Thanksgiving Sunday School Lesson and Thanksgiving Activity – The Thankful Leper – Luke 17

With this Thanksgiving Sunday School Lesson (and the activity that follows it) I’m trying to teach the story while keeping the class’ attention. After all, if no one is paying attention to you, it doesn’t really matter what you are saying.

So here is an idea of what you teach in Sunday School on Thanksgiving:



How many of you have ever stayed home from school? Why did you stay home?

(take answers)

Most of you probably stay home from school because you’re sick, right? You wake up and you have a cough or a cold, and your Mom tells you that you can’t go to school that day. But why?

Because she doesn’t want you to get everyone else sick, right? There’s a word for that. It’s called quarantine. Quarantine is a really long word that basically means “to put someone in separate quarters.” If someone is quarantined they are kept away from everyone else, so they don’t spread their sickness around.

Now, people with a cold or a cough aren’t usually quarantined. They might have to stay home, but when was the last time you stayed home from school and your Mom or Dad didn’t check on you?

Only really serious illnesses get quarantined. Illnesses that are both contagious and deadly. If an illness is just contagious, it’s not as important to quarantine someone. If an illness is deadly but not contagious, you don’t need to quarantine someone… but when an illness is deadly AND it’s contagious…well, would you want to be around that person?


So today we’re going to talk about a disease that was SUPER contagious and was SUPER deadly. Nobody was immune to it, but everyone knew when you had it. In fact, this disease was so bad that if you got it, you had to be quarantined for the rest of your life because there was no cure.

So here’s what the disease looked like:

You would wake up one morning and you’d look at your arm and you’d discover you had a sore there. Maybe it was a small one, but it was still there. Weeks would pass and it wouldn’t go away, and then suddenly, you’d find a bump on your skin somewhere… Then a few lumps. Then some more sores. Suddenly, you would be covered in bumps, lumps, and sores! And they wouldn’t go away no matter how much medicine you took!

Then, just as you were starting to get used to the sores, bumps, and lumps –which probably looked AWFUL–, you’d start to get a tingling sensation in your arms or legs. Suddenly, you’d bang your toe on something and wouldn’t feel it at all… Then, you’d start to walk down the hallway, and all of a sudden, you wouldn’t be able to hold yourself up. You’d fall down in the hallway. Eventually, you wouldn’t be able to feel any of your legs or your arms, and all of your muscles would be so weak you couldn’t walk. You’d have those boils on your legs and arms and face.

Now, how many of you would want this to happen to you?

What if I told you this disease, called leprosy, wasn’t curable? You would have leprosy for your entire life, and it would only ever get worse.

What lengths would you go to in order to make sure you DIDN’T get that disease?


In the time where Jesus lived, people were deathly afraid of leprosy. So they had an entire process for people that thought they might have contracted it. When someone had the symptoms for leprosy, they’d go through extensive testing with the priests in their town. If the priests confirmed that person had leprosy, you know what happened?

That’s right. They were quarantined.

When I say they were quarantined, I don’t just mean they were put in another bedroom. No, they were put on the outskirts of town. They weren’t allowed to see their families or their friends. They couldn’t go to the doctor or the stores. They couldn’t go anywhere that another person might be who could contract leprosy.

The only people they could see were other lepers, other outcasts.

Leprosy became their entire identity. They were no longer Joe, Banker, Father of Two and Wife of Sarah who likes boxing, Oreos, and swimming.

Now they were just Joe, leper.

Everything about them disappeared, and everything they loved was taken from them, and all they had left were their new friends inside the leper colony. A colony that understood that were all doomed to a slow, painful death.

Get Up and Move

Now, I want all of you to get up and go somewhere in the room and sit by yourself. Don’t sit near any friends. I want you to sit entirely by yourself.

(Wait for the kids to spread out)

So, one day, there were ten lepers standing outside the village. They were just hanging out, probably talking about which sore hurt worse that day or what it would be like to run or jump again. Maybe they were talking about the families they left behind. Or maybe they couldn’t talk about their families because it was too painful.

