As followers of Christ, it’s easy for us to believe that Jesus died, was buried, and returned three days later. Our faith hangs on this joyful event! We forget that Jesus’ resurrection was confusing, scary and almost unbelievable for those experiencing it in person. Yet through Jesus’ words and actions, the disciples come to see that death cannot separate us from the power and love of Christ. In this lesson, children will explore the disciples’ first encounter with the risen Lord and will consider how their faith allows them to continue to believe in hope and love even when things are difficult.
You will need:
- A Bible (or copies of Carolyn Brown’s dramatic reading of the text)
- White construction paper, white crayons, watercolor paints, water and paint brushes (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “Restoring Hope by Repairing Violins of the Holocaust” (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children to sit in a circle on the floor or around a table.
- What color is the sky?
- How do you know that the sky is this color?
- Where is God?
- How do you know God is there?
- Is it easier to believe something if you see it or experience it? Why or why not?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (John 20:19-31):
- This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of John.
- The story we will read takes place shortly after the events that happen on the day we celebrate as Easter. Ask the children to recount what happens on Easter.
- Before Jesus died and was resurrected, people in the city of Jerusalem had mixed feelings about him. The religious leaders were very concerned that people would start following Jesus and discount their teachings. Some of the people gathered in Jerusalem celebrated Jesus’ arrival and believed he would become their new king. They were likely disappointed when he died. The Roman government didn’t necessarily dislike Jesus, but they didn’t like that people were in an uproar about his presence. They arrested him. When the Roman ruler in charge of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, asked the people which prisoner he should free, Jesus or Barabbas, the people chose the latter. This results in Jesus being tortured and killed by Roman soldiers. All in all, the people in Jerusalem were experiencing lots of strong emotions up to and during Jesus’ crucifixion.
- At the beginning of this story, Jesus’ disciples are hiding in a house. They fear the Temple leaders, the Roman government and the other people in Jerusalem. The strong feelings people had about Jesus were likely even stronger when word spread that Jesus wasn’t found in the tomb where he had been buried.
Read aloud John 20:19-31. 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:
- How do the disciples feel at the start of the story?
- What does Jesus say to the disciples during his visits?
- How do Jesus’ words affect the disciples?
- What does Jesus do during his visits?
- How do Jesus’ actions affect the disciples?
- What helps the disciples believe the person who is visiting them is their friend Jesus, risen from the dead?
- How might the disciples help other people believe Jesus was resurrected?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore ways Jesus helps them believe in the power of God’s love and hope through one or more of these activities:
- Revelations: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: white construction paper, white crayons, watercolor paints, water, and paintbrushes. Give each child a sheet of white paper and a white crayon. Ask them to write words or draw pictures about God’s love. If they are concerned that their words and drawings can’t be seen, assure them that they will be visible at the end of the activity. After the children have finished drawing, give them watercolor paints, water and paintbrushes. Ask them to use the paints to fill their sheet of paper with color. As they paint, the words and drawings they made with white crayons will be revealed. Discuss how we can reveal God’s love to people around us. After the paint has dried, hang the children’s art in the classroom.
- Believing without seeing: Re-read verse 29 of the Scripture passage. (“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’”) Ask the children what they think Jesus is trying to tell the disciples in the last sentence of the verse. Discuss the benefits and challenges of believing that which we have never seen. How does believing without seeing affect our faith? Are there times when you have had difficulty believing something you have heard in worship or have read in the Bible? Why was this difficult to believe? Did you come to believe it or not? Why?
- Restoring hope: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “Restoring Hope by Repairing Violins of the Holocaust.” Ask the children to reflect on hope in the scripture reading. Were the disciples hopeful at the start of the story? Why or why not? How about at the end of the story? How does Jesus’ resurrection bring hope back to the disciples? How does this story give us hope? Share that there are times in the history of humanity when hope was hard to find. One of these times was during the Holocaust. If the group is unfamiliar with the Holocaust, offer a brief explanation. Show the video. Then discuss how the project described brings hope.