could then share who it is that takes care of them (grandparents, parents, foster parents, guardians, etc.) and draw a picture of those special people. You can download the coloring page here.