Everyone has an excuse,

I don’t believe in Jesus.

I’m too busy.

Can I wait until I’m an adult.

And on and on.

The thing is, Jesus experienced rejection first hand. Can you imagine, knowing what you know now, turning down the opportunity to follow Jesus? Students (and adults), like the people of the first century, have the excuses; these never change.

To help you help students understand their own resistance to following Jesus I have written a four part series called Challenge Accepted. The series looks at why people in the Bible said no to Jesus, and why they said yes. I have put lesson one below. If you sign up for my newsletter you can download the lesson here. The lesson come with slides.

Challenge Week One

Objective: Student will discover that setting their own terms for following Jesus is a big obstacle to following Jesus. 

Opening Challenge: This portion of your meeting is fo a fun group, team or upfront game. There are many challenges offered on Tik Tok and Youtube but use wisdom when choosing a challenge from the Internet and make sure it’s safe and appropriate for your group. 

Choose a challenge from the Challenge page. (page of links to challenges when you buy the four part series)

Transition: Those were pretty challenging. If you film yourself doing an internet challenge, and you fail, do you still post it? Why or why not? (Let students answer)

Bible Study

We normally do not like to post our challenge failures because we don’t want to look stupid. There are a few stories in the Bible we like to share because it shows people succeeding in following Jesus, almost making it look easy, barely an inconvenience. 

Consider the Successes

Peter and Andrew – Matthew 4:18-20

James and John –  Matthew 4:21-22

Matthew – Matthew 9:9

There are several reasons Peter, Andrew, James and John followed Jesus so quickly. 

  1. following Jesus sounded like a good way to get out of work
  2. they had no real idea what they were getting into. 

In fairness, no one really knows what they’re getting into when they follow Jesus. 

3) they were chosen by Jesus, a rabbi, and that meant He saw potential in them. 

Young men who did make the cut to follow a rabbi went to work. Peter, Andrew, James and John may have seen this as redemption for not making the initial cut. 

The reason Matthew was quick to follow Jesus could have been because he was a Jew collecting taxes, for Cesar and the Romans, and was considered a traitor and a follower of Rome. 

Rabbi’s, like Jesus, were often approached by wanna be students, especially if that Rabbi was popular. Like other Rabbi’s Jesus would test the commitments of those who wanted to follow them. This is where the challenge to following Jesus begins

The Challenge Fails

Matthew 8:18–22; Luke 14:25–33; John 6:59–66 all have similar stories of wanna be followers’ wanting to follow Jesus but their “commitments” were exposed by Jesus. 

As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.”

The man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You, however, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me bid farewell to my family.”

Then Jesus declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62

When we set our terms, and expectations, for following Jesus, we are always disappointed. 

The First Man

As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

We don’t know if the man took the offer or not, but traditionally, the scriptures usually indicate when someone decides to follow Jesus, but if the first man did say no to Jesus, it might have been because he was not confident Jesus would provide the basic necessities. 

His challenge was that he thought following Jesus would be easy and comfortable Jesus let him know, up front, this journey not for those seeking comfort. 

The Second Man

Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.”

The man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You, however, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Jesus invited the second man to follow him. It’s likely he saw potential  in him, as he did with Peter, James, John and Andrew, but the man set his own terms, “Let me bury my father”.

This man’s father could have been in perfect health and he was just telling  Jesus, “It would be most convenient for me to follow you after my father passes away.” He told Jesus what his terms were to follow Him. Telling Jesus when, where  and how you will follow him is opposite of surrendering your life to him. Don’t set terms with God.

Jesus was not having any of it. Jesus offered him a greater call, a greater mission in proclaiming the kingdom. Imagine the opportunities that man missed following Jesus. They are the same opportunities we miss today if we put other things before the most important thing.

You have to ask yourself, “Do you want to be comfortable or do you want to grow? You can’t do both”. 

The Third Man

Still another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me bid farewell to my family.”

Then Jesus declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

“But first” Are the words that come right before an excuse. In the first century, if a rabbi called you to follow, and you accepted, the rabbi immediately takes precedence over your family. This man knew this and made his choice. 

Do you have any “but firsts”? 

But first let me know my bible more. 

But first let me clean up my act. 

But first let me graduate high school/college

This man’s challenge was family. Jesus is not saying to not love your family, but Jesus is asking this man to choose who he will be loyal to, Him or his family. Families are great but they can sway our opinions or use guilt or shame to manipulate our decisions for their benefit without considering what God wants. 

Think of James and John’s mom who went to Jesus to make a pitch for her boys to be top dogs in God’s Kingdom.

The mother of Zebedee’s children (James and John) came to Jesus with her sons. She got down on her knees before Jesus to ask something of Him. He said to her, “What do you want?” She said, “Say that my two sons may sit, one at Your right side and one at Your left side, when You are King.” Jesus said to her, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to take the suffering that I am about to take? Matthew 20:20-22

Parents, am I right? We can get so locked into wanting to please our parents or other family members that what Jesus wants gets pushed to the background. 

Closing Challenge

The challenge is to say yes when the Lord calls you. If you sense the Lord calling you, say yes, you will not regret it. 

Note: If you want to offer a physical way for students to demonstrate their commitment, have a basket with some tokens or something that says yes on it. Put all the tokens for items in a basket that says no on it. Ask students, if they want to say yes, to take a token out of the NO basket and place it in the YES basket. 

Close in prayer

Buy the full series here

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