This manual is intended to guide you in your exploration. Since we are working out of the Gospels, we will want to compare the different gospel accounts and understand what each one wants us to learn about Jesus. Since our stories are drawn from the earthly ministry of Jesus, we will want to see each in the background and context of Jesus' mission. Since we are emphasizing the role of Faith and Repentance in the life of Christ's disciples, we will want to study what the Bible teaches about these doctrines, and attempt to find applications for our lives.
In preparing for your lessons, you will be working on a number of topics. Much of what you learn from this manual will not be used in telling your Bible stories or helping the children with their lessons. Your objective at this point is to dig deep into God's word and gain your own personal insights.
Along with these lessons are several important appendixes which you will want to refer to.
Then study the main Bible text. Read it several times and write in your own words a brief summary. Parallel passages and cross references are also noted. Read them as well.
Try to put yourself into the sandals of the disciples. Imagine what you would have felt and experienced had you been there with them. What did or didn't they understand? Why did they act as they did?
Use a Bible encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas or handbook to make the background, setting and culture more real. How did James and John fish? Why did Jesus need their boat? Where was the wilderness full of hungry people? What was the house like the paralyzed man's friends made a hole in? What was the "eye of the needle" that camels had to be unloaded to go through?
The questions are to lead you into thinking about the passage. Write out brief answers to the questions in a separate notebook. Jot down your own notes as well. You may also have questions of your own - write them down for future consideration.
Try and grasp why each author has told you what he has. What does he want you to see? How does it relate to his readers and his purpose in writing a "Gospel"?
Be sure and keep in mind the contexts of each account, chronologically within the life of Jesus and also as a part of the training program for his disciples.
Two of my favorite commentaries on the Gospels are available online: Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah and A. B. Bruce's The Training of the Twelve
. Your goal is to have the story come alive for you, so you can make it come alive for your students.