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Lent: Jesus in the Wilderness

Understanding difficult times

by Alexandra Palmer

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To explore the meaning of Lent and to consider why Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Ask the children if any of them like to eat pancakes.

    Ask the children if any of them know what ingredients go into making pancakes. What are their favourite toppings?

  2. Ask the children if anyone knows why we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

    Explain that Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent. Lent is a time when Christians remember that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness without eating before he began his special time of ministry.

  3. Some Christians celebrate Lent by giving up something important in memory of Jesus giving up food for 40 days. A long time ago, Christians would give up eating all rich food during Lent, and this included eggs. So, on Shrove Tuesday, people used to make pancakes and use up all the food they wouldn’t be allowed to eat during Lent.

    Nowadays, people might give up eating chocolate, buying hot drinks from coffee shops or playing games on the Wii. Alternatively, instead of giving something up, people sometimes decide to do something special, such as performing an act of kindness every day during the 40 days of Lent.

  4. Explain that the Bible tells us that Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and nights. It also tells us that Jesus was tested by the Devil three times towards the end of his 40 days. However, we have little detail as to what Jesus did during his time in the wilderness.

  5. Explain that the following video includes some illustrations that suggest how Jesus may have spent his time. The illustrations are numbered, so they could be used for the 40 days of Lent.

    Show the YouTube video ‘40 – a video of Jesus in the wilderness’.

  6. Use the PowerPoint slides to discuss the video.

    Show Slide 1.

    We know from the Bible that Jesus’ earthly father was Joseph and that he was a carpenter who would have taught Jesus about the trade.

    When Jesus turned 30, he knew that it was the right time to stop his carpentry work and prepare himself to do the work of God, his heavenly father. This is why Jesus is packing away his carpentry tools in the first picture.

  7. Show Slide 2.

    Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist, in the River Jordan. Afterwards, Jesus went into the desert, which is also called the wilderness in the Bible, to prepare himself for doing God’s work.

    The first picture shows that Jesus was in the desert by himself, and that the desert was barren and dry, which means that plants would have difficulty growing due to the lack of rain.

    One of the things that Jesus would have done in the desert was pray, which we can see in the second picture.

  8. Show Slide 3.

    The desert is a difficult place to survive in, but it’s also a place where beautiful things happen. The illustrator has shown this by drawing a family of desert foxes.

    Jesus had a hard time during his 40 days in the desert. However, even when you experience hard times, you can still have a bit of fun, which is why Jesus is playing a game with the rocks.

  9. Show Slide 4.

    You may wish to ask the children what the connection with the apple is in this story. The answer is that the illustrator wants to make the connection with the story of Adam and Eve eating the apple in the Garden of Eden after God told them not to. The snake is another connection with this story.

    Explain that Jesus would have become very hungry in the desert.

  10. Show Slide 5.

    Ask the children what they think Picture 28 is showing.

    Point out that by Day 28, Jesus would have been feeling tired and weak. The picture shows Jesus praying for help. Christians believe that praying helps them in difficult times and that they can pray to God anywhere and in any situation.

    Ask the children who the two golden figures are in Picture 32.

    Explain that in the Bible, it says that angels attended Jesus while he was in the desert (Mark 1.9-13).

  11. Show Slide 6.

    Explain that the figure in red represents the Devil. Jesus was tested by the Devil to find out whether he would give in to doing something wrong. Jesus was tested three times.

    The first time, the Devil asked Jesus to turn some stones into bread. Jesus hadn’t eaten for the whole time he’d been in the desert. However, he knew that he had to wait for the right time to start eating again and that he should only use his power to help other people, not himself.

    The second time that Jesus was tested was when the Devil took him to a high point in Jerusalem and asked him to jump off because God would tell the angels to save him. Jesus knew that God loved him and that he shouldn’t test his heavenly father in this way.

  12. Show Slide 7.

    For the third test, the Devil took Jesus to a high mountain and told him that if he worshipped and obeyed him, he would give Jesus all the places in the world. However, Jesus knew that he should only worship and obey God.

    After the third time of being tested, Jesus told the Devil to go away.

  13. Show Slide 8.

    When the Devil left, Jesus knew that it was the right time to return home, so the last frame of the video says, ‘And now I’m back.’

    Jesus spent 40 days in the desert as a time of preparation for doing God’s work on Earth. Following his time in the desert, Jesus worked for three years healing many people, performing amazing miracles and teaching people about God.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to think about when they’ve experienced a difficult time at school, at home or in any other situation.

Point out that if we have a problem, it is always best to talk to someone we trust who will be able to help us in some way.

In addition to speaking about their difficulties to someone they trust, Christians believe that God is with them in every situation and that they can always talk to him. They call this praying.

Explain that everybody will go through tough times at some point in their lives. However, there are lessons to be learnt from each experience. These lessons can help us in the future and enable us to help others.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for the love you have for all of us.
Thank you that you are with us in both good and bad times.
Thank you that Jesus went through tough times.
Thank you that he never gave up, but continued to love us.
Please help us always to be ready to help others when they are in need.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Our God is a great big God’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaXPXWBcE3I (3.00 minutes long)

Publication date: March 2019   (Vol.21 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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