Enigmas – Easter

Aim

To show pupils that the only reasonable explanation of the mystery of the empty tomb is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Bible base

  • John 19 – the death and burial of Jesus
  • John 20:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; Matthew 28:1-15 – the empty tomb;
  • John 20:11-29; 21:1-22; Luke 24: 13-53; Matthew 28:16-20 – appearances of Jesus after his resurrection.

You will need:

Either a digital projector & laptop or visual display cards.

Preparation

Prepare display cards or powerpoint for each enigma

Content

Enigmas

1. Explain that you are going to play ‘enigmas’. An enigma is another name for a puzzle or a riddle. You are going to describe some situations. The contestants have to work out how and why those situations have come about. For the sake of time in this assembly, they may only ask a maximum of three questions to which you can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

2. Ask for six volunteers to make two teams of three people each. Each team takes turns in trying to solve the following ‘enigmas’. Display each ‘enigma’ in turn, so that everyone in the audience has the opportunity to consider them. Here are the ‘enigmas’ (NB: they are quite well known situations, so be prepared for quick answers!):

  • In the middle of a field is a hat, a scarf, a pipe, a carrot and a few lumps of coal. (Answer: A snowman has melted.)
  • A man goes into a pub and asks for a glass of water. The man behind the bar takes out a gun and points it at the man’s head. The man says, ‘Thanks,’ and walks out. Why? (Answer: he had hiccups! The barman frightened him to make the hiccups stop.)
  • A man is pushing a car along. He can see a hotel in the distance and he knows that when he gets there, he’ll have to give the owner of the hotel a lot of money. Why? (Answer: He’s playing Monopoly!)
  • An empty ship is floating in calm waters. It is far from any port and is in no danger of sinking. There is no one on board, there are no signs of a struggle and it hasn’t been reported missing. Why? (Answer: It’s a plastic toy boat in someone’s bath!)

3. Whether the two teams get the answers right ot not, give them all a round of applause and then pose the next situation to the entire audience:

• A cave hollowed out of a rock has been used as a grave. The mystery is – it’s empty. Inside, the sheets which had been wrapped around the body are lying on the floor. Why?

4. Suggest a few questions people might ask in order to solve this ‘enigma’, and follow each with the answer. For example:

  • Did the person really die? (Answer: Yes. He was executed by experts.)
  • Was the body stolen? (Answer: No. The body was never produced.)
  • Did this person appear alive to anyone after his execution and disappearance from his grave? (Answer: Yes, to well over 500 people on various occasions.)

5. Say that the most reasonable explanation for this ‘enigma’ is: this person must have risen from the dead!

Application

  1. Explain that the enigma you have just solved is not a made-up one like the ones in the game earlier. This enigma is actually the key to the Christian faith.
  2. Many people through the centuries have asked many more questions than these about this amazing event. And they have ended up coming to the conclusion that Jesus Christ – the person buried in that grave in the cave – did come back to life from the dead, and he could only do this because he was none other than God himself.

 

Dying to live – the thief on the cross

Topic

The thief on the cross

Aim

To help the children learn that everyone needs the help of others.

Bible base

Luke 23:32-34; 39-43

Content

1 Ask the children to imagine the following:

Claire was rushed into hospital because of a serious problem with her heart. The doctors said there was no cure. The only thing that would save her life was a heart transplant.

The problem with this was that, in order for Claire to have a new, healthy heart, another child would need to die. For her to have life, someone else needed to die.

A little while later, Mark was tragically killed in a road accident. The doctors asked his parents if they would be willing for his healthy heart to be given to Claire, so that her life could be saved. They agreed. Claire was given Mark’s heart and new life as a result.

Mark’s death meant Claire could live.

2 Tell the children that this reminds you of the story in the Bible about Jesus’ death and the death of the two criminals who were executed with him. Read (or tell in your own words) the story from Luke 23:32-34; 39-43. Talk about how life in the future was possible for the thief on the cross because of Jesus’ death.

3 Ask the children to imagine the three crosses and the three people on them – Jesus on the centre one, with a criminal either side of him. They were all going to die.

  • Jesus was special. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Christians believe that he died as punishment for the things we’ve done wrong, so that we can be friends with God.
  • Thief number 2 knew he wasn’t perfect and admitted he’d done wrong. He knew he needed help. He had realised that Jesus was special and that he could help him. So he asked for help. Then Jesus made him a very special promise. Because Jesus was going to live, the criminal could live too.
  • Thief number 1 thought only of himself. He didn’t care about Jesus or the other criminal. He could have chosen to ask for help from Jesus, and Jesus would have promised him life too.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

Explain briefly that Jesus’ death meant that thief number 2 could have life. Christians believe that because of Jesus’ death, everyone can have life. None of us is perfect. We all need help. Thief number 2 knew Jesus could help him. He will help anyone who asks him.

For everyone

The criminal on the cross needed help. We all need to recognise that we can’t ‘make it’ on our own. Sometimes we need to ask for help.

Response

You could use this prayer:

Dear God, help us to know that we are not perfect. We do things wrong. Help us to know that we need your help. Amen.

 

 

Gordon Wilson

Forgiving those who take away what I love – peacemaking in N.Ireland

Other themes: death, God’s comfort

The Problem

Listen carefully to this story and think what you’d do.

It was the best thing he’d ever done – everyone said so. Even Mr James, the art teacher, who was hard to impress, said: “Martin, this is just terrific.” All this praise was a bit new for Martin – he wasn’t very good at school work generally – but it made all the hours of hard work worth it.

