Monday, June 20, 2011

VBS Stories

After "writing" these stories for the Z's, Mrs. Z suggested I post them where they can be used. Feel free to borrow or use any of them; they're there for any means that will glorify God.

The theme was the miracles of Jesus, with a broad focus on legalism vs. the Law of Love, and the amazing Deity of Jesus.

Jesus Turns Water Into Wine
John 2:1-12
Have you ever been to a wedding? It’s a happy, joyful event isn’t it. So many smiling people, all dressed in their best. That beautiful bride standing with her new husband. Fathers and mothers watching with mixed emotions. And after the actual marriage comes the feast. There is music and speeches and of course FOOD! Lots of it! You can picture the tables piled high with sweets and treats and steaming chicken biriyani, palak-paneer bursting with flavour, delicious dahl, channa, roti and nan... Too much good food to mention! And there’s chai tea, lots of it! Some people seem to think that the food is the MOST important part! That’s not true, of course, but it IS an important part of a wedding.
Back in Jesus’ time, food was pretty important for weddings too. It was the bride and grooms’ way of saying, celebrate with us! We are so happy to have you here at our marriage! Weddings were quite a bit different back then. Their feasting lasted a looonnnng time: they would celebrate, eat and drink for seven days in a row. Imagine that! And all the while, the guests would be eating and drinking. Food was important, but so was wine. God doesn’t want us to drink too much wine so that we can’t control ourselves, but the Bible does not forbid drinking a little. Wine in that culture, as in many, was a celebrative drink. So if you were a Jewish person at a wedding back then, you would drink a little bit each day. A little bit of wine over seven days for a lot of people? That’s a lot of wine, isn’t it? Think about that as you listen to this story about Jesus.
Jesus, His mother and disciples, were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. There was a lot of dancing, feasting and drinking, but by the third day, something really bad happened. The bride and groom ran out wine! Only three days into the week-long feast, and they had already run out of wine. Can you imagine how embarrassed they must have been? At that time, it would be like saying to your guests, “We don’t think you’re special enough to give you enough wine for the whole week.” The bride and groom must have been so sad. Jesus’ mother Mary soon learned of the wine shortage. She found Jesus and said to Him, “They have no more wine!” Jesus said to her, “What does this have to do with me? It’s not my time yet.”
What do you suppose He meant by that? Do you think He didn’t care about the embarrassment of the bride and groom? Does Jesus care about little things like that? And yet Jesus DOES care, as we’ll soon find out.
After Jesus said this to Mary, she said looked around and told the servants, “Do whatever Jesus tells you to do!”
There were six massive stone jars in the building, meant for holding water for washing. Jesus told the servants to fill the jars to their very brims. He then said to the servants, “Take some to the master of the feast.” (he’s like the MC.) So the servants brought a cupful to the master of the feast. The man lifted the glass to his lips, and do you know what he tasted? Not water, but delicious, AMAZING wine. It was SO good that the MC called over the groom and said to him, “Usually people serve the best wine first. But you have kept the best wine until now!” The wedding must have continued after that with more than enough wine: after all, they had six huge jars full. Jesus saved the bride and groom from embarrassment.
But this story – which is the very FIRST miracle Jesus did to show He is God – shows just how big our God is. Who can change water into wine? That is a miracle, isn’t it? It takes the hand of the Creator – the hand of God – to change something from one thing into another. When the disciples saw this, they believed Jesus.
But even though Jesus is SO big and powerful, He still cares about the “little things” that we care about. (No one was going to die from not having enough wine, were they?) Not having the wine sure meant a lot to the bride and groom, and Jesus understood that. That’s because He is both God AND a person. He knows what it’s like to be embarrassed, to be sad or scared or even hurting from a cut knee. And He hears our prayers, whether they’re about big things or very small ones.

