Egg Race – Easter

Bible base:

John 11:25,26

Aim:

To help students learn more about the meaning of Easter.

Things you’ll need:

  • Three Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (or similar)
  • An advert for Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (or similar)
  • A stopwatch
  • Mini chocolate eggs – enough for one for everyone in the assembly (optional, depending on school and your finances!)

Preparation

Find out, if possible, the current ‘world-record’ for time taken to eat a Cadbury’s Creme Egg, or have a suitable other ‘record’ ready (eg from other schools, youth groups etc visited).

Presentation

1 Ask the students some questions about Easter eggs, for example:

  • Who likes chocolate?
  • How many Easter eggs did you get last year?

2 Show an advert for Creme eggs. Show them a Cadbury’s Creme Egg – hinting that someone in this assembly might get the egg!

3 Tell them the ‘record’ time taken to eat a Creme Egg. Ask if anyone thinks they could beat that.

4 Ask for two volunteers (who like Creme Eggs!). Give them both a Creme Egg and challenge them to see who can eat their egg in the shortest time. Will either of them beat the record?

Use a stop-watch for timing. Make sure that both competitors start at the same time, on your ‘Go!’. Encourage support for both (making sure that both volunteers have support!). You could ask half the audience to support one competitor, and one part the other one. Build up the atmosphere by commentating as the contest develops.

Cheer the winner. Announce the times. Is there a new record? Award the winner another egg as their prize.

Reflection

  1. Comment that it’s great getting – and eating – Easter eggs at Easter, but what’s the point of them? Ask the students to suggest some answers.
  2. Respond to answers given by students. These might include:
  • New life
  • Baby chicks being born
  • Spring/new life beginning
  • Jesus coming back to life.

3 Talk briefly about the answers you receive, making sure that the above are included. Then go on to explain that Christians believe Jesus’ death and resurrection – his coming back to life – mean that forgiveness, new life and the chance to start again are possible for everyone.

Response

1 In a time of quiet, ask students to think about:

  • What does Easter mean to me?
  • Are there any ways in which I need to make a new start?

2 Pray, if appropriate, then wish everyone ‘Happy Easter’!

Optional extra: Tell students that you’re going to give them each a mini-Easter egg as they leave. As they eat it, ask them to think about anything they need forgiveness for, or ways in which they need to make a fresh start. Say that they could even ask God to help them with that. (Make sure you encourage them to put the wrapping in a rubbish bin!)

 

 

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.

 

What are you like? – Easter

Topic:

Easter

Aim

To teach children that Easter is a time when Christians think about the wrong things they’ve done and remember that God forgives sin.

Things you’ll need

  • Paper and pencil
  • The Body Quiz (see below)
  • 2 large body outlines drawn on paper (you could use wallpaper) cut up, with Blu-tack attached ready for children to stick on wall.

Bible Base

Luke 18:9-14

Content

1 Ask for a couple of volunteers who can draw. Give them pencils and paper and tell them they have about three minutes to draw a self-portrait. Whilst they are doing that divide the rest of the children into two teams and do the ‘Body Quiz’ using the questions provided. When a team gets a question right they get a body bit to stick up. The first team to make a body wins. Select questions appropriate for the school you’re in and the age level of the children (the questions in the quiz get progressively harder).

2 After the quiz, look at the self-portraits and see how accurate they are. Congratulate the artists on their efforts. Point out how hard it is to draw a self-portrait, especially without a mirror, as we often forget what we look like. In fact there are lots of things we don’t know about ourselves.

3 Tell the children that in the Bible there is a story Jesus told about two people. One thought he knew everything about himself. Ask the pupils to listen carefully as you read the story and see if they can spot which man knew most about himself. Tell the parable of the pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Ask a couple of pupils to come out and act out the parts as you tell the story.

4 When you have finished, ask the pupils which of the men knew most about himself. Why? Explain that it was the tax collector, because he knew he was sinful (briefly explain ‘sinful’ if necessary). But the pharisee couldn’t see his own faults. Jesus went on to say that it was the tax collector who would be forgiven because he wasn’t proud, but was honest about what he was like.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

The Easter festival is a special time for Christians to think about the wrong things they’ve done and to ask God to forgive them. Easter is when Christians remember that Jesus died as a punishment for the wrong things people have done. It’s a time to be honest about what we’re really like and to ask God to forgive us. The Bible says it’s important for Christians to be honest and admit to God the wrong things they’ve done, and not pretend that they’re perfect.

