Suggested Emphasis: Follow the Great Commission and tell others about Jesus.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus spent forty days with his disciples. Before ascending to heaven he gave the apostles important instructions on announcing the gospel to all people and making them followers of Jesus. This is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). An angel comforted the apostles by reminding them that just as Jesus rose up into the clouds he will someday come back to earth again.
A simple way to explain the overarching story of the death, burial and resurrection to children…God created the whole world and he wanted everyone to be happy and love him. Sadly, people made bad choices and that has made lots of bad things happen in this world. Sometimes people even die. God was very sad that people had caused the earth to be so bad. Even though many people did not follow him he still loved them. So God sent his son, Jesus, from heaven to earth to show everyone how to obey God and make good choices.
But many people did not believe Jesus and got so angry that they made him die on a cross.
But guess what!? He was dead but after 3 days Jesus came alive again! Jesus showed that he is stronger than death and stronger than any bad thing that can ever happen.
Soon after he came back to life, the time came for Jesus to go to heaven to live with his Father again in heaven. Before Jesus left he told his followers to be sure and tell other people the good news. The good news is that “Jesus died but he came alive again!” God says that Jesus dying on the cross means that people can change from being bad to being good. People who follow Jesus do not have to be afraid of dying. If you follow Jesus then you will also come alive again to live with God forever!”
The book of Acts opens with a reference to its companion book, the Gospel of Luke. It is generally agreed (through being addressed to the same person, similar language, theology and structure of the writing as well as the references to “we” when the author writes about travels in the book of Acts) that the author was Luke. Luke was probably a Gentile and a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He was a loyal friend to Paul (2 Timothy 4:9-13). Both books were written to someone named Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1) who was probably Luke’s patron*.
After Jesus rose from the dead he was present with the apostles and a number of others. Paul refers to an occasion when he appeared to 500 people at one time (I Corinthians 15:3-8). During the forty days following his resurrection, Jesus gave many proofs to the apostles that he was alive. He also told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait. The Holy Spirit would be poured out in all his power. This pouring out is called the “baptism of the Spirit”. When the Holy Spirit came, the apostles would be receiving special powers so that they could teach and prove Jesus’ power in ways they had never been able to before.
Today’s story takes place at the Mount of Olives, at the conclusion of the forty days, when the apostles were meeting together with Jesus. Jesus gives his last instructions to the apostles before being taken up into heaven. They were to witness to Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem, in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus was repeating what he had already told the apostles. The same “job description” or “commission” can be found, in one form or another, at the end of each of the gospels (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21). After Jesus ascended*, the apostles left the place rejoicing (Luke 24:50-53).
Memorising the great commission (as in Matthew 28:19-20) is a great way to begin the book of Acts. As we study the book of Acts we will see how the apostles did just as Jesus asked. Over and over they went, preached the gospel to make disciples, baptized, and taught people how to obey God. Example after example in Acts removes doubts about the power of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Over and over lost people hear about Jesus and then show a natural response of repentance and wanting to be right with God through faith and baptism. They want to learn how to live a life of continued obedience as followers of King Jesus.
Today’s lesson is another turning point in the bible. The Old Testament emphasised the power of God, the Father. The Gospels emphasise the power of God, the Son. Now, Acts emphasises the power of God, the Spirit.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Ask the children to imagine that they are just about to go away to live on another planet. Tell them that they have only thirty seconds to tell the class something very important. What would they tell the class? “ In today’s lesson we are going to learn about the time when Jesus left this earth. He said some very special and important things to his friends. He told them about a very important job that he wanted them to do.
After Jesus died on the cross he was buried in a tomb. His disciples thought that all was lost but then on the third day in the tomb something amazing happened. Jesus came to life again! This was called the resurrection.
After his resurrection Jesus spent forty days visiting with his followers. He wanted to make sure they saw that he was not dead any more.
He spent lots of time with his special friends, the apostles. He told them to wait in the city of Jerusalem because some great things were going to happen and they needed to be there. He told them that the Holy Spirit was going to come and that they would be given special powers so that they could show everyone how good Jesus is and that he was the worlds true King.