Jesus Walks on the Water
John 6:16-21 and Matthew 14:22-38
Imagine a thunder storm: think of the clashes of thunder that bang through the air. They come all of a sudden, again and again, and fill your bedroom. You can’t imagine anything louder than that crashing thunder! And the lightening! It doesn’t stop. It streaks across the sky. It lights up your bedroom and your frightened little brother’s face. And it shows how WILD things are outside! The trees are bending so far, they look like they’re going to snap! It feels like the whole world is out of control. That thunderstorm is sooo scary. It’s so wild! Is there anything more terrifying than a thunderstorm? Is there anything bigger than a thunderstorm?
That must have been what Jesus’ disciples were thinking one night. It had been a long day for them. Jesus had just fed five thousand people. He had told them to get in their boat and meet him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, while He went up to the mountain to pray. The disciples were experienced fishermen, and weren’t scared of crossing the sea by themselves. So in they got, and set out for the other shore. But when the boat was in the middle of the sea, the weather began to change. Dark clouds filled the sky. A wild wind came and whipped up huge waves all around the little boat. The little boat tossed around in the water like a leaf. The disciples did their best to row towards the land, but the wind was directly against them. All night they fought the waves, trying to get to shore.
Then came yet another, scarier thing. There across the waves was a man. He seemed to be walking on the water, and He was coming toward them. The disciples screamed out in terror, “It’s a ghost!” But immediately, a loving voice called out to them, “Don’t be afraid! It is I!” Who was it? It was Jesus, walking on the water! Can you imagine how relieved the disciples must have felt? But you know what, those disciples STILL weren’t sure. Was it really Jesus? How can a Man walk on water? Have YOU ever seen someone walk on top of water? He wasn’t just skittering across a sandy patch of sea. He wasn’t skating on ice. He wasn’t swimming, or surfing, or any of that. He was walking in a wild, crashing sea full of waves. And He was walking on TOP of those waves! So the disciples couldn’t believe Him when He said He was Jesus.
Peter had to test Him. Peter said, “Lord, if it really is you, tell me to step into the water and come to you.” And Jesus said, “Come!” So Peter stepped out of the boat. He put his feet onto the water and began to walk on it! How amazing and strange that must have been! Peter walked toward Jesus, but soon he began to look around himself. He looked at the pounding waves, the wild wind stronger than anything he knew, and Peter became terrified! His feet began to sink into the water, and He screamed out “Jesus! Save me!” Jesus reached out and took Peter’s hand, pulling him to safety. Jesus said to Peter, “Oh Peter, you have SO little faith! Why did you doubt me?”
Think about that for a minute. Why did Jesus say that to Peter? Peter had faith (or belief), right? He had enough faith to step into that wild sea in the first place. But when did he start to sink? Peter started to sink when he began looking around at the waves. Peter stopped looking at Jesus, and started thinking that those waves were far more powerful than anything he knew. More powerful than anything... even Jesus. Is that true? Is a massive storm bigger than Jesus? No, of course not! You know who made those waves in the first place, right? God did! And if God created the sea and the waves, do you think He has power to control them? He sure does. God is far bigger than the sea. He can swirl up an ocean storm easier than you could swirl up the water in a glass with your pinky finger. God makes storms, and He ends storms. All that thunder and lightning: every jolt is planned and sent by Him.
And who is Jesus? Jesus is God of course. So He had that storm totally in control.
That’s why Jesus rebuked Peter. He was reminding Peter to trust Him, because He was completely in control.
Jesus and Peter walked over the waves and back to the boat. As soon as Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped instantly. The disciples worshipped Jesus, saying “You really ARE the Son of God!”
Remember that thunderstorm we talked about at the beginning of the story? I asked you if there’s anything bigger than a thunderstorm. Is there? Of course there is! And just like Peter, all we have to do is pray “Jesus, save me! Keep me safe tonight!” And we’ll know that God Himself is looking after us. But it gets scary sometimes, doesn’t it. Just like Peter, we can think “Wow that lightning is so much bigger than me!” That’s when we have to stop looking at the waves, and keep looking to Jesus.