For everyone

Everyone does things wrong, but often we don’t want to admit it. We know other people do things wrong, but don’t want to see faults in ourselves. Sometimes we don’t seem to know ourselves very well.

Response

In a short time of quiet ask the children to think about things they’ve done which they know are wrong. You could play some quiet music at this point. Encourage the pupils to think if there’s anyone they need to be honest with or say sorry to: themselves, other people, or perhaps, God. Finish with this prayer, offering them the chance to opt out by not saying ‘Amen’ but sitting quietly and thinking about the issue.

Dear Lord, we know that often we do things wrong. Please help us to know when we’ve done wrong, and to be brave enough to say sorry. We want to say sorry now for times when we’ve done things which have upset other people and you. Please forgive us and help us not to do those things again. Amen.

The Body Quiz

  1. How many hearts have you got? (Answer:1)
  2. Name the five senses. (Answer: hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch)
  3. Which teeth are used to grind up food? (Answer: molars)
  4. What does the heart do? (Answer: pumps blood round the body)
  5. Why do we need bones? (Answer: to provide a rigid structure for our bodies and to enable us to move)
  6. Which is the longest bone in the human body? (Answer: the thigh bone)
  7. What does the blood travel round the body in? (Answer: blood vessels – arteries, capillaries and veins)
  8. What are the lungs used for? (Answer: to supply the body with oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide from the body)
  9. Where would you find the cochlea? (Answer: in the ear)
  10. What makes someone short-sighted? (Answer: the eye is too long from front to back, so that it doesn’t focus properly)

Giving your all – Easter

Topic:

Easter

Aim

To help pupils understand the Bible teaching that God gave everything, so that people could be his friends.

Things you’ll need

  • An Easter egg for a prize
  • The means to play an Easter song or hymn

Bible Base

John 3:16

Content

1 Ask for five volunteers to take part in a competition. Choose a simple contest that needs great determination and concentration (eg not laughing whilst standing on one leg, whistling a tune without smiling etc). Make sure it doesn’t just rely on physical strength as this will always be biased towards older children. Award the winner the prize and make the point that she/he had to try really hard to win – they had to give it everything.

2 Ask all the pupils what one thing they would like to be or have above all else. After you’ve heard from several of them, explain that to achieve their dreams they might need to give it everything. To be a great footballer or actress or to own a private jet will take years of commitment and trying.

3 Tell the Easter story in this way:

I wonder what God would say if we asked him the same question? What would God want above everything else? The Bible gives an answer to that question. It says that what God wants more than anything else, is for people to know that he loves them and to be friends with him. Christians believe that God has given everything to make that happen.

First, the Bible says, he sent his Son Jesus to earth to show people what God is like. God was prepared to send his only Son from heaven to earth. That’s what Christians celebrate at Christmas. But that wasn’t all. Jesus also wanted everyone to know how much God loves them and to be friends with him, so he was prepared to give up everything. That is what Christians believe happened at Easter.

In the Bible it says that Jesus was arrested and killed, not because he had done anything wrong, or just because people hated him. He gave up his life because his death was a punishment for all the wrong things others had done. He died that so that people could be friends with God. To make this possible, Jesus had to give up everything. His friends all left him, he was arrested and beaten by the soldiers, and then he was put on the cross to die. But the Bible says it didn’t end there. Three days later Jesus came back to life again. He had given everything, including his life, but God raised him to life again.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

1 Read John 3:16. Point out that God was prepared to give his own Son for us.

2 For Christians, Easter is the most important festival. It reminds them of their belief that God gave everything so that they could be friends with him. For Christians the only way to respond to what God has done for them is to give themselves to God – loving him and being determined to live the way he wants.

For everyone

We all have dreams and ambitions. Is your dream worth doing your very best to achieve? Are you willing to give your all for your dream? And is there any one you care about enough to give everything for?

Response

1 You could use this prayer to finish:

Dear Lord, thank you that you gave everything, so that people could be your friends. Help us to be people who are prepared to give everything for those we care about. Amen.

