Sunday school teachers commonly explain baptism to kids as a symbol of our sins being washed away by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross as the only sinless person who ever lived. So when the lesson is about the baptism of Jesus, kids may be confused about why Jesus needed to be baptised. Sunday school lessons about Jesus' baptism should clarify that Jesus set the example for us to follow when he obeyed God's command and let the waters of baptism wash away any right to follow his own agenda, publicly declaring by his action that he was God's servant and surrendered to his will. In the same way, God calls believers to be baptised as a public declaration that they choose to follow him and accept his authority and calling on their lives.
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Roll some plastic dolls in dirt and mud beforehand and bring them to class. Fill some plastic tubs with water and soap and set them on the tables with some sponges, small brushes or wash cloths. As the kids arrive, tell them that you need their help washing the dolls. While they wash the dirty dolls, circulate and point out that when someone's life is full of sin, they need Jesus' help to wash away the filth. Explain that when Jesus was baptised in water, he gave us an example of obeying God. Even Jesus needed God's help to follow through with all the difficult things he had to endure so that he could be our Savior. When we obey God and choose to be baptised, we are telling God that we accept his help to walk through the difficult parts of life with us.
Discuss how people's actions often tell a story about what is going on in their lives without anyone saying a word. Play a brief game of charades, giving someone a hug, slamming a door or stomping around, yawning, and so on. Ask the kids to tell you what story you are telling by your actions, even though you aren't talking. Point out how we can also tell what is going on in people's hearts with God by what they do. Jesus' action of being baptised shows us that he loved and trusted God and accepted the job that God had for him to do. You may say you love God and want to serve him, but God will know if you really mean it by your actions. He looks at what is in your heart more than what you say with your lips.
As you tell the story of Jesus' baptism, pass out a small piece of white cloth or tissue to each child. Explain that this cloth is just plain and ordinary until you add some colour to it. Put some food colouring in a small paper cup, and carry the cup around, letting each child dip his piece in the dye. Discuss how when you dip the cloth, the fibres soak up the colour, turning it brilliant shades of colour that everyone can enjoy. In baptism, John dipped Jesus in the river like the children dipped their cloths, and as the cloth was filled with colour, so the Holy Spirit descended on him to fill his life with the strength and courage to do what God wanted him to do. When someone is baptised, we may not physically see the Holy Spirit come down as a dove as Jesus did, yet in the same way, God honours the public declaration of her willingness to follow God and fills her with the Spirit to accomplish his purposes in her life.
A simple dove craft can reinforce the lesson on how God sent his blessing upon Jesus at his baptism in the form of the dove, which represents peace. Cut out a simple white dove shape with a horizontal slit in the centre. Fan fold a blank white piece of paper, and slide it through the slit for wings. Explain that when we sin, it is like we are declaring war on God. The Spirit that descended as a dove on Jesus identified him as God's peace offering, the Prince of Peace to end the war between man and God. Tell students to hang their dove up at home to remind them to seek peace with God and others.
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