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda
John 5:1-18
Our Bible story today takes us to a very special place in Israel. It’s called the Pool of Bethesda and at the time of Jesus, everyone would have known about it. It’s a large pool, sort of like a swimming pool. There are five huge pillars around it, each holding up the roof. Between the pillars and around the pool lie many, many people. Are they enjoying the sun? No. In fact, most seem to be very sick. There are blind people, with rags tied across their grey, unseeing eyes. There are deaf people staring straight ahead, in a silent world of their own. Some people have twisted legs, or legs that are completely missing – these are the lame. Some are paralyzed and haven’t been able to move by themselves for years. But most of these sick people have healthy friends with them. Everyone sits and waits... They look eagerly at the pool, eyes lit in excitement. They’ve been waiting for days, weeks, months, maybe even years! What could they all be waiting for?
If you asked them, they’d be happy to tell you. Why, this is the Pool of Bethesda, what people call the “house of grace and mercy!” On certain days, a very special thing happens. An angel of God comes down and stirs the water. Whoever gets into the pool first when the water is being stirred comes away completely healed! What an amazing thing! No wonder these people watch with such anticipation. The sick people have strong and healthy friends with them, ready to help them be the first one to get into the pool.
Jesus was walking here one day. He walked among the invalids, all waiting their chance to leap into the water. But look a little closer. There among the crowd is an older man, all alone. He’s been there a long, long time. In fact, he has been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus walked up to him, knowing his long, disappointing wait. He asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered, “But Sir, I have no one to help me into the water when the angel is stirring it! Every time I try to go into the water, another person gets there first!”
Jesus looked at that man with mercy and said to him, “Get up! Take up your bed (mat) and WALK!” And immediately that man was better! He grabbed his bed and walked for the first time in thirty-eight years. Can you imagine how happy he was? He must have jumped and run, trying out his strong legs again. What a feeling of freedom, to be able to run after years of lying in bed!
But that day was the Sabbath – the day of rest for the Jews. God had made this so that His people could rest and focus on worshipping Him. But the Jewish rulers –the Pharisees—said they were not allowed to do ANY work on Sunday: not even carry a bed or walk too far! They made many detailed rules that the people had to follow. These rules ended up being a huge long list of “do’s and don’ts”. This was the Pharisees’ way of showing how holy they were. But that did not make them holy. It was just a way to make themselves look better.
Well, the man was still carrying his bed when he walked past the Pharisees. And what do you suppose those Pharisees said? Did they say, “WOW! We’re so happy that you’re walking after lying sick in bed for almost forty years!?” or did they say, “Who made you better, so that we can see Him too?!” No, they didn’t. All those Pharisees did was frown and growl, “It is the Sabbath and you’re not allowed to carry your bed!” But the man who had been healed answered, “The man who healed me told me to carry my bed and walk!” So the Pharisees said, “And who is He?” But the man didn’t know Jesus’ name.
A little later, Jesus found the man in the temple. Jesus said to the man, “See, you are better! Don’t sin anymore, and nothing worse will happen to you.”
After this, the man went to tell the Pharisees that it was Jesus who had healed him. Then the Pharisees started persecuting Jesus, trying to catch Him and put Him in prison. But Jesus answered, “My Father and I are working.” By this, Jesus meant that He and God were working together as equals. Then the Pharisees hated Him even more, because He claimed to be as strong as God Himself; because He actually is God.
Do you think those Pharisees really cared about the sick man?
They didn’t at all, did they. They weren’t happy he’d been healed – they were only angry that he was breaking one of their many little rules.
Do you think they cared about God?
God’s rule and commandment is to love – to love God Himself first, and also to love everyone around us. But those Pharisees sure didn’t show love to the man who had been healed!
Instead, the Pharisees cared most about themselves. They made all those rules, not to love and serve God, but to show how good and holy THEY themselves were. And God hates this.
But Jesus shows us love, both for God and for people.