2 As the children leave, play a quiet Easter hymn. Introduce it as a song that Christians sing at Easter, to help them remember the story.

Good for Evil – Easter

Topic:

Easter

Aim

To help children consider their willingness to offer good in exchange for evil, as Jesus did.

Things you’ll need

  • A selection of items of varying value which will interest the children (eg small toys, an MP3 player, a bunch of bananas, a knitting pattern)
  • An item of no value (eg a bag of dirty stones)
  • An item of great value or popularity (eg Nintendo DS)
  • A table on which to display items

Bible Base

  • Mark 14:55,56,65
  • Mark 15:17-19
  • Luke 23:22-25,34
  • 1 Peter 2:23,24

Content

1 Explain the system of bartering used in some countries, where goods are offered in exchange for other goods.

2 Lay out some of the items of varying value you’ve brought to the assembly as goods available for barter. Include the item of no value. Ask for a volunteer to be the stall holder.

3 Have the rest of the items in a bag, including the item of great value or popularity. Take various items out of your bag and offer them in exchange for the goods on the stall. Ask the stall holder whether they are willing to make the exchange. After each of your proposed exchanges, ask the other children whether they think it would be a fair exchange.

4 Finally, offer the item of great value in exchange for the item of no value. Talk about the exchange. Are there any reasons why someone might offer to make that exchange? (For example, if the person making the offer really cared about the stall holder and wanted them to have the best.) Thank the stall holder and ask him/her to sit down.

5 Now talk to the children about Easter. For example:

Easter is a festival when Christians remember what happened to Jesus at the end of his life. Christians believe that Jesus was a man who was always full of love– a good manwho was always obedient to God. At Easter time, Christians remember that Jesusexperienced terrible suffering. He was arrested and accused of things that weren’t true.His friends abandoned him. People punched him and spat on him. He was whipped and made fun of and finally, he was executed, even though the Roman governor found him not guilty.

What did Jesus do in return? The Bible says that he didn’t fight back, he didn’t stand up for his rights. Instead, he asked God to forgive the people who were hurting him. Christians believe that Jesus took all the lies and anger, the hatred and pain of the world and– in exchange– he offers people love, forgiveness, peace and hope.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

Christians believe that Jesus has set an example for them to follow, that they should be willing to offer good things in exchange for any wrong that people do to them.

For everyone

Ask the children for ideas of any ways in which they might be able to offer something good in exchange for something bad (eg share their crisps with someone who never shares theirs).

Responses

Use the children’s ideas for a time of reflection. If appropriate, make them into a prayer. You could follow the style of the prayer of St Francis of Assisi. For example:

Lord God,

help us to offer good things in exchange for bad:

where there is hate help us to offer love;

when we are hurt help us to offer forgiveness;

when there is fighting help us to make friends;

when anyone tells lies help us to tell the truth.

John Harper

Caring about those in danger – the Titanic disaster

Other themes: sacrifice, generosity, Easter

The Problem

Listen to this. What would you do in this situation?

Colin wasn’t surprised when it happened. His best mate Billy had been looking pale since lunch. So as soon as Billy put his hands to his mouth Colin was shouting down the coach, “Mrs James, Billy’s being sick.”

Mrs James got there with the sickbag just in time. Colin watched it fill up with a mixture of horror and relief. What a time for it to happen though, he thought, Billy’s going to miss the fun. It was the last night of the residential school trip and they were going to be in a big fun pool with flumes and chutes. It’d be great, surrounded by their mates – Colin couldn’t wait to show off a bit.

He saw Mrs James in the hostel corridor after tea. “Is he okay now?”

“Far from it, I’m afraid. Good for him we’re going home tomorrow. Oh, Colin, he’s asked if you could stay with him this evening. He said your awful jokes were the only things that would cheer him up.”

“But…it’s the swimming tonight.”

“Yes, it’s a sacrifice, I know. Anyway, think about it. There’ll be a couple of teachers here, so don’t feel you have to.”

Then she smiled and turned away, leaving Colin biting his lip in the corridor.

Now think:

What should Colin do? What if he stays back and Billy just falls asleep? But they are best friends…

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

The Story

It’s hard to give something up. But I want to tell you about someone who gave up far more than one evening, and for someone he didn’t even know.

