Note to the Teacher
The scripture we read is from the Gospel of John. It is the story Jesus’ death on the cross. The opening activity gets students thinking about excuses. The discussion encourages students to think about those final few hours of Jesus’ life. The activity and discussion have students watching a video and answering a few questions. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: 'Excuses' (10 minutes)
In this opening ice breaker, your group will play a game called “Excuses.” Have your students sit in a giant circle (or more than one circle depending on the size of your group). Give one player a ball and have that player say his/her name and come up with a random excuse for why he/she missed church. After the person has given an excuse, have that person roll the ball to someone else and ask that person to come up with an excuse. Continue until everyone has had the chance to come up with an excuse. This is a fun, lighthearted game to get everyone thinking about how silly excuses sound and a good way to learn one another’s names.
If your group is playing this game digitally, the leader will simply call on someone to come up with an excuse. Remember to keep things lighthearted and moving. This should be a quick, fun game for everyone!
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is the story of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. While I read the scripture, put yourself in the story. Close your eyes and imagine being one of the disciples and witnessing all this happening to Jesus.
Read John 18:1-19:42. (Take turn asking students to read if possible.)
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- Have you ever had a friend betray you? Were you ever able to forgive that person? Share details if comfortable.
- These final hours of Jesus’ life were very emotional. How would you feel if you were one of the disciples witnessing this?
- Have you ever had a friend get in trouble for something he/she didn’t do? If so, how did you react? What did you do?
- Why do you think Judas betrayed Jesus? Do you think Jesus forgave Judas?
- What Old Testament stories or passages come to mind that help us understand Jesus’ death on a cross? (Examples could include: Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac, Passover Lamb from the Exodus story, the sacrificial system of the Jews, etc.)
- What is the significance of Jesus dying on the cross for our relationship with God? For our relationship with others?
- Does Jesus ask for anyone to come and save him? Why or why not?
- How does knowing that Jesus gives us life abundant change the way we live our lives today?
- Our scripture passage ends with Jesus’ death and burial. If you were living in the story, you would not know the Resurrection is coming. What would you be doing in the hours following Jesus’ death?
4. Activity and Discussion: 'Tenebrae' (20 minutes)
Explain to your students that today they are going to read through a Tenebrae service publicly available from The Book of Worship. You will need fourteen candles (or battery powered lights that you can turn off, or even glow sticks that you can cover completely!) Identify readers for each section. As each section of text is read, extinguish one source of light.
*Optional: You may also stage a table with items related to each section of reading (a sponge for the vinegar/sponge part of the story, etc.) as each source of light is dimmed, take away that item so that eventually the table is empty.
- What words would you describe to use the feelings you had as it got darker (and the table was emptied)?
- If you were a disciple, not knowing that Resurrection was coming, how would you feel right now?
- How did this experience help prepare you for Easter?
Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total time:50 minutes
- 1 sheet of paper per person
- Additional props for each section (optional)