Perhaps it was Martin’s love of the sport that had enabled him to do it so well – but this little clay figure of a footballer dribbling a ball up the field was perfect, no denying it. Even the Man United colours had come out just right after the varnishing and firing.

Now it had pride of place in the craft display for open day. The next day! – Martin was excited.

When he arrived at school the following morning, the whole place was in uproar. He overheard two teachers talking. “They got in through the craft room. Damaged everything they could get their hands on. The police are on their way.”

Then he saw Mr James coming towards him, his hands cupped round something he was carrying. Martin’s heart began thumping hard.

Mr James opened his hands. There was the little clay figure. Shattered. Impossible to mend.

Martin began to cry, his whole body shaking.

“You could make another one,” said Mr James softly.

Martin stopped sobbing and shouted, “What’s the point? I’m not bothering again. Ever.” And he grabbed the pieces from the teacher’s hands, threw them on the ground and stormed off.

Now think:

What would you say to Martin if you were his friend? Would you say, “Never mind, it was only a model”? Would that help? What about, “When we know who did it, we’ll go and break that stuff”? Is that any better?

(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)

The Story

Listen now to the true story of someone who lost much, much more than a clay model.

The eighth of November 1987, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

Remembrance Day.

The father and daughter stood close together for the open air service at the War Memorial, for it was cold and windy. But the weather hadn’t put them off coming. They both wanted to pay their respects to those who had died, not just in the wars, but in the more recent troubles in their own land. There’d been so much bloodshed, so much suffering.

The father, Gordon Wilson, a shopkeeper in the town, knew there was no easy solution to the differences between Catholics and Protestants, but why, oh why, did innocent people have to die? Bombs in buildings, bombs in cars, you never knew where the terrorists would plant one next. And what for?

He looked round. He hoped the police had searched the area properly. But no, surely at a service honouring the dead, surely they would have the decency not to strike here.

He always stood in this spot for the service, by the wall of an old building. He was pleased his youngest daughter Marie could be with him this year. She was twenty, a nurse at a hospital in Belfast, home for the weekend. He was so proud of her, so proud.

Then it happened. The world seemed to explode around them. The wall shuddered, then fell on top of them. The unthinkable had come true. The provisional IRA had planted a bomb, just by where they were standing. Gordon was thrown forward, then felt a pounding on his back as the rubble piled on top of him.

He was aware of screaming all around him, but he could do nothing about it. Then he felt a hand coming through the rubble, grabbing his. Marie’s hand. They were together and they were alive. He heard her shout out that she loved him before her hand seemed to lose its grip.

Father and daughter were pulled out from under the broken wall and rushed to hospital. Gordon had injured his shoulder. But Marie’s injuries were far worse, and later that day, she died.

The family members – Gordon, his wife Joan, and two other children – comforted each other, gave each other strength to go on. But they were aware of someone else comforting them too, someone with his arms wrapped right round them. God was there, suffering with them.

Catholics and Protestants were able to come together and comfort the families of the eleven people who had died in the blast. They knew that true Christians, whatever church they went to, hated the violence, and were sad that people might blame God for it.

But Gordon didn’t blame God – he knew that God is love. And he didn’t need to take revenge either, for he knew that god himself would judge the terrorists in his own time. And he believed he would see Marie again in heaven.

Over the next days Gordon was interviewed on radio and TV. People were astonished at his lack of hatred and bitterness.

More and more invitations to speak poured in, not only from Ireland, but from other countries too. People listened who had lost loved ones, who were finding it difficult to go on, who felt God had forsaken them, who were full of bitterness. And Gordon, this shopkeeper from a little town, showed them they could go on, that god had not forsaken them and never would, and that being bitter wouldn’t help. He brought them comfort and hope.

But he wanted to do more. He wanted to help bring peace to his country. He accepted an invitation to join the Irish parliament so he could plead with the country’s leaders for a united, peaceful Ireland.

Little by little things did change. As Gordon and others spoke, people began to see they had to put the hurts and hatred of the past behind them and think about the future. And eventually, on Good Friday 1998, a peace treaty was signed.

But Gordon Wilson was not there to see it. He had died peacefully three years before.

After his death people from all over the world wrote to his widow saying how much Gordon had meant to them. He had not just told them the best way to cope with loss, but shown them as well. God had helped him, and he had passed on that help to others.

So Marie’s death had not been in vain.

Time of Reflection

Life is not always easy. When something bad happens it can really hurt. But later on these bad times make it possible for us to help someone else, to say to that person, “I know what you’re feeling.” And that can really help.

Is there anyone you know who’s hurting today? Can you do anything to help?

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

David in the Bible knew God’s comfort:

“The Lord is my shepherd…

Even if I go through the deepest darkness,

I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.

I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life.” (Psalm 23)

But the apostle Paul knew that he should pass that comfort on:

“He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Prayer

Lord, you know what it’s like to feel hurt inside. You had really bad things happen to you. So you understand, even if no one else does. Thank you that you never turn away. Help us to accept your comfort and then be ready to comfort others. Amen

Variations on a Theme

The most valuable addition here would be to think in more detail about what Jesus did suffer (betrayal, desertion by friends, mocking, physical pain) and how he always reacted in love. Every bad feeling children have, Jesus has been there. They need to see that he understands.

If the atmosphere is not right for this, then children could read their own stories (fictional or true) about a friend being there at a bad time.