As they reached the bottom of the ship’s gangway, it would be impossible to say who was the more excited – John Harper or his six-year-old daughter, Nan – for neither of them had experienced anything like this. They were about to board the largest, the most luxurious ship ever built, the ship everyone had been talking about. It was the first one with a swimming pool, and there were Turkish baths, even four-poster beds on board – and fantastic meals to look forward to.

John Harper was a church minister from Scotland. He’d now been invited to preach in the States. And this marvellous ship was sailing to New York on just the right day. What an opportunity!

But the great thing about this shop was its safety – the hull was divided into sixteen watertight compartments. If there was a collision the worst that could happen was that one compartment, or two at the most, would be cracked open. But the ship could still float if four were smashed. In fact, the ship was nicknamed “The Unsinkable”. Its real name was impressive too – it meant mighty and enormous. It was called…the Titanic.

Midday, April 10th, 1912. The tugs began pulling the ship away from Southampton docks. Soon, under its own steam, the Titanic was surging majestically toward the open sea. The great adventure had begun!

What no-one on board knew was that a huge chain of icebergs was lying across their path to New York. And only a few officers knew two other facts – that the binoculars used for spotting icebergs had gone missing from the crow’s nest, the lookout point, and that there were only enough lifeboats for one thousand two hundred people. There were over two thousand two hundred on board.

John and Nan were having a wonderful time. John had always enjoyed the water, even though he had come close to drowning not once, not twice, but three times: first when he fell down a well when he was two – his mother had to hold him upside down while the water poured out; then in his twenties: while taking a dip a strong current almost dragged him out to sea; then in his thirties a boat he was on sprung a leak. Perhaps these events were to prepare him for what was to come.

John had become a Christian when he was thirteen by hearing a Bible verse, John 3:16 – perhaps you know it – “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son”. So John understood straightaway that the Christian life was about giving – God gave, now he should give. And he did, giving time, energy and love to the poor and needy around Glasgow. He became a famous preacher too.

He had been in America before, but not with Nan. They were over halfway there now.

Almost midnight on April 14th. The men in the crow’s nest were finding it difficult to see. There was no moon and the binoculars had not been found. There – was that an iceberg ahead? Yes! “Hard a’starboard!” Yes…yes, just made it. Lumps of ice fell on the decks as the ship brushed past. Phew! That was a close one! Then came a crunching, grinding sound from below. The ship seemed to be trembling as if in fear or pain. For ten seconds, that was all.

But in those ten seconds the part of the iceberg they couldn’t see had smashed open six of the watertight compartments.

Six

More than two. More than four.

The Titanic was doomed.

There came a knock on John’s cabin door, on every door. “Put your life-jackets on. Go to Boat Deck.” When he and Nan got there, he saw the crew hurrying to take the covers off the lifeboats. Then the boats were lowered and the cry went out: “Women and children first!” John hugged his daughter and made sure she got into a lifeboat. Nan did not know that was the last time she would see her father.

Now the third class passengers, with much further to come, began crowding onto the deck. And then the panic began. People could see the Titanic was going down quickly, could see that there weren’t enough lifeboats for them all.

John saw that many of them did not even have a life-jacket. He knew what God wanted him to do. He took off his own and gave it to a stranger. He knew he was probably giving his life as well.

Waves were washing over the deck now and the ship was tilting more and more. John had no choice. Like many others, he clambered onto the railings and dropped into the freezing sea.

As he entered the water perhaps he remembered the three times he had been rescued from drowning. But he knew this was different. Around him he could hear screams, cries of despair. And he thought, Do they know about heaven? He bagan calling out, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be safe for ever.” A man desperately clinging to a piece of wreckage heard those words and remembered them. John went on shouting the same words. Until the cold overpowered him and he slipped beneath the waves.

1502 people died that night. But that man clinging to the wreckage was picked up by a rescue boat and later told how he had become a Christian through John’s last words.

And Nan? She was rescued, returned to Scotland and eventually married a church minister.

But what about the person to whom John gave his life-jacket – and his life? We’ve no idea. But John knew that he was doing what God wanted him to do, and for him that would have been enough.

