The following story is for teachers to use as a background, or to read aloud to their students. It could also be used by a storyteller or as a narrator's script for a drama to be videotaped.
A Visit to the Temple in the Time of Jesus
Sights, sounds, smells, and activities as imagined by Neil MacQueen.
Imagine your church full of people every day of the week, that's what the Temple is like.
Imagine your church being the only Sanctuary for your entire city! That's what the Temple is like to the people of Israel.
It's big, in fact, it's HUGE! It sits on the top of a hill surrounded by high walls. Inside the walls is a huge plaza that could hold thousands. And at the center of the plaza, behind more walls, are the courts of the Temple. Inside the courts is the Sanctuary building itself, what most people call "The Temple." And inside the Temple Sanctuary is an even smaller room where only the High Priest enters once a year. It is called the Holy of Holies, and is where God's Spirit is said to dwell.
All day long, people are coming and going to the Temple and its courts. Many have traveled for days to be there. Temple Guards look you over as you pass through one of the many outer gates. You ascend through a tunnel up a long set of stairs to reach the top of the Temple mount.
Once up on the mount, you cross a large plaza full of people coming and going, talking and teaching. There seem to be walls and gates everywhere. People in special areas looking out past pillars, and small glass-less windows with children gazing through them.
You and your father walk to the money-changing tables to trade his Roman coins for Jewish coins acceptable in worship. The two of you return with a small lamb and a small bird to sacrifice on the altar for your sins.
Most everyone is carrying offerings of coins and animals to the offering gate near the Temple where they are taken by the priests to the altar area. Once your offering is made and prayers are spoken, it's time to explore all that's going on in the Temple area.
As you walk towards the Temple's large Sanctuary building, you see and hear groups of people talking, teaching, singing, praying, or watching everyone else just like you.
In the distance, you hear men singing psalms accompanied by harps and cymbals. Others near and far are singing along.
Non-members (Gentiles), women, and children have special areas they must go to. These are called "courts." They are like porches from which they can observe other activities and participate in prayers, singing and listening to teachers.
In one corner, a famous teacher with a long beard is speaking and answering questions about the Ten Commandments. Around the corner from him is a group of young teachers debating the meaning of today's Psalm. Important officials called Sadducees are gathered in their usual corner close to the Sanctuary, dressed in fine garments, and discussing Temple business. A group of Pharisees, who focus on keeping God's law, are arguing among themselves about a new Temple rule, and the Chief Priest's assistant is listening intently to their arguments.
An old man is standing with his hands stretched to the sky and praying.
A woman and her children are kneeling towards the Temple.
A young brother and sister are playing tag around one of the massive pillars while their father greets an old friend.
Especially at the time of Passover, fathers are showing their older sons the wonders of the Temple, taking them into the Court of the Israelites to look up at the massive doors of the Sanctuary, and teaching them how to conduct themselves in the courts.
For most, it is the biggest building they have ever seen. They stand in awe looking at its massive architecture and hearing stories of its building. Sons ask questions, such as, "how did they get the stones up there?" and "where do they get the wood for the altar fires?" Their necks are sore from looking up, but their attentiveness is a key indicator as to whether or not the boy is ready to be treated like a man in the family. (Yes, in those days boys and girls were treated differently when it came to religious practices. It wasn't fair, but that's the way it was.)
Dressed in their best robes, mothers guide their daughters to the Women's Court. They pause to hear a young man speaking the Book of Deuteronomy from memory. As they approach the Women's Court, they join a group of women singing a Hallel (praise psalm) and one of them is lightly tapping what we would call a tambourine. An older woman is leading them. Old friends greet one another, having not seen each other for some time. Daughters ask questions, and wonder why they are not allowed to join father and brother. Babies and young boys are with them, so the air is filled with the sounds of laughter, crying, and admonishments.
