One Sunday, a fourth grader caught me off guard. A group of upper elementary children and I discussed the challenges of living into Jesus’ call to love a diverse group of neighbors. Out of the blue, this child said, “How do you know Jesus said this? How do we know that any of the Bible is true? What proof is there that these things really happened?” After discussing different ways of knowing things, he remained unconvinced. He wanted hard, tangible evidence and none of us had it.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.” But how do we help our young disciples develop faith when there’s so much about Jesus we cannot literally see? Fortunately, we have stories of the disciples going through the same thing after Jesus’ resurrection as a model. In this lesson, children will explore the story of two disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They will see how they came to believe the seemingly unbelievable and will consider how they come to understand and grow in their own faith.
You will need:
- A Bible
- A simple jigsaw puzzle (no more than 50 pieces)
- Sheets of white construction paper cut in half and crayons or markers (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “Neil deGrasse Tyson on God” (optional)
- A loaf of bread, grape juice and small cups (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children sit around a table or in a circle on the floor. Place the jigsaw puzzle pieces on the floor and ask the children to work together to complete the puzzle. If you have a large group, you may want to break the children into small groups and give each a puzzle to complete.
After the puzzle(s) are complete, ask:
- What was your strategy for completing the puzzle? Why did you choose this strategy?
- When did you begin to see the picture in the puzzle come together?
- Were there any moments when it was difficult to figure out where a particular piece belonged? Why?
Explain that our faith in God can feel like a jigsaw puzzle. It can be both easy and challenging to understand God.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Luke 24:13-35):
- This passage is from the New Testament Gospel of Luke.
- Prior to this event, Jesus’ tomb was found empty. Word spread of the empty tomb and people began wondering what happened to Jesus. Was his body stolen? How would it have been stolen from behind a large rock? Or had Jesus come back to life? If so, where was he?
- The people of Jerusalem were experiencing a variety of emotions when they heard about the empty tomb. Some were amazed. Others were scared. And still, others were angry.
- The disciples had only heard word of the empty tomb. They did not observe it first-hand.
- This story begins with two of Jesus’ disciples walking the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Read aloud Luke 24:13-35.
After reading, ask the children:
- Who do the two disciples think they are talking to?
- How do they describe what has happened to Jesus?
- What does Jesus do while they are walking?
- When do the disciples realize the person they were speaking to is Jesus? Why did they recognize him sooner?
- What is their reaction?
- What do you think the disciples might do next?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore their faith development, including the questions they have and continue to ask about God through one or more of these activities.
- Our faith journey: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: sheets of white construction paper cut in half and crayons or markers. Share with the children that our faith continues to develop throughout our lives. There are times when we notice God or discover something new about God. Ask the children to think about times when they have learned or discovered something new about God or their faith and times they have experienced God’s presence in their lives. Then hand each child a half sheet of paper. Ask them to use crayons or markers to draw a picture of one of the times they mentioned. Hang the pictures on the wall side-by-side so they look like a road. Notice how all of our experiences lead us on the pathway to faith.
- Questioning God: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “Neil deGrasse Tyson on God.” Ask the children to share questions they have about God. What is difficult to understand about God? What ideas about God have you heard that are you have a hard time believing? Explain that many people have questions about God. In fact, most of us will ask questions about our faith for our entire lives. And there may be some questions whose answers remain mysteries. Show the video. After watching it, ask the children to react to deGrasse Tyson’s comments about God. Do you agree with him? Why or why not? Have you had any of the same questions? How have you resolved them?
- The power of bread and juice: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a loaf of bread, grape juice and small cups. Place the bread and juice on the table. Ask the children what these items remind them of. Focus in on bread and juice being used during the Lord’s Supper. Hand each child a chunk of bread and a small cup of grape juice. Share that the group is not participating in the sacrament, but they will eat some bread and drink some juice to help them remember what the experience of sharing the Lord’s Supper is like. Have the children silently eat and drink. After they have done so, ask them to share their associations with the Lord’s Supper. How do they feel when they take the Lord’s Supper? What do they notice about the experience? How do they feel after sharing the sacrament with others? How is their experience like that of the disciples when the risen Jesus comes to eat dinner with them?