Gather: You may want to offer a coloring sheet as students trickle in.
Introduction: Sometimes it is hard to know the significance of the stories of Jesus. We can ask “what does this tell us about God?” or “What does this tell us about who Jesus is?” and there is no one answer. The story of Jesus calming the sea is one such story. From this story we can affirm that Jesus is with and for the disciples, or that Jesus is with and for us, but it is not always clear what that means as we are experiencing trials. Students may want to explore multiple themes–faith, fear, trust in God, the disciples trust or fear of Jesus–as they discover how this story is significant for our understanding of Jesus as our companion.
Hear the Word: You can read the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. You may want to read the story from The Child’s Story Bible, “Chapter 23: The Winds and the Waves Obey,” on page 334-335.
(1.) Students will be able to share the story of Jesus calming the sea in their own words.
(2.) Students will be able to share one thing that they find significant about the story.
Respond to the Word:
(1.) Acting out the story: Assign half of your class to be the storm, and half of your class to be the disciples in the boat. You can arrange the chairs to create a boat in your classroom. As you read through the story the disciples can hold hands or move around their imaginary sails. Students assigned to be the storm can “whoosh” like the wind (or use some of the other sounds in activity 2 below), make wave motions with their hands, or jump up and down to symbolize waves. When Jesus calms the storm, the waves can settle down to the ground. Switch the kids and tell the story again.
(2.) Make it rain: Gather the children standing in a circle facing inwards. Stand in the center of the circle facing them. Tell the children that you are going to create a “rainstorm.” They are to do what you do when you stand directly in front of them and continue doing that until you come back around the circle to them again, then they should do the new action you show them. Then they will start doing what you are doing at that time, continue until you come back around and so on. Stand right in front of a child and move quickly and smoothly around the circle. Change actions when you have made a complete circle. Begin by rubbing your hands together (gentle rain) Snap fingers together (harder rain), Clap hands on thighs (even harder rain) Stomp feet (thunder). Then go in reverse: Clap hands on thighs, Snap fingers together, Rub hands together. End by holding your hand silently at your mouth (in a silent “shush” action).
(3.) Reflecting on the story with art: Print out of Rembrandt’s “Christ in the storm on the Sea of Galilee“. Ask students to look at the piece for a few minutes. Once everyone has had an opportunity to look at the piece, spend time reflecting on what students see and how they feel about the piece. Who are the people in the picture? Is there anyone/thing in the image that they relate to? You can follow the conversation by reading the story again (perhaps in a different Gospel, or with the children’s Bible). Do they think that the artist depicted the scene well? Why or why not?
Bonus: If you plan on doing this activity, it may take up quite a bit of your class time. You can follow this conversation by asking your students to depict the scene in their own way using paper, crayons, markers, and other art tools.
(4.) Sinking Sails: For a high energy game, follow the directions here.
(5.) Sharing from Experience: What is the loudest scariest storm that you have ever seen? How did you feel during the storm? How do you think the disciples felt? How do you think Jesus felt? Do you think it surprised the disciples when Jesus calmed the storm? How did they feel when the water stilled?
(6.) God brings us through the water: Ask students to come up with a list of Bible stories in which God has used water to save people. Some popular examples are Jonah and the Whale, Noah and the ark, Moses in the basket, the Exodus, Jesus’ baptism/baptism more generally, Peter walking on water, and the shipwreck in Acts. Have a conversation about all the ways that God has used water to save God’s people. Are these stories similar to or different from the story of Jesus calming the storm? Does God use water to save us? In what ways?
Close in Prayer