In the final blog regarding Jesus’ twelve apostles, we finish with James the son of Alphaeus. Scholars often refer to this student of Jesus as “the Lesser,” in relation to James, one of Christ’s inner circle along with Peter and John. Although James the son of Alphaeus enjoys a smaller role in the recorded ministry of Christ, we take care not to minimize his contribution. Notably, Jesus gave him power to heal diseases and cast out demons, and he was present for the feeding of the five thousand, the Great Commission, the ascension, the selection of Matthias to replace Judas, and early outreach ministry as recorded in the Book of Acts. I will present lessons in relation to James and a suggestion for teaching in the Sunday School classroom.
The Gospels reveal little regarding Simon the Zealot. It is important to distinguish Simon the Zealot from Simon Peter. As “Simon” was a common name in Jesus’ context, it is not surprising that the Twelve included more than one. Regarding this Simon’s name, “Zealot,” there are possibilities. Either “Zealot” is about the apostle’s passionate faith, or his membership in a New Testament group called the “Zealots,” or both.
Given that details of Simon are so spare, I will address a couple of issues related to Simon’s zeal.
Compared to others like Peter or Judas, we read little of this apostle. Therefore, this month I’ll present Thaddaeus related to his context. There is much we can learn from the events that took place where Thaddaeus was present.
There is relatively little we know for certain regarding Bartholomew, other than his inclusion with the list of the twelve disciples. His name is the combination of two Hebrew words, “bar(son)” and “Talmai.” As it was common for sons to carry their father’s name, it's likely his father’s name was Talmai. “Bar” is part of other Biblical names. Examples include, Barabbas (son of the father), Barnabas (son of encouragement) and Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus).
There is some thought that Bartholomew is also Nathanael, who is mentioned in the Gospel of John. This is good reason to assume this. In the first three Gospels, what are called the synoptic Gospels, Bartholomew is listed closely with Philip. As you will read below, Philip finds Nathanael upon encountering Jesus. These common connections to Philip suggest Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person. We will proceed under this assumption.
Excitement is in the air. You can feel the anticipation of kids getting ready for school, the sigh of relief from parents that they may get a small break now, and the flutter of teachers’ hearts (and stomachs) as they prepare for another school year. Or is it the sensation of tension you feel? The nervousness of kids getting ready for their first day back or maybe even the anxiety and stress of teachers and parents alike? This year, it seems to be a bit of both worlds, excitement and anxiety. It’s the unknown of what teaching and learning during this pandemic will feel like and how it will unfold in the following months. So what will your Sunday School look like this fall? There are several options to satisfy the unique needs of your students and families. Let’s take a look.
Lounging in a hammock strung from the shady oak trees, sunglasses on, ice cold lemonade in one hand, and a great book in the other. This is my ideal picture of summer! Summer seems, for many of us, to be a time for sun, vacations, relaxing, and enjoying a new book. And for many teachers, it is also a time to re-focus and recharge for the coming year.
Summer is almost here, and it is not starting off how we had all hoped. Everyone is scrambling trying to figure out if in-person events (from birthday parties to worship services and even summer school) will be held and, if so, how to hold them safely. Summer Sunday school can prove to be a challenge for administrators and teachers any year, but this year might be an even bigger challenge than prior years. Trying to figure out the best option for your students and their families can be difficult. So what options are there to keep your kids learning about Jesus throughout this summer? Let’s look at five non-traditional options.
Jesus frequently performed miracles in the course of His earthly ministry. Mark 3 contains a couple examples of note. Jesus was near the synagogue on the Sabbath. Our Lord’s detractors were keeping a close vigil in hopes of catching Jesus in sin. Jesus taught with authority in the synagogue, yet He was often rejected by the Jewish religious authorities. Jesus healed many, including the man with the withered hand, and when evil spirits encountered Him, they cowered in fear. The scribes claimed He was possessed by a demon. Even our Lord’s family believed He was deranged.
In this context, accused of devilry, our Savior cleverly presents the parable of the house divided.
You see members of your congregation regularly attending worship and being active within their small groups and social circles, but are they thinking of or active with the children growing in Jesus’ love during Sunday School? Does it even matter? Shouldn’t the parents be involved with their children and not have to “bother” the congregation members? Of course, parents should be involved with their child’s faith, but it is also important to have your congregation members engaged as well. It can help parents feel connected to the church community, strengthen relationships across generations, and, most important, help students grow in their faith (and many times, the members as well!).
So now what? How do you start engaging your members with your Sunday School? The following are a few ideas to help involve your congregation with Sunday School.
This parable is both Law and Gospel. It’s an admonition to be ready for Jesus’ return at the end of human history, but it is also the Gospel message that Jesus makes us ready for His triumphant return—the day He will make us whole in heaven.