So they were all standing there, and they see Jesus walking toward them. At this point Jesus had a reputation for drawing big crowds and being a great teacher. Jesus ‘fame’ had spread throughout much of the city.

“Jesus! Have pity on us!” they called to him. They probably wanted him to give them food or money, but Jesus didn’t.

Instead, Jesus tells them, “Go, show yourself to the priests.”

The priests were the very people who had banished them earlier! What was Jesus talking about? The priests wouldn’t be happy to see them at all.

But, this was Jesus talking… and if we know anything about Jesus, it’s that we should listen to Him. After all, Jesus has this way of saying something and POOF! It happens. So if Jesus told me to go see the priest, you better believe I would.

And these ten guys did. They turned on their heels and walked toward the city. Toward the people they weren’t allowed to be near. Toward the priests.

And as they did, their sores cleared up. They could feel their feet now. Their arms, too. And they could walk. All of a sudden, they weren’t crawling down the stairs anymore, they were walking!

One of the lepers saw that his boils were clearing up. He felt the feeling in his legs and in his arms. And do you know what he did?

He didn’t run straight to his family.

He didn’t run to the nearest swimming pool to take a dip.

He didn’t even go straight to the priest!

He turned around and he ran back to Jesus!

He started praising God as loudly as he could. He started thanking God. He started thanking Jesus for working a miracle! This was a Samaritan man—a man who hadn’t believed in God before, but now, he was exclaiming all throughout the land that God had healed him! He was running up to Jesus saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you!”

When Jesus heard him, He came closer to the man and asked… “Where are the other nine lepers? They were all healed, right? Have none of them returned to say thank you?!”

Being Thankful Means…

Now, let me ask you something.

Do you think the other nine lepers were thankful they were healed?

(Take answers)

I think they would be thankful! I mean, they got back their entire lives. They were no longer just ‘lepers’, but now, they were real people again! Of course they were thankful.

But you see, this tenth leper knew something those other nine didn’t.

He knew that it was important to vocalize your thankfulness, not just feel it.

When Jesus healed him, he said “thank you!” and he said it loud enough that everyone could hear him.

Now, everyone come back together. (let all students move to sit together again)

How often does God do something really cool for you? Maybe he puts food on your table so you can eat when you’re hungry. Maybe he gave you good friends to play with at school. Maybe he gave you a bed to sleep in, or parents to love you. Maybe he works things out for good when you think they’re going to be bad.

God is always doing great things for you, but have you stopped to run back toward him and tell him thank you? Or do you just keep running forward, trying to find the next thing to do or the next person to see, grateful for what he’s given to you, but never really SAYING thank you?

In order to really BE thankful, you have to say thank you.

Thank you to God, for giving you all He’s given to you.

Thank you to your parents, for the sacrifices they make for you.

Thank you to your teachers, for teaching you.

Thank you to your coaches, your babysitters, your cashier at Walmart…

Anyone that does something nice for you, or does something that makes your life better? These are people you should say thank you to.

So the next time you “feel” thankful in your heart…don’t let it stop there…say something!

Because being thankful means SAYING “thank you!”


Thanksgiving Activity

Materials: 30 water balloons (filled), 2 buckets to hold the balloons, and 2 smaller buckets, tarp.

Setup: Fill about thirty water balloons with water. Divide the water balloons between two buckets on one side of the room. Teams will line up behind these buckets. Directly across from the buckets filled with water balloons,  place a smaller, empty bucket. You may want to put tarp down between the two buckets in case things get a little wet 🙂

Divide the students into two teams. They will be racing to fill the bucket on the other side with water using only the water balloons provided to them. However, they cannot use their hands to get the water balloons across. One-by-one, the team members must go to the other side with their water balloon, somehow pop it over the bucket, and run back to their side. The first team to make their bucket “overflow” wins!

(For instance, a child might stick the water balloon between his knees and waddle to the other side, then push his knees together to pop it over the bucket).

Tie-in to lesson: When we practice being thankful or grateful, we find more things to be thankful for. Our hearts should overflow with thankfulness to God for all He has given us–in the same way these buckets overflow with water!



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