Time of Reflection

Think now. God wants us to be not just takers but givers too. Probably we won’t be asked to give our life for someone, but would we be willing to give an afternoon or an evening, to help someone, to cheer someone up? Or perhaps we own something that someone else needs more than us. Are we givers or just takers? Let’s think about ourselves for a moment…

Now let’s think of those who’ve given so much to us, families, friends, strangers.

Bible Bits

Listen to what the Bible says:

“Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Jesus Christ had.” (Philippians 2:4,5)

“Be generous and ready to share with others.” (1 Timothy 6:18)

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, that you gave your life. You could have called on angels to get you down from the cross, but you didn’t. Thank you for John Harper. And thank you for those who have seen what we need and have given it to us. Help us to appreciate more, and to give more. Amen

Variations on a Theme

At some point near the end of the assembly, it could be effective if several pupils told of times when someone gave up something for them. Aim for a wide range of “sacrifices” – the mundane to the vitally important, and a wide range of “givers” too – not just the children’s best friends.

Alternatively, if the time is right, the Harper story could lead into the story of the crucifixion and the events leading up to it. The episode of Jesus praying in Gethsemane brings out the idea of willingness no matter what the cost.

An unbelievable event – Easter

Bible base:

Luke 24:1-12

Teaching objectives:

To show that the Bible teaches that Jesus came back to life after he was killed.

You will need:

  • a large empty matchbox
  • Two sweets

Introductory activity:

Ask the assembly what reminds them of Easter. Take some suggestion, eg Easter eggs, Easter bunny, daffodils, etc. After you have heard their ideas, show them the large matchbox and say that this reminds you of Easter and you need two volunteers to explain why.

Ask for two volunteers to come to the front. Put a sweet inside the matchbox and give it to your first volunteer, asking them to remove it and eat it. There is no trick!

When they have done this, put another sweet in the box and ask the second person to do the same. However, they will only be allowed to eat the sweet if they manage to get it out of the box without anyone else in the room seeing them, not even you or the other pupil. This means that even if they turn their back, you should still be able to see what they are doing. They are not allowed to leave the room and must stay in front of you!

It’s not so easy to remove the sweet without anyone seeing when everyone is watching so closely! Give the second pupil the sweet and ask them both to take their seats again.

Imagine that the matchbox we were just using was a mini model of a tomb, where a body would be laid after the person had died. After Jesus was killed, his body was laid in a tomb, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance (illustrate this by closing the matchbox) and Roman guards were posted outside to keep watch. There was not much chance of anyone getting the body out of the tomb without the guards noticing and stopping them!

When Jesus friends came to visit his tomb a few days after he was killed, the body was gone (illustrate this by opening the empty matchbox). It would have been impossible for someone to steal it without anyone noticing, and a dead body cannot escape on its own!

When his followers discovered the tomb was empty, they remembered something he had told them before his crucifixion, which they had not properly understood.

If you are doing this assembly as part of the series ‘What is Jesus all about?’, refer back to ‘A strange twist’ and recap on the strange series of events that Jesus told his disciples about. You could re-use the visual aid from that assembly to remind pupils that Jesus had told his disciples this would happen.

Jesus had said that he would be killed and then would be brought back to life again, so it is not that surprising that the tomb was empty. He had already shown that he was someone quite amazing when he had performed miracles. Even though he had died, Jesus came back to life, and some of the people who had known him saw him again before he went to be with God in heaven.

You may have heard of this event. Christians call it the resurrection and it is what is celebrated at Easter.

Optional prayer time:

The resurrection is an unbelievable event; pray that we would expect the unbelievable with God!

An amazing gift from the King – Easter

Bible base:

Luke 23:1-25

Teaching objectives:

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).

Introductory activity:

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.

A strange twist – Easter

Bible base:

Luke 22:7-30

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan.

You will need:

  • The words ‘I must die because it is part of God’s plan’ written in sections on separate pieces of card.
  • A Strange Twist pdf visual aid, copied on to a large piece of paper that will be visible to the assembly.

Introductory activity:

Bring about twelve pupils to the front and get them to stand in two circles of six facing inwards. Ask them all to stretch their arms out in front of them and then take hold of two hands at random. The two groups should then race to untangle themselves without letting go of each other’s hands.

Everyone’s arms were twisted together and it took a while to untangle them! Today’s story has a twist in it, and it might take a while to work out how to untangle it.

