Then from John 3: “Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized.” John continues to baptize, and Jesus baptizes in the company of his disciples.
“25 Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. 26 And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” Why is John ok with his ministry winding down?
“27 John answered, “I am not the Christ/ Anointed/ Mashiah, but I have been sent before him.” I get three volunteers up to the front, and we act this next bit out as I read, “29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.” Once the best man has given the groom the ring, he’s done, and all attention goes to the wedding couple. The best man is ok with that.
“30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” Remember, the daylight decreases after John’s birthday on June 24; and daylight increases after Jesus’ birthday on December 25. Are those really their birthdays? I think so; if not, they are very close. Calendars aren’t perfect. But I believe God coordinated their birthdays with the natural cycle of the Sun. You know: we say Jesus is the Light of the World, like…the Sun! Yes.
A mere two paragraphs later in John 4: “Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples, he left Judea and departed again to Galilee.” A big deal in our class, this passage shows that Jesus has already stopped baptizing. He has handed that authority over to his disciples. That is, Jesus is starting to set up his Church. If you want Christ’s baptism, you get it through his intermediaries.
2. The kids explain the top picture and the idea of intercession, which leads into the Wedding at Cana. They can tell the whole story and I just have to direct the discussion and read only a couple of lines from John 2. I add a J(esus) & M(ary) over Solomon and Bathsheba. The kids explain how both Mary and Bathsheba interceded; but like all intercessors they didn’t demand, they just asked. We connect the abundance of wine to the abundance of Peter’s catch after he meets Jesus.
Then I read, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now,” and the kids figure out the wine had alcohol in it (In the Bible Belt this datum matters).
And, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” Oh well, even a dog could taste and see that water went in and wine came out. People will always believe what they see with their own two eyes (well, most of the time). People love visible miracles…they don’t require much faith.
3. Between John the Baptist making a fuss over him, and this wine miracle, people are getting fired-up about Jesus. He visits the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4), and reads from Isaiah; then: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The men puff up with pride at the local boy made good: “And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Good times a-comin’ for the Sons of Abraham! But I read this bit: “I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” The kids remind me that both the widow and Naaman were pagans who did God’s will. Jesus means that being a Son of Abraham is no guarantee of receiving God’s blessings: in fact, sometimes the whole lot of Chosen People are left out. Maybe everyone in the synagogue should get busy repenting and doing good works as John the Baptist told the know-it-alls at the Jordan.
Then, “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.” Jesus has barely started his ministry and his own people find him so aggravating that one minute everybody loves Jesus, and the next minute they are ready to kill him. As he said, “no prophet is acceptable in his own country.” Just like Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, he says things people don’t want to hear. It’s a dangerous habit.
4. With five volunteers we act out the Healing of the Paralytic. This story is thematically very dense, but one thread that’s emphasized is that the Paralytic’s friends intercede for his healing. Also, Jesus pairs a dog miracle, one that even a dog can perceive (Imagine if the paralytic had a dog all these years…he’d freak out when his master started walking around.) with an invisible miracle, forgiving sin. If the crowd sees Jesus do A, can they take on faith he also did B? Apparently so.
Class ends two minutes late. If the kids are engaged in the material they won’t look at the clock.
Reading aloud is done in short bits, and each bit is always followed by questions and discussion.
Old info illuminates new info. Secular info illuminates religious info.
Old Testament bits such as Zarephath and Naaman have to be taught earlier so the kids can figure out the point of what Jesus is saying when he refers to them now.
Physical variety: reading, questions, answers, discussion, acting, drawing.
No dead time.
P.S. Here’s a terrific post by a priest on Catechesis.
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