Jesus told them that they would have a very important job to do. When someone tells someone to do a job and then gives them instructions, that is called a “commission”. This important job that Jesus told the apostles to do is sometimes called “The Great Commission”. Here are the words Matthew’s account of the Great Commission:
“So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ICB)
After Jesus told them these things, something very amazing happened. Jesus began to float up. He floated all the way up into the clouds while the apostles were watching. Soon the clouds hid Jesus and they could not see him any longer.
Another word that is used for something that is going up in the word “ASCEND” That is why people often call this event the “Ascension of Jesus”.
Watching Jesus leave must have been very sad for his apostles. While they were all looking up into the sky trying to catch another glimpse of Jesus, two men dressed in white (probably angels) stood beside them. These angels told the apostles that Jesus went up into the clouds and that someday (many years later) he would come back to the earth on clouds again.
Now the apostles understood. Someday they would see Jesus would come back to the earth again to take his followers to heaven. Someday everyone who follows Jesus will see him again.
The apostles would miss Jesus but Jesus had given them an important job to do. They could go and tell everyone about how he rose from the dead. They could teach people how to be followers of Jesus too.
Where do you think the apostles went after this? Who wants to guess? Remember where Jesus had told them to go? He told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come.
So the apostles went to Jerusalem and waited just as Jesus said. They knew that everything Jesus said would come true.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download the slideshow or the printable illustrations like the ones above. Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- What is the Great Commission? The instructions that Jesus gave to the apostles. He said: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- What is the Gospel? The good news about Jesus. He died, was buried, and rose from the dead and, therefore, is the worlds true King and Lord.
- How did Jesus leave the earth? Rose up into the clouds
- While the apostles were trying to get a last glimpse of Jesus in the clouds, who spoke to them? Two angels.
- What did the angels say after Jesus went up into the clouds? They said not to be sad because Jesus would come back again someday in the clouds
- I Can Be a Missionary Song
- This Little Light of Mine Song
- Roll the Gospel Chariot Song
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Draw and Tell Visual Aid: The teacher and the students draw pictures as they read the scripture together. Make your own or use this template: Great Commission and Ascension Draw and Tell
- Obtain a helium filled balloon and release it outside as you tell the story of Jesus going up into the clouds.
- Find out the names of some of the missionaries that your congregation supports and share facts about their work with the students. You might write notes or send a picture of your class to the missionaries.
- Write “GOSPEL” on the chalkboard or on a large sheet of paper. Underneath write “Good News”. Discuss the fact that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Let the children list things they might say when they share the gospel with people.
- Memory Verse: Use the “Memory Lane” method to help children learn the memory verse .
- Use a globe or world map and discuss the some of the different cultures and languages of the world. Talk about how you might teach the gospel in a few different countries.
- Ascension Craft (Photo at right) Instructions: Poke a hole in the bottom of a blue or clear plastic cup and string a string through it. Decorate the upturned cup with clouds. Tape a picture of Jesus on the lower end of the string. Pull the string so that Jesus “rises” up into the clouds.
- Make a scroll. Click here for instructions. Write this verse on it: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20), NIV. If children are too young to write the entire verse then
consider helping them write something like “Tell people about God”.
- Colour My World (Photo at right) Lead the class in great conversation about sharing the good news of Christ by using the fun activity “The Great Commission- Into the World“.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and worksheets about Jesus telling Apostles about the Holy Spirit (Calvary Curriculum)
- Colouring page and worksheets about the ascension (Calvary Curriculum)
- Great Commission: Interactive Group Activities from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Great Commission: Pre-school colouring page about telling friends- from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Great Commission: Crossword Puzzle from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Great Commission: Maze from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Great Commission: Wordsearch from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Ascension: Interactive Group Activities from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Ascension: Colouring page from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Ascension: Maze from http://www.sermons4kids.com/
- Ascension: Decoder puzzle from http://www.sermons4kids.com/
- Ascension: Wordsearch from http://www.sermons4kids.com
- Ascension: Activities and printable craft from http://www.mssscrafts.com/newtestament/ascension.htm
- Ascension: Craft idea for colouring picture from http://biblestoryhour.blogspot.com/
- A good selection of puzzles and games to print at http://www.gardenofpraise.com/
- Craft: Flag handprint wreath at http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/