The story takes place when Jesus is in Jerusalem, where King Herod is ruling. Herod was unpopular, but a lot of people really liked Jesus because he helped them and cared for them. When he arrived in Jerusalem, the people greeted him as a king.

The Bible says that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to be their king, but the story wasn’t as simple as they perhaps thought! Jesus would be King one day, but he wasn’t going to go to King Herod’s palace and overthrow him as the people might have expected. Our story takes place one night, when Jesus was having a meal with his followers and began to reveal his secret plans to them. Can you read what the plan was? Unscramble the words to find out.

Arrange the words on cards at the front, making sure that the order is muddled up.

The plan was twisted up so that we could not read it at first – it was not obvious. And as a plan, it’s not a very obvious way to become King either. What a strange twist! It seems like a strange idea, to plan to die, but this was actually Jesus’ winning idea. Long before they had gone to Jerusalem, and long before this meal they were now sharing, Jesus had told them that this was God’s plan for him.

Hold up the unfolded large ‘twisted tale’ sheet.

This is the outline of God’s plan. It doesn’t look very clear, but that is because there are a few twists in the tale.

Fold the paper along the lines so that what the assembly can see are the words ‘Jesus will be king’.

Jesus will be king, just as the people hoped, but (flip the paper over so that it says ‘Jesus will be killed’) before he becomes king, he will be killed.

How could he be killed and then become king? There is another twist to the tale!

Lift the flap at ‘A’ to reveal the words ‘Jesus will come back to life’.

Jesus will come back to life! And then, when he had overcome death, he would be King in God’s kingdom (lift flap at ‘B’ so that the sentence ‘Jesus will be King’ is revealed).

We are back at the sentence we started with, ‘Jesus will be King’. But there were amazing twists in the tale, which meant that Jesus was going to be a special King like no other. The Bible says that Jesus would die and would then become King in God’s kingdom for ever.

Optional prayer time:

Pray that God would help us to understand the twists in the amazing story of Jesus’ life and death.

Dogger – Easter

Note: As well as telling the facts of what happened when Jesus died on the cross the Bible also explains why Jesus died – what god achieved through his death. The theological word is ‘redemption’ – God ‘buying back’ people who were lost to him. It’s a word that was used to describe the process by which people were freed from slavery. When applied to God and humankind it makes clear how precious we are to God – that he would give up his only son to help us.

Jesus often told stories to explain truths about God. The story ‘Dogger’, which is probably well known to infants, is a lovely illustration of this: a child giving up a teddy to get back her brother’s lost precious toy dog. It falls short of what God did for us: Bella didn’t really like the teddy, whereas it cost God dearly to give up Jesus. This assembly attempts to explain what Jesus’ death means, and how precious we are to God.

Bible base:

Ephesians 2:13

You will need:

  • Dogger by Shirley Hughes, published by Picture Lions/Collins
  • You may also want to use a toy dog to illustrate the story

Preparation

Edit the story to a manageable length.

Presentation

Most children will be familiar with the story, but tell your edited version, showing the pictures as appropriate. The key points to include are:

  • Dogger was very precious to Dave.
  • Dave was devastated when Dogger was lost and searched long and hard for him.
  • Dave wanted to buy back Dogger as soon as he saw him on the stall.
  • By giving up something special Bella was able to reunite Dave with Dogger.

Because Dogger was so precious to Dave, Bella was prepared to give up the teddy bear she had won so that Dave and Dogger could be together.

The Bible says that people were made to have a friendship with God. But the wrong things we do spoil it, and make it as if we are lost.

Application

People who didn’t like Jesus killed him and he died on a cross. But God did something very special. Because we are so precious to God, he used what they did to get us back, like Bella got back Dogger for Dave. So we can be with God for ever.

Actually, Bella didn’t like the teddy all that much, so it wasn’t too hard for her.

The Bible says that God loved Jesus very much, and it must have been very hard for him to let him die. But we are so special that he was willing to do it to get back our friendship.

That’s what Easter is all about: remembering Jesus dying on the cross and how, because of that, we can be with God for ever.

Prayer

Thank you, God, that we are precious to you. And thank you for Jesus, who shows us just how much you love us.

Song suggestions