Jesus Heals the Man with Dropsy and the Man with the Withered Hand
Luke 14:1-6 and Luke 6:6-11
What does it mean to obey? Look at this quick story for a minute: suppose Mom tells Jimmy and Joey to each go and clean his room. They’re not allowed out until they’re done. Joey doesn’t care much for the job, so he wants to get his done as fast as possible. He works very hard, throwing dirty laundry across the room into the hamper, making his bed neatly and quickly. His stuffed animals fly through the air and land with a bump in their places... For Jimmy, it’s the same – he also doesn’t like cleaning, and works to get it done fast. Mom is in the backyard and the boys are busily working when BANG! their little sister Sarah has a big fall. Sarah starts to cry. She’s very hurt. What should those boys do now? Joey thinks to himself, “well Mom said I wasn’t allowed to leave my room until I was done!” So he keeps working hard. Jimmy thinks, “But poor little Sarah is hurt! And Mom’s not around! I have to go comfort Sarah.” So Jimmy leaves his room to give Sarah a hug.
Who was obeying? Do you think Mom would be pleased that Joey stayed in his room while Sarah was hurt? Don’t you think Mom would care far more about comforting little Sarah than about not leaving the room?
In some ways, God’s commands are like that too. He says, “Keep the Sabbath day (today that means Sunday) holy and don’t work on that day.” But above all, God commands us to LOVE: love God Himself, and to love those around us. We love God by keeping His commandments. We love the people around us by caring about them and showing love. Love is the whole reason behind every rule God has given us. You see, we can obey all God’s rules, but if we’re not showing love, we’re missing the point altogether. In the next story, watch how Jesus follows this by showing love. And watch the Pharisees: will God be happy with their obedience?
One day Jesus went to eat at a Pharisee’s house on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the day when people weren’t supposed to work. The Pharisees were watching Jesus carefully. They were hoping to catch Him making a mistake and breaking the Sabbath. A man with dropsy came into the room. Dropsy is sort of like epilepsy: it means that the man had fits and his body broke out in spasms. Jesus knew the Pharisees were trying to catch Him sinning. So He asked them, “Is it right to heal on the Sabbath or not?” The Pharisees didn’t know what to say. In their hearts, they knew it was good and LOVING for Jesus to heal. But they really wanted to catch Jesus breaking the rules. So they didn’t say a word. Then Jesus turned to the man with dropsy and healed him.
Jesus turned back to the Pharisees and asked them, “If your son fell into a deep hole or well on the Sabbath, or if your cow fell into a deep hole, would YOU just leave them there?” Again the Pharisees had nothing to say. They knew that they would show love and care to their own son, or even to their animal. So how could they be against Jesus showing love to a sick man?
But do you know what? Those Pharisees didn’t learn their lesson at all. On yet another Sabbath, Jesus was preaching and teaching. There was a man there who’s hand was withered, weak and useless. These days, a weak hand is a sad thing, but back then, a man who had a weak hand could hardly even make a living. He might even have to beg for his food. It was a very serious thing to have a useless hand.
The Pharisees were looking very carefully at the man and at Jesus. Do you think they were hoping Jesus would help the poor man? No, not at all! Just like last time, they were hoping Jesus would heal the man so they could say that Jesus had broken the Sabbath! Yet again, they were trying to catch Jesus! But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” The man came to the front. Jesus turned to the Pharisees and asked them, “Is it right to do good things on the Sabbath, or to do bad things? Is it right to save a life or to kill?” Jesus looked directly at them, but no one answered. Then Jesus looked at the man with the withered hand. There was the hand, fingers curled up in a tight, useless ball. Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” And that claw-like hand opened and became healthy and whole! Think of what that must have meant for the man: suddenly he could work, now he could feed himself, now he wouldn’t have to beg! What a loving thing for Jesus to do!
The Pharisees must have been so happy that the man was healed, right? But no, they weren’t at all. They were terribly angry. They plotted against Jesus, wondering what they could do to stop Him from these acts of kindness.
You see, the Pharisees followed all the rules God laid out in the Bible. They kept the Sabbath day, and didn’t work on that day. They were EXTREME in their obedience of God’s rules and law. But they missed the big point, the real point. What do you suppose they missed?
They missed God’s command to LOVE. They didn’t LOVE God as they should have, and they certainly didn’t love the people around them. But Jesus showed love, didn’t He? He sure did! He healed the man with dropsy and He healed the man with the withered hand.
