The Narrative Lectionary reading for Sunday, April 2, 2017 encompasses three different stories. First, in Luke 18:31-34, Jesus gives the twelve disciples what is often known as the third “passion prediction,” but can also be seen more as a description that Jesus is giving his followers as to what it means to be the Messiah. Second, in Luke 18:35-43, we hear that there is basically a parade; a crowd is following Jesus as he approaches the town of Jericho. There is a man who is blind begging by the side of the road, and when he hears that it is Jesus passing by, the man calls out with the title “Son of David” a title of recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. The third, most famous story is that of the tax collector, Zacchaeus.
All three stories occur as Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem for the last time. And, all three address the themes of understanding and sight (or not seeing). The meaning of Jesus’ statements to the twelve are “hidden from them” (Luke 18:34) and they did not understand. The man near Jericho was forced to beg for his livelihood because of his blindness, but he understood Jesus’ mission and role better than the crowds did. Zacchaeus, a despised collaborator with the Roman oppressors who was assumed to be dishonest, was pushed to the margins and therefore unable to see Jesus. He was willing to make a fool of himself to get a glimpse of Jesus, and in seeing and interacting with the gracious Messiah, understood what he needed to do.
Sight and understanding can be a way into this passage in terms of faith formation, for all ages, but especially the young. Using blindfolds or a time of keeping their eyes closed can be a powerful experience for kids, and all kids have experienced the frustration of being too short to see what they want to see. To help kids in worship or a classroom setting, keep things simple, direct, and concrete. Consider these questions:
- We cannot see Jesus directly in the way we might want, but what are some ways we can see, and therefore understand, his love for us as Jesus demonstrated to the man who was blind and to Zacchaeus?
- What do your young disciples understand about Jesus, and what might they be able to show their elders about Jesus?
- In our congregations and communities, who do we push aside and ignore just as the people marginalized the man who was blind and the tax collector? What might they be able to teach us about Jesus?
Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus led him to repentance, turning away from his old way of doing things and committing to respond to the love he experienced from Jesus by loving and serving others. This week’s FREE faith formation resource is a prayer of repentance from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) product that can be used as part of a children’s sermon, the worship service, or a classroom activity. The Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum provides weekly lessons covering each Sunday of the Narrative Lectionary year with a large variety of activities for different learning and teaching styles.
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-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)