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Footsteps to the Feast for Holy Week and Easter

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Spend time with the Bible story by presenting it using three-dimensional materials. This is a reflective approach to the Bible, based on the method known as Godly Play.

1. Gather the group in a semicircle, using a back row of benches or chairs if necessary so that all the children can see the following presentation of the story clearly.
2. Tell the story using some carefully chosen items that you draw out of a golden box, in the style of Godly Play. Start with a piece of beige felt about 75cms long and 15cms wide. You will also need the following items (try to find the most beautiful and attractive examples you can for each of these).

A tray with the following coloured felt pieces and symbols:

For ‘Jesus enters Jerusalem’
Yellow base cloth
Figures of Jesus and donkey
Palm leaves, coats
Road, stones

For ‘Jesus goes into the temple’
Red base cloth
Two tables
Figures of a sheep and a goat
‘Roman’ coins

For ‘The Pharisees and parables’
Green base cloth
Large ‘Roman’ coin

For ‘The Upper Room’
Brown base cloth
Small table, chalice and paten
Water jug and towel

For ‘The betrayal and trial’
Purple base cloth
Crown of thorns
Figure of a cockerel

For ‘God’s Friday’
Black base cloth
Holding cross
Three nails

For ‘Easter morning’
White base cloth
Empty tomb
Figures of Mary and Jesus (plus possibly angel and other women)
Small pots of growing (garden) plants

Carefully place all these items onto the tray in reverse order, ending with the felt. Sit the children in a circle and quieten them for the story. Tell the story simply, using the words below and focusing on the story rather than the children. Unroll the beige cloth first from right to left (from your perspective) and then place the items slowly on it as indicated from right to left so that children ‘read’ the story from their left to their right.

Storyteller: I wonder if you would be surprised to know that each of the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, takes up at least a quarter of his book telling the story of Easter. Easter is a very important part of God’s gift of love to us. I wonder what happened to Jesus in the week we call Holy Week… In his Gospel, Luke tells us that Jesus made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. It was as if he set his face like flint towards that Holy City. I wonder what it would have been like to have followed his footsteps through the days of Holy Week…

1. Jesus enters Jerusalem
The first day of Holy Week is the day we call Palm Sunday. It was a week before the great festival of Passover and everyone came to Jerusalem to celebrate. As Jesus and his friends walked down to Jerusalem, they came to a small village called Bethpage, nestling in the sun at the foot of the Mount of Olives. As they approached the village, Jesus stopped and said to two of his friends. ‘Go into the village. There you will find a donkey tied up. Untie it and bring it to me.’

So they went and did as Jesus had said: they brought the donkey and the colt, threw their cloaks over them, and Jesus got on to the donkey. A large crowd of people saw Jesus coming along on his donkey and spread their cloaks on the road. Others ran to cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds began to shout, ‘Praise to David’s Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord. Praise God!’

What a bustle of excitement there must have been when Jesus rode into town. Why, if the people had not cried out, surely the very stones beneath the donkey’s hooves would have done so! This day was a happy, yellow sort of day.

2. Jesus goes into the temple
But the next day was an angry, red sort of a day. You see, the temple was the most important building in Jerusalem. It towered high above the streets and houses. It was the reason why Jerusalem is known as the Holy City.

Jesus went into the temple. And what did he find? He found all the noise of the town spilling through its doors. Market stallholders were shouting. Sheep and goats were bleating. Doves were flapping and cooing in their wooden cages. What a din! Jesus marched into the temple forecourt and drove out everyone who was buying or selling there. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and threw down the benches of those who were selling doves. ‘The scriptures say, “My house should be called a place of prayer. But you have turned it into a den of thieves,”‘ he said. In the silence that followed you could have heard a pin drop.

3. Pharisees and parables
The next couple of days were ordinary, green sort of days. Jesus went into the temple to teach the people about God. The Pharisees and the chief priests didn’t like what they heard. Jesus’ stories had hard-hitting messages. He told a story about tenants in the vineyard behaving very badly. The Pharisees felt uncomfortable - they realized that the story was about them! They put their heads together and thought up a plan to trick Jesus into saying something wrong.

Aha! Here’s the plan! We have to pay our taxes to the Roman Emperor. We can’t serve him and God! Let’s see what Jesus has to say about that.

Jesus flipped the coin over in the palm of his hand. ‘Whose picture and name is on this coin?’ he asked. ‘The Emperor’s,’ they replied. ‘Give to the Emperor what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to God,’ said Jesus. In the silence that followed you could have heard a pin drop.

4. In the Upper Room
Thursday was a quiet, brown sort of day. Jesus and his friends gathered together in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal. It was a meal his friends never forgot! He bewildered them with his talk of betrayal and death. He surprised them with bread and wine. He humbled them with water and words of love and the Holy Spirit. What a night of joy and sorrow! No, they would never forget.

5. Betrayal and trial
Neither would they forget that night in the garden: Judas with his soldiers and his 30 pieces of silver, Peter with his sword and subsequent denial. And Jesus in the midst of it all, patient, and solid and accepting - like a lamb to the slaughter, some would say.

The colour purple burnt in Peter’s heart as the cock crowed and the soldiers whipped and spat and sneered at the Son of God.

6. God’s Friday
Jesus’ enemies had won. The plotting and planning had not been in vain. On a lonely hill outside the city Jesus was crucified, while soldiers gambled for his robe. At midday it went dark. At about three o’clock in the afternoon the Son of God cried out in agony, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and died. In the silence that followed you could have heard a pin drop.

7. Easter morning
Early on Sunday morning, before the sun had risen, the women went to the tomb. They wanted to be near Jesus one last time. But when they arrived, they found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. The tomb was empty!
Suddenly, two angels appeared. ‘Jesus isn’t here!’ they said. ‘He has been raised from death!’
The women ran to tell the others and Peter and John came and saw for themselves that Jesus wasn’t there.
Mary stayed in the garden, crying. She spoke with someone who she thought was the gardener. ‘Where have you taken him?’ she asked. The man said, ‘Mary.’ It was Jesus. He was alive in a new Easter sort of way. After this he appeared to the others, too. Jesus was alive.

White is the colour of celebration. Easter turns everything inside out and upside down. Jesus rose from death and went back to heaven, so that we, too, can be his friends. For us every Sunday is Easter Sunday, a time to praise God for his gift of love and his promise of new life, here and now… and forever.

Sit back and look around at the children. Follow the presentation of the story by some wondering questions in the style of Godly Play:

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