A man approaches with some warm bread sweetened with dates. Several old men sit silently on a stone bench munching fruit and occasionally nodding to someone who pays their respect. A young priest walks buy with a flask of lamp oil making sure the lamps in the courts are lit. He sprinkles frankincense in the oil to create a fragrant smoke, and gives a few crystals of it to some children following him.
The crowd parts as an important looking person on official business makes his way through the courts. He walks around a knot of men arguing over the meaning of a Bible verse. Families gather near the Golden Gate to find each other, though some send a message that they will be staying to hear someone speak and promise to rejoin the family by sundown.
In the Court of the Israelites near the altar, several older teachers are speaking with a group of 12 year old boys. Their fathers are proudly watching from the back, and their mothers from the Women's Court, as each of their sons is asked a question by the teacher, and everyone listens for the student's response. A hand of blessing from the old teacher and a smile of approval towards the father brings the session to an end.
On your way back down the tunnel stairs, you pass by more pilgrims coming in and praising God. Back outside the Temple Mount, you walk down a long broad set of stairs towards a market fair. Breads and fruits, scrolls and jewelry, leathers and clothes, dressed lamb for the Passover and brass goods of all kinds – you've never seen so much wonderful stuff in one place in your entire life.
To the side, a young prophet is speaking loudly to a gathering crowd, you hear him condemn the Romans. He is being listened to carefully by a young priest who will report to his superiors. A man with no legs sits on a mat blessing those who give him a small donation. A woman with a small child begs for coins.
Promising to get back together for supper, some of you head for the market, while other members of your family decide to visit the nearby tomb of King David. After a few hours of worship, exploring and shopping, you return to your family's camping area on the Mount of Olives near Gethsemane for a delicious dinner and a good night's sleep. Tomorrow, you will return to the Temple, and then explore the other parts of Jerusalem which hold many fantastic sites, smells, and souvenirs.
A copy of "Finding Jesus" (which is like Where's Waldo). See source note below.
"Where can we find Jesus?" – a children's sermon
Sit down with the kids and open a copy of the book, "Where's Waldo?" This series was very popular a number of year's back, and some of your students may be acquainted with it. Let them try to find Waldo on two or three pages.
Now pull out your copy of "Finding Jesus" – which is just like "Where's Waldo" except that Jesus is the one you're looking for.
Show a couple of pages and see if they can "find Jesus."
Ask:How many of you would like to meet Jesus? Talk to him? Give him a hug? Hear him teaching? Offer to serve him? Be his best friend?
Say: Seems kind of hard to do all those things because he doesn't walk around in his body anymore! He is the Holy Spirit.
So where can you find the Spirit of Jesus?
Key Point:Would it AMAZE you to learn that the very first words Jesus ever spoke in the Bible are him telling us where to find him?
Tell the story of Jesus the Boy in the Temple, Luke 2: 41-52.
....When he was a boy.... His parents looked for Jesus everywhere else BUT the Temple (i.e. the church). And when they found Jesus there talking to his teachers, Jesus said the very first words ever written down about him. He said, "did you not know to look for me in my Father's House?"
You will look for Jesus and encounter his Spirit in many places and times during your life, but Jesus himself reminds us that it is God's House, places of worship and Bible study and mission, where Jesus loves to hang out the most!
So keep coming, keep looking for him and you will find him.
And here's the great last part of that: Jesus is here in this place looking for you too.
Will he find you here and will you be ready to hug him, learn from him and serve him? I hope so!
About the Book:
by Winston Rowntree
Published 2014 by Three Rivers Press.
Available on Amazon
A note about this book
Finding Jesus is like Where's Waldo, but it has a hip spirit that adults will appreciate too. A cartoon image of Jesus is hidden among a large group of people doing all number of things, including camping, attending a house party, attending a wedding (just like in Cana), and even going to a Led Zepplin concert. "Where" the author/illustrator puts Jesus and what's going on around him would make a great subject for discussion for youth, including, "who would Jesus hang out with today?"
Images from the copyrighted book are used under the "Fair Use" copyright principle.
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