So what is obedience? What does it mean to obey? Like Jesus’ example, obeying is following God’s commands – like keeping the day of rest, a day meant for worshipping God. But to really obey God’s commands, we have to do more – we have to obey out of LOVE. Because obedience without love is totally empty.

Jesus Heals Legion, the Demon-Possessed Man
Luke 8:26-39, Mark 5:1-20
If you were living in the Gerasenes, near the Galilean Sea at Jesus’ time, there would be one place just outside of town that you would never, ever want to go to. Frightening and mysterious stories must have been passed around about that area, because there was a wild man there. This man had no home, but took shelter among the rocky tombs there. He wore no clothes either. Several times, the townspeople had captured him and bound him with heavy chains and iron shackles. Yet each time, he would break those heavy chains as if they were just string, would snap the huge shackles in half, and would break free and run into the desert. Even when he was closely guarded by armed men, this man would STILL break away and run. He was a wild man. The mountains and tombs echoed night and day with his wild cries. Even the strongest men in the town must have shuddered at the sound of those screams and howls.
Why was he like this? He was overtaken by many, many devils. These devils are Satan’s helpers, and they kept that poor man in the worst kind of imprisonment. There were so many devils in this man that he was called “Legion.” Back then, a legion was the number for a thousand. That meant that the man Legion had more than one thousand devils living in him. The devils filled Legion’s mind with terrible and frightful visions. They made him cut his body with stones. Maybe sometimes, Legion would come to his right mind and would be very sad and ashamed. Day in and day out, Legion’s life was a long nightmare.
One day, Jesus came across the Galilean Sea to the Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus set foot on the land, Legion saw Jesus and came running up to Him. The wild man threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and cried out in a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?! I beg you, by God Himself, do not trouble me!” You see, it was the devils in Legion who were saying this. They knew who Jesus was, and they were trembling in fear before Him. And how could they not? This was Jesus, the very Son of God! He could send them all to hell with one small word! This was Jesus, who commanded all of heaven’s angels! He could snuff those devils out with a lift of His finger! No wonder they were terrified. The devils knew that they couldn’t possibly fight Jesus, so their only chance was to plead with Him.
Jesus looked at Legion and asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “My name is Legion, for we devils are many.” Then the devils began to beg Jesus not to send them out of the country. On a nearby hillside was a huge herd of pigs. The devils begged Jesus to send them into the herd of pigs. Jesus gave them permission, and the devils entered the herd. The pigs immediately went wild, rushed down a steep hillside and all drowned in the sea. Do you know how many pigs there were? More than two thousand! And all those devils had been in Legion!
The herdsmen who had been looking after the pigs ran into the city, telling everyone what had happened. The people came out to see. And do you know what they saw when they found Jesus? Can you guess?
There they saw Jesus, and sitting with him was Legion. But it didn’t look like Legion at all! There he was, sitting with clothes on, cleaned up, and in his right mind. He wasn’t wild or crazy anymore, but was perfectly peaceful, sitting with Jesus. We can’t call him Legion anymore, because Jesus had won the victory over the devils that had filled him. There wasn’t a devil left in him.
Suddenly the townspeople were very frightened. Those who had seen how Legion was healed told everyone about Jesus’ great power. Who was this Man, whom even the devils listened to? But those people didn’t realize that even though Jesus is someone to be feared, He is also the One to be trusted. Instead of worshipping Jesus, the townspeople begged Him to leave.
Jesus walked down to the sea again. As He was getting in the boat, Legion followed Him. Legion begged Jesus to allow him to come with Jesus. But Jesus said to Legion, “Go home to your friends. Tell them how much the Lord has done for you! Tell them how He has had mercy on you!” So Legion also went his way, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.
That’s a beautiful story, isn’t it? It shows the peace Jesus brings to people who have lived in total darkness and fear. In some ways, we’re like Legion. Satan can put fear and hatred in our hearts. Satan and his devils are so much stronger than we are and we can’t hope to win against him alone. Yet Jesus, Ruler and Creator of everything, has complete power over Satan. The very name of Jesus holds power: it’s enough to make every devil run in fear.