To show that the Bible says Jesus’ death was the punishment for other people’s guilt.
You will need:
- A bottle of water, a jumper and a loaf of bread, individually wrapped as though they are presents. Do not try to disguise the shape of the items.
- Prompt cards to show the assembly saying ‘Give us Barabbas!’, ‘Kill him!’ and ‘You’re free!’
- Pictures Visual Aid Pictures photocopied onto card (or create your own images).
Show the assembly the three presents that you have wrapped up. Choose one pupil to come to the front to have a closer look but do not let them unwrap them. Ask them to imagine the following situations: which present would they want most in each one?
- You are really hungry
- You are really thirsty
- You are really cold
Unwrap the presents to discover if the pupil made the right choice. Ask the pupil to sit down again.
Today’s story is about a man who received an amazing gift, which was the thing he wanted more than anything else. Unlike the presents we have here, it was not something that could be wrapped up. The man’s name was Barabbas.
The Bible doesn’t tell us an awful lot about Barabbas, but what we do know is that he started a riot and murdered someone. And he doesn’t look very happy, because he was caught. He was found guilty and put in prison. Show picture 1a.
We can imagine Barabbas feeling very lonely, sitting in a prison cell on his own and feeling very sorry for himself. With no one else to talk to, perhaps Barabbas started to think about how stupid he had been. He knew that the punishment for his crime was the death penalty. Why had he done it?
Jesus was also in prison, because the people had accused him of causing trouble and saying things that weren’t true. But, unlike Barabbas, Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong. Show picture 1b
I wonder what Barabbas was thinking.
Perhaps as he thought about the punishment that was waiting for him, he realised that he deserved it. He knew that what he had been doing was wrong, and now he had been caught out, he knew that he deserved the punishment. Barabbas was miserable.
Ask the pupils what gift Barabbas would want more than anything else at this moment.
More than anything, Barabbas wanted to be free. One day, as Barabbas was sitting in his cell, he heard crowds outside the prison shouting something over and over again. What was it? He couldn’t make out the words at first, but as he listened, it seemed to get louder and louder, as though the people were getting closer. Eventually, he could hear what it was they were saying:
Hold up the prompt card ‘Give us Barabbas’ and encourage the assembly to shout it over and over.
Barabbas was going to be released! The people were calling for him!
But then, just as he was getting excited, he heard their shouts change to something much less pleasant:
Hold up the prompt card ‘Kill him!’ and encourage the assembly to shout it over and over.
Maybe it was not so good after all. Now it seemed as if the people were calling for his execution.
Barabbas was suddenly very scared. And he became more and more scared as he heard the heavy footsteps of the jailer coming along the corridor (you could add some atmosphere by walking heavily across the assembly hall). And then he could hear the rattle of the jailer’s keys and the locking and unlocking of doors. Barabbas had never been so scared in his life, as he realised that this could be the end.
Suddenly, the doors swung open and the jailer appeared in the door, and in his big, gruff voice he shouted:
Hold up the prompt card ‘You’re free!’ and encourage the assembly to shout it out.
Show picture 2a. Barabbas was amazed. What about what the crowds had been shouting? Surely they had been shouting ‘Kill him! Kill him!’?
The answer was that when the people were shouting ‘Kill him!’, they were not talking about Barabbas. They were talking about Jesus.
They had been given the choise of having Jesus or Barabbas released, and they chose Barabbas.
But there is a problem. Barabbas was ‘guilty’, and Jesus wasn’t, yet Barabbas was going to be set free and Jesus was going to be killed.
The Bible does not say why the people suddenly decided that they wanted Barabbas to be released and Jesus put to death. Maybe Jesus’ enemies had told the people untrue stories about Jesus, or maybe they claimed that Barabbas was innocent and shouldn’t be in prison.
It does not seem fair, but this means that Jesus took Barabbas’ guilt.
And then, when Barabbas was free, Jesus was killed on the cross.
The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross, he was choosing to take the punishment for all the wrong things all of us have done, not just Barabbas. What an amazing gift! We are probably not murderers, like Barabbas was, but no one is perfect – no one except Jesus.
The Bible says that the punishment for sin is death, and that is why, if Jesus was going to take our punishment, he had to die.
Christians believe that Jesus wants to take the ‘guilty’ sign away for all of the wrong things any of us does or says or even thinks. Show picture 2b. Jesus can take away all the wrong things that we do, say and think, but he wasn’t guilty of doing anything wrong himself.
Optional prayer time:
Say thank you that Jesus came to earth to take the punishment for all of the wrong things in our lives. If you choose to, you could pray that we would think about whether or not we want to accept this gift.