Rotation.org Writing Team
The Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness
Summary of Activities
Students will take part in a special dramatic reading and acting out of the scripture, then perform "temptation-response" skits. A special non-reader adaptation is included.
Scripture for the Lesson
Matthew 4:1-11, the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness.
Key/Memory Verse: "It is written...." (Students in this lesson will use that phrase several times to come up with their own "Jesus says" responses.)
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- Print copies of the handout for each student.
- Masking tape to create the "temptation-confrontation" line.
Welcome your students and begin with the opening question...
Ask: Have any of you ever been tempted to do something bad? What was it? Did you struggle with that temptation to do something bad? How did it make you feel? What did you end up doing?
Say: In today's lesson, we're going to hear about Jesus confronting three temptations to do the wrong thing. As you listen to his story, I want you to look for THE ANSWERS to these questions: (write them on the board)
♦ What were the temptations he faced?
♦ Did Jesus "struggle" with the temptations offered to him?
♦ What did Jesus have and use to resist making wrong choices?
♦ What can you learn from Jesus' example?
Preparing the First Drama - a group reading of Matthew 4:1-11
Across the middle of the room, place a "temptation-confrontation" line on the floor with masking tape (you will be using this for the skits).
You need to split the class into two groups to read aloud Matthew 4:1-11. A reader's version is found in this lesson's handout. Group 1 will read the Devil's words in the scripture reading, and Group 2 will read Jesus' words. All the "devils" will read in unison, as will all the Jesus'. The teacher will read any other words.
To get them warmed up for the dramatic reading, hold "AUDITIONS" for the two groups, only do not yet tell them what they are auditioning for. Instead, write the following "audition phrases" on the board, then walk up to each student and tell them to "speak like Darth Vader," then "speak like Superman." Based on their audition (and your needs) send them to one side of the room or the other.
Darth Vader: "You must do what I tell you to do!"
Superman*: "I will do only what is right and just." (*or "Supergirl")
You have now created two groups to read Matthew 4:1-11. Next, explain that the "Darth Vader" readers will together (in unison) read the Devil's words from Matthew 4:1-11 (as found in the handout), using their best Darth Vader voice, and that the Superman readers get to read Jesus' words in their best Superman voice. Tell them they may pose and motion as they speak across the room at each other. Say a line or two and "pose" as an example for them.
Why this technique? It focuses their attention on the scripture, gives everyone a part, draws out the dramatic nature of Jesus' confrontation with the Tempter, and enhances their memory. It will also warm them up for the second drama coming up next!
Presenting the First Drama ~ Matthew 4:1-11
Go to "temptation-confrontation" line and have the "Darths" stand on one side, and the "Supermans" on the other facing each other. Tell students that it's like a "battle line" because that's what struggling with temptation often feels like, a battle.
Give students a copy of the Matthew 4:1-11 "Wilderness Drama" handout. It has their parts highlighted (see attached). See the handout for more "how to present" instructions.
Discussion after the first drama.
Say: A lot of times we think Jesus was a nice quiet guy who never raised his voice. In movies we often see him acting calm.
Ask: How would you describe Jesus' attitude in our story today?
If they need help thinking about this, point out a couple of phrases that are full of "tone." Jesus doesn't beat around the bush when responding. He strongly declared: "It is written...." "Do not put to test...." "Serve only him." The point: Jesus doesn't appear to be struggling with these temptations at all. He seems well-prepared to fend them off! How? Jesus immediately recognized that the temptations were contrary to God's Word. He knew the scriptures.
Ask: One thing that's not in the scripture is the devil's reaction to Jesus' strong confident words. Verse 11 says the Devil just left Jesus.
(Ask your devils: "Devils, tell us what you think the Devil was thinking as Jesus walked away?")
Ask: Okay all you Jesus', what do you think Jesus was thinking as the devil left him and the angels came to take care of him? ("Victory!" or "Thank you God," "Phew, glad that's over." etc.)
(Ask your Jesus actors to act out what they think Jesus was thinking as the devil left him and the angels came to help him.)
Teaching Tip: As you prompt and suggest possible answers, be dramatic yourself! Speak and demonstrate with poses and body language. Invite students to strike poses and attitudes with you.
Preparing the Second Drama ~ "Ten Second Dramas"
Students first complete the list of "Temptations and Responses" found in the handout. Then they pair up, are assigned one of the "opposites," and must come up with a 10 second skit demonstrating that temptation and response. See the handout for details.
Here is a screenshot of that part of the handout...
Presenting the Ten Second Dramas
With their completed handout in-hand, invite pairs to come forward and stand opposite each other at the "temptation-confrontation" line you used in the first drama. Remind them to say their parts in the "voices" they practiced, and motion and pose to accentuate their lines. Cue them to begin. See the handout for more details.
If time, do a second round of ten-second skits, assigning each pair of students a different temptation/response from your list. The second time is usually the best!
Return to your opening questions and have the class answer them. The first two answers should be pretty obvious. Focus on the third question.
♦1 Did Jesus "struggle" with the temptations offered to him?
♦2 What did Jesus have and use to resist making wrong choices?
♦3 What did you learn from Jesus' example?
Something you might share:
We learned that "being prepared" to make choices is important. Every day we know that we will be tempted or confronted with bad choices, the wrong thing to do or say or think. Like Jesus, we need to be prepared, —to know wrong when we see it, hear it, or think it, and be ready to reject it. And you ARE preparing yourself like Jesus! You have come to worship and study in church today!
Jesus walked with the Spirit for 40 days in the wilderness, and every day of his life. Do you think he only worshiped and studied scripture once a week?
Last question: If or WHEN you make a mistake, and give in to temptation, what should you do? (Confess your sin and work to heal any wounds you have caused). That's another reason we come to church: to confess and get help.
Close with a prayer for help with preparation, boldness in resistance, and forgiveness.
For Younger Students and Those Who Don't Read Well:
For those who can't read or have difficulty reading... turn them into "actors" who pose and motion based on what they are hearing when YOU and some helpers do the readings.
You can also have the non-readers say and do exactly what the reader/helper says and does as they go through the script (this "repeat after me" and "look like I look" approach can be a lot of fun).
Have those students who can read well do the reading, or invite some older students to come in, read, and "ham it up." It really helps if one of the teachers joins in with the actors, and another teacher joins the readers.
A little extra "staging" will help the readers and non-readers get into their roles. For example, have the actors act in front of a backdrop and videotape them. Have the readers stand on chairs. The more playful and dramatic you set this up, the more the non-reading kids will get into character. (And by "character" we mean that your content will grab their attention and be memorable.)
Comment on the devil, temptations, and this lesson's techniques
Be sure to read the Bible Background for this lesson set and consult with your pastor about how your church wants you to describe the devil to younger children (in literal or non-literal terms). It is important to note that Jesus' firm and learned response to temptation works whether we're talking about being tempted by outside evil forces or inward forces of our own making. We all have that part of us that wants to do the wrong thing (it's called "sin"). Jesus' encounter in the wilderness reminds us of the importance of preparing ourselves with scripture and resolve to both RECOGNIZE and BOLDLY REJECT temptation —whatever its source. That is one of the reasons this lesson emphasizes and uses "dramatic boldness."
Written by the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2016, Rotation.org Inc.