Note to the Teacher
The scripture we read today is the story of when Jesus appears to the disciples and Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection. The ice breaker helps youth realize how many wild stories are in the Bible. The discussion engages students by digging deep into Thomas’s doubts and their own questions about faith. The activity helps students put it all together by being surprised by the talents of others. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: Believe It or Not? (10 minutes)
In this ice breaker, you will ask students if they believe that the story you will talk about is in the Bible (true) or if it is not (False). The object is to show some of the unbelievable things that happen in the Bible to get students thinking about how Thomas must have felt when the other disciples told him they had seen and heard from Jesus. Read what is listed below and then ask students if they believe it is in the Bible. Afterward, if time allows, have a student look up the verse and read it aloud to the group. Enjoy! (If doing this activity online, invite youth to get a red object to hold up for “false” answers and a green object for “true” answers before you begin the trivia. That way, people can share their answers without shouting over one another.)
- Guy named Balaam talks to a donkey. (False (but tricky!) God talks through the Donkey to Balaam. So technically, it’s God talking with Balaam, not the donkey and Balaam talking. - Numbers 22:28)
- Teens get mauled by a bear for making fun of a bald guy. (True – 2 Kings 2:23-25)
- Man lights a bunch of foxes’ tails on fire. (True – Judges 15:4)
- Poor city boy ventures out into the dessert and finds a magic lamp hidden in the cave of wonders. (False – This is from the movie Aladdin)
- Priests plan to kill a guy who has already died. (True – John 12:9-11, the story of Lazarus)
- Guy gets his hair caught in a tree, and it turns out to be his worst day ever! (True – 2 Samuel 18:6-15)
- Axe mishap on a construction site turns into a river miracle. (True – 2 Kings 6:1-7)
- A teenager fell asleep during a sermon and fell out of a window and died! (True – Acts 20:9)
Feel free to add your own or ask students to share stories from the Bible that they think are hard to believe.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples and Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. Ask students to imagine themselves in the room with the disciples and think about how they would feel if they had seen Jesus after he had already been buried in the tomb.
Read John 20:19-31.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- Someone describe what is happening in verse 19. How would you feel if you were in the room with Jesus and the disciples?
- What is the first thing Jesus said to them? [Answer: Peace be with you” (v. 19).]
- Jesus does something weird right before he tells them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” What does he do? Why do you think he does this? [Answer: Jesus breathes on them (v. 22).]
- Looking back at the start of verse 19, why do you think the disciples were locked in their house? What were they afraid of?
- Who was missing from this first encounter with Jesus? Where do you think he was? [Answer: Thomas was missing, and we do not know where he was. Wherever he was, he wasn’t with the other disciples, so he missed out on seeing Jesus. The best place to be when you’re growing in your faith is in the company of fellow believers.]
- When the disciples tell Thomas that Jesus had come to them, what does Thomas say? [Answer: “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (v. 25).]
- What could make it hard for Thomas to believe that Jesus came and visited the disciples?
- What makes it hard for people to believe in Jesus sometimes? What do they have in common with Thomas?
- We read in verse 26 that the disciples were again locked in a house. How have you felt isolated or alone this past year? How does your understanding of isolation help you identify with some of the feelings the disciples have in this episode?
- Has it been hard for you to believe in God during this time? Why or why not?
- What has helped you grow in your faith during these series of quarantines or lock downs?
- Jesus shows up to the disciples, including Thomas, once more and asks Thomas to do something weird. What was it? [Answer: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (v. 27).]
- Then Jesus asks them, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Have you ever struggled with believing in Jesus because you can’t physically see him?
- Jesus goes on to say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (v. 29) What do you think he means by this? [Answer: Jesus is commissioning Thomas to go and help others believe. Even though they won’t physically be able to see Jesus, they will be able to see the love of Christ through our words and actions.]
- How are you struggling with your own faith? What are some of your friends’ and family’s struggles with faith?
- Who can we reach out to this week who really needs help seeing Christ at work in the world? How can we show them that love?
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
For our closing activity, we are going to have a talent show. Whether you are doing this in person or via video, a good old-fashioned talent show is always a lot of fun. You’ll never believe what some people’s talents are. In today’s talent show, ask students to take a few minutes to come up with a talent they can share with the group, something unique or interesting. (You may even invite youth to prepare these ahead of time in your invitation to this week’s gathering.) Students don’t have to sing or dance. Some might be able to recite fifty digits of the number pi. Others might be able to turn their hand 360 degrees on a table. Tell students they will have fewer than sixty seconds to perform their talent in front of the group. Not every student has to participant. Provide a way for students to opt out without feeling embarrassed in front of the group. Allow students to perform their talents together if they’d like. For example, if two students want to come together and sing a song, that’s totally fine! After each talent performance, ask students to clap and make a lot of noise for the participant! The more noise, the better!
After the talent show, thank everyone for being willing to share and then ask the following questions:
- Who surprised you the most with their talent?
- Why is it so hard to believe that people have unique talents? Explain.
- What made it hard to believe those stories we read at the beginning of our time together?
- Why do you think it was so hard for Thomas to believe that Jesus had showed up after he was put in the tomb?
- Are there other stories in the Bible you find hard to believe? Why?
- Why is it so hard to believe things that we don’t see? Explain.
- What did you learn about believing today?
Thomas didn’t believe at first because he hadn’t been in the company of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them in the house. We’re not sure where he was, but he missed out not only on seeing Jesus, but on being in a supportive community. This week, challenge your students to gather with other Christians and find one story in the Bible that’s “hard to believe” and discuss it as a group.
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.