Complete-A-Project Bible Search: Jesus at the Synagogue in Nazareth

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by Sister Alice Ann Pfeifer CSA

This Complete-A-Project Bible Search Activity is for teacher and students (grades 4-6) working together. The exercise can be completed using the Bible to find the answers. Bible Searches for this learning year focus on selected Gospels from the current liturgical year and feature Sister Vicki and two students in her religion class, Hugo and Hannah.

* The focus of this Bible Search (Luke 4:21-30, from January 31, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time) takes place in the synagogue in Jesus’ hometown. This might have been a building specifically devoted to Jewish religious services. But because Nazareth was small, it probably was a spacious home or courtyard belonging to one of the townspeople. In the gathering area, people sat or stood facing each other. They didn’t position themselves in rows.
* The typical Sabbath service included these elements in no particular order: singing and praying, reading Scripture aloud or reciting it from memory, listening to a teaching about the Scripture’s meaning, freely discussing its meaning, and taking care of community business for the week. One or more leaders led the service but it wasn’t always the same person(s). Sometimes visitors from other places were invited to lead the service.
* This Gospel reading shows that Jesus is a faithful Jew who observes the Sabbath. It also shows that his message is in a sense nothing new, although it is a refinement of ancient teachings and a fulfillment of ancient prophecies. In order to win Jewish converts to his message, he needs to show that the message is rooted in the Jewish faith.
* The passage that Jesus reads is from the prophet Isaiah and it describes what life will be like in the heavenly kingdom that Jesus proclaims. There will be comfort for the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, and release from all forms of persecution.
* Jesus speaks to the poor and the rich, the prisoner and the jailer, those who are blind and those who have sight, victims and persecutors. And here’s why. Among all who accept his message, his kingdom will bring a sharing of wealth, freedom, health, and power. The rich will share their wealth with the poor, the powerful will stop lording their authority over others, and all people everywhere will stop persecuting members of other nations, races, or social groups simply for being different. What Jesus promises is a cure not just for the world’s physical ills but also for its spiritual ills—for the spiritual blindness that sometimes afflicts the wealthy and powerful.
* The people of Nazareth show they are not ready for Jesus’ message. They get angry and jealous because Jesus worked miracles in other towns but won’t work any miracles for them. Here he is simply being consistent. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus work miracles only where people have faith in him.

Answers to Fill-ins: and, He, is, all, gracious, Joseph, cure, native, Capernaum, prophet, widows, Israel, closed, famine, Elijah, Sidon, lepers, Elisha, Syrian, synagogue, drove, hill, headlong, passed through

* Activity sheet below, one copy for each student
* Copies of the Bible (The Search is based on the New American Bible.)
* Pencils or pens

1. Read or have volunteers read the set up to the fill-in-the-blank activity.
2. Share the first two items in Background.
3. If students are seated in rows, have them move their desks or chairs so they are gathered around you in synagogue-style seating. Then, using your own words, tell the details found in Luke 4:1-30. When you get to the part where Jesus reads from the scroll, read aloud from your Bible. Then continue with your paraphrase.
4. Share the remaining information in Background.
5. Work together to fill in the blanks for Luke 4:20-30. Many names are included. Be as general or as specific as you wish when defining them for the class. What’s important about the Old Testament names is that Israel was the homeland of the Jews, and Elijah and Elisha were their prophets. Sidon was a foreign country and Naaman the Syrian was a foreigner.
6. Point out that Jesus didn’t respond to the jealous townspeople with anger. Instead, he calmly walked away from the situation. In doing this, Jesus shows another one of his Father’s loving qualities. To help students discover that quality, have them find the secret message about God in the first five words of the fill-in answers. What is it? (“And He is all-gracious.”) Conclude by briefly discussing what it means to be gracious. (Fitting synonyms include kind, merciful, patient, and understanding.)


“How does it feel when someone acts jealous of you?” Sister Vicki asked her religion class.

Hannah knew. She remembered last Monday when her teacher returned corrected geography tests. When Hannah saw her big fat A, she let out a whoop. “Sweet home Alabama!” Other students immediately glared at her. Hugo, sitting behind her, leaned forward and whispered, “So whose test did you copy, Hannah?”

Hannah learned later that most of the other students scored lower than usual on the test. “I studied so hard and only got a C,” Hugo told her on their way home. “You always laugh off your schoolwork but still get A’s!”

Hannah told Hugo that she had been studying geography really hard because she hadn’t been getting good grades in it. “Every morning for three weeks, I got outta bed early to study geography,” she explained.

“Oh-h-h,” replied Hugo. Even he hadn’t studied that hard.

“Look,” Sister Vicki continued—which brought Hannah’s thoughts back to class. “I know jealousy can be a tough thing—for both the person who feels it and the person who stirs it up. Today I want to tell you about a time when Jesus had to deal with people being really jealous. It was hard because it happened right in his hometown.”

Sister Vicki then told the story of Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth. After discussing the story with her students, she gave each one a handout for a review of Luke 4:20-30.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant _____ sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. ____ said to them, “Today this scripture passage ____ fulfilled in your hearing.” And _____ spoke highly of him and were amazed at the __________ words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of ________?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, ______ yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your _______ place the things that we heard were done in ___________.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no _________ is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many ________ in ________ in the days of Elijah when the sky was ________ for three and a half years and a severe ________ spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that ________ was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of _______. Again, there were many ________ in Israel during the time of ________ the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the ________.” When the people in the ___________ heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, _______ him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the ______ on which their town had been built, to hurl him down __________. But he ________  _________ the midst of them and went away.

After religion class, Hannah was surprised when Hugo caught up with her and said, “Hey, Han, you know I was only kidding in geography class when I said you must have copied from someone else’s test—don’t you? I was just jealous, like what Sister was talking about.”

It wasn’t exactly an apology but Hannah was happy for Hugo’s friendliness. “Hey, no problem, Hugo. I’m sad that you were jealous and what you said hurt my feelings. But I’m glad that I did all that extra studying—and I’m going to keep doing it. It pays off.”

“And I’m going to study more, too, Han. I wanna whoop ‘Sweet home Alabama’ when I get my next test back.”

“And something else I’m gonna do,” Hannah said, “is keep my cool when people are jealous of me. I can just walk through the group and go my way, just like Jesus did.”

Guide and Activity Sheet by Sister Alice Pfeifer, CSA.
Permission is granted to copy this Bible Search for use with your students and their families.

Copyright 2010, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.

This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, December 2009.

Image Credit: Shutter Stock 6709591

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