Youth Lesson: The Spirit Empowers
While we are unable to meet for Sunday School, I will post an adaptation of the youth Sunday School lesson every Wednesday. Think of the lesson as a guide to discuss a passage of Scripture as a family. Each lesson will include some introductory material, a Scripture reading, questions for discussion, and a short prayer. I encourage you to take just 15-30 minutes every week over dinner, at the end of the day, or whenever best fits your family schedule to actively engage your students in this opportunity to grow together as a family in faith.
Jesus had promised the disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit. He told them to stay in Jerusalem while they waited but that when they receive the Holy Spirit they were to go out into the world to be Jesus’ witnesses. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples did exactly what they had been told to do. They waited in Jerusalem.
Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday, a harvest festival. It occurs 50 days after Passover. Passover was the holiday Jesus and his disciples were celebrating at their Last Supper together. Jesus spent 40 days on earth after he rose from the dead before he ascended to heaven, and Pentecost takes place 10 days after Jesus’ ascension. Pentecost was a celebration of the giving of the law (the first five books of the Old Testament) to Moses. It was one of three times a year, Jewish men from all over the ancient world traveled to Jerusalem. This is why there are people who speak so many different languages all gathered in Jerusalem.
We celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the church. As the church was just forming, it was still formulating its own traditions for worship. The coming of the Holy Spirit and making the gospel message available to everyone in their own language helps break down any barriers there might be in God’s people from around the world coming together.
- Read Exodus 13:20-22. God appeared to the Israelites as a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud to guide them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. With this in mind, think about the events of Pentecost. How do you think those in attendance might have connected those events and the coming of the Holy Spirit with God’s guidance of them in the Exodus story?
- Read Exodus 19:16-19. These verses describe some of what takes place before God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. What similarities do you notice between God’s coming in this passage and the events at Pentecost? Knowing that Pentecost is the celebration of God giving the Law and seeing the similarities between these events and those at Pentecost, what other connections do you think the people would have made (or God would want them to make) between these events?
- Try to think of other times that God has used fire, loud noises, or mighty winds to accompany his coming. Why do you think God uses these methods? What does it say about God or the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is a gift for everyone who chooses to follow God. This passage should challenge us to discover the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us. We often think of the Holy Spirit as a “still, small voice.” While that can be the case, the events at Pentecost remind us that the Holy Spirit can also act in jaw-dropping and mind-blowing sorts of ways. We should remember that Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us power. The Holy Spirit can gently guide, but the Holy Spirit may also call us and empower us to do live for God in ways we might not even have ever dreamed.
God has given us all gifts. We might not be able to suddenly be able to speak in other languages, but God has gifted each of us in important ways. He calls all of us to use our gifts in whatever ways possible to draw others to him. As we become more aware of the gifts God has given us, we should consider ways we can use those gifts in service to the church, our communities, and even the world. We must also remember that God has gifted all of his followers. We should call out the gifts we see in others and encourage them also to use their gifts to spread the good news of God’s love.
- In what ways have you received the power of the Holy Spirit? How do you know?
- If you cannot recall a time that you have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, consider asking God to make himself known to you through the Holy Spirit and then be on the lookout for the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life. What will you look for to see the Holy Spirit move?
- In what ways do you think God has gifted you for service? How can you use your gifts in everyday interactions to be a witness for God? What special opportunities could you take part in to use your gifts as a witness for God?
Dear God, we thank you for the stories we can read that remind us that you are always present with your people. We thank you for the way you guide us and call us to draw others to you. We ask that you empower us through the Holy Spirit to be faithful witnesses, committed prayer, to spread your love to everyone we might encounter. Amen.