Most children are familiar with the Easter story. They know that Jesus died on a cross, was buried, and was returned to life three days later. We share this story over and over to remind our young disciples that God’s love, as shown to us through Jesus, cannot die. When children hear this story, it’s easy for them to assume that Jesus was resurrected because he is both fully human and fully God. Surely, this event only happens because of who Jesus is. While this is true, another resurrection story shows us that God’s love, as expressed and experienced through average human beings, is unending. In this lesson, children will explore the story of Lazarus’ resurrection (John 11:1-45). They will consider how each of us experiences God’s radical, never-ending love even in the most commonplace settings.
You will need:
- A Bible (or copies of Carolyn Brown’s dramatic reading of the text)
- A computer with internet access connected to a data projector or television and access to the video “Tulips from Bulbs (Full 30 Day Time Lapse).”
Greet the children as they arrive.
Show the children the video “Tulips from Bulbs (Full 30 Day Time Lapse).” After watching the video, ask:
- What did you notice about the tulips as they grew?
- What happened to the flowers at the end of the video?
- Bulbs can grow flowers multiple times. What would you expect the bulb to do if you put it in water again in the future?
- Why might people want to plant flower bulbs in their gardens instead of flower seeds?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (John 11:1-45).
- This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of John.
- Right before this story takes place, Jesus has trouble. While visiting Jerusalem for a holy festival, several fellow Jewish people beg Jesus to tell them if he is the chosen one sent by God. Jesus reminds them that all he does is for his father and that he is like a shepherd leading sheep. The people become angry and threaten to throw stones at him. Later they try to arrest Jesus, but he escapes.
- The story that follows this lectionary reading tells of Jewish leaders discussing ways to stop Jesus from spreading his message to the Jewish people. They are concerned the people will listen to Jesus instead of to them. The plan to arrest Jesus when he arrives in the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the holy holiday Passover.
Read aloud John 11:1-45. This is a long, detailed story, so it may be difficult to keep the children’s attention throughout it. As an alternative to reading the actual text, you can download and print this condensed retelling of the story through a reader’s theatre script.
After reading the story, ask the children:
- Why do Mary and Martha want Jesus to visit?
- What does Jesus choose to do? What do you think of his choice?
- How does Jesus respond when he arrives?
- How do Mary and Martha respond?
- What does Jesus do that surprises everyone?
- Why do you think Jesus resurrects Lazarus?
- Describe all of the different feelings that people express in this story. Can you identify with any of these feelings? If so, which feelings are most familiar to you? Why?
- What does this story tell us about love?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children consider ways that love lives on after someone or something is gone from the earth through one or both of these activities:
- Nature’s rebirth: The natural world reminds us that the beauty of God’s love is everlasting. We may feel like it is gone, but then we discover it has returned. Take a walk outdoors with the children. Encourage them to look for signs of life emerging, especially in places where plants appear dead. For example, a tree may be surrounded by dried, brown leaves. However, its branches will also have small leaf buds emerging or possibly even opening. After the nature walk, discuss the life cycles of plants. How are these life cycles like the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection?
- They’re still with us: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: colored chalk, small bowls of water and drawing paper. Ask the children to share memories of pets or people who have passed away. Encourage them to focus on happy memories. (Be mindful that this activity may be challenging for children who have recently experienced significant loss.) Note that our memories of those we loved but have lost help keep them alive in our hearts. We can hold on to them through these stories. Give each child a sheet of drawing paper. Ask them to draw pictures of the memories they shared using colored chalk. Encourage them to dip the ends of the chalk pieces in the water before drawing so that the colors are vibrant. Ask the children to share their drawings with the group.
Conclude your time together by offering a prayer.