The mystery of Easter takes 50 days to unfold. Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead was a miraculous and unexpected thing by which people were amazed and confused. While Jesus’ disciples stayed away from Jesus’ tomb after his death, on the morning of the the first day of the week, some women go to take care of Jesus body. In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb by herself. When she finds that the stone has been rolled away, she alerts Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, who investigate for themselves. Once they leave, Mary stays behind weeping over Jesus’ missing body. Then (after seeing two angels), she meets the risen Jesus, who she first mistakes as a gardener. Afterward, she shares the story with the disciples, saying: “I have seen the Lord!”
(1.) Children will be able to tell the story of Christ’s resurrection and his encounter with Mary in the garden.
(2.) Children will be able to share Mary’s experience of seeing Jesus and sharing the news with the disciples and others.
(3.) Children will understand themselves as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ and will make symbols that help them retell the story.
Hear the Word:
Share the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ in John 20:11-18.
Ask your students to divide into pairs and discuss the following question with their partner: What happens in the story? What is their favorite part? What part do they think could be left out, if any?
Respond to the Word:
(1.) Mary Magdalene and the Red Eggs: Did you know Orthodox Christians exchange red eggs during the 50 days of Pascha and say “Christ is Risen.” This practice is believed to have it’s roots in the legend of Mary Magdalene and the red eggs (more below), the color red as a symbol for the blood of Christ, and the use of eggs as a symbol of resurrection beginning sometime in the 2nd century. After sharing the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus, talk about how she shared the story of the resurrection with the disciples. Mary Magdalene is also reported to have shared this story with people all over the known world.
Reading: You can find the legend of Mary Magdalene and the Red egg online here or read one of the two books we own, The Miracle of the Red Egg or The Story of Saint Mary Magdalene & the First Easter Egg (I will put them at the front of the commons for you). Share the story with your students and then ask what they think Mary might have been thinking when she stumbled on the empty tomb. What was her response to Jesus in the Gospel of John? What made her want to share this news with everyone? When she did share this news, how did the disciples respond? How did she come to believe the story of the resurrection herself? Does the story of the red egg help us remember and believe this story?
Tactile experience: I have a large bag of red eggs filled with Silly Putty. Use some of the suggestions for praying with clay to lead your students in a quiet, prayerful session reflecting on the resurrection. You may like to play some music or read one of the children’s books listed above while your students work with their putty. Share the same discussion question as outlined in the “reading” section above.
Art: I have about 15 wooden eggs (older children may want to try blowing the yokes from real eggs. Here’s a tutorial if you are interested). Set your students up with red paint (acrylic, watercolors, or a food coloring and water mixture) and wooden eggs. After they have painted the eggs red, they can select symbols of the resurrection (butterfly, Lamb of God, tomb with stone rolled away, even crosses are a sign of Jesus’ victory over death) to paint on their eggs. If you have writers in your class, suggest that your students write “he is risen” on their egg. Then, encourage them to share their red egg and the story of Mary Magdalene seeing the risen Lord and then sharing the news with a relative this week.
Mary Magdalene Icons and Images: Print off copies of some of the images or icons above. Discuss the content of the picture. What part of the passion and resurrection story is depicted in the image? Do you see any symbols that are familiar (tomb, cross, stone, nail marks on Jesus’ hands and feet, red, egg, etc.). Ask your students to imagine that they are present with Jesus and the disciples at his trial, death, and resurrection. How would they respond if they were the disciples? If they were Mary? Would it be easy to believe Mary’s story? Is it hard for us who have not seen Jesus in person to believe that he has been raised from the dead? I have 20 icon cards of Mary Magdalene preaching the resurrection to the 11 disciples (in this icon, she is shown as the apostle to the apostles, the first to preach the news of the risen Lord). If your class does this activity, you may send the icon cards home so they may remember and, like Mary, share the story of the resurrection.
(2.) In the Garden: That Jesus was buried and raised by God in a garden is no small coincidence. Aside from the reminders of new life we may find in gardens (tiny creatures, birds’ nests, flower buds), gardens are also a significant Biblical motif.
Collaborative Conversation: Trace the use of gardens in the Bible. You may begin in the garden of Eden, talk about the Garden of Gethsemane, reference the garden in which Jesus was buried and raised, and end with the gardens in Revelation (there are many more to find and discuss). Why does God do so many wonderful things in gardens?
Tactile: Collect items from around the church, sticks, tiny stones, blades of grass, small vines. In a shallow bowl or pot plate, create an Easter garden together. Use an empty carton as the tomb and build around it. Some examples what your garden might look like are here, here, and here. Afterwards, use the garden to re-enact the Easter story from Jesus burial to his resurrection and encounter with Mary (you might use peg dolls and strips of cloth from the supply closet). If you would like to do this, please let me know so that I can purchase any materials you might need.
(3.) Other ways to explore Jesus’ Resurrection (younger children):
Acting out and Holy Play: Our youngest children may want to focus just on the resurrection story. Use play dough (free-form, 3-d, or with these play dough mats), cardboard bricks, or found stones to build a tomb and talk about how Mary found the tomb empty before she saw Jesus. If using the cardboard bricks, have the children act out the scene for each other.
Resurrection rolls: Here is a recipe for resurrection rolls. Let me know if you are planning on doing this activity so I can purchase the ingredients for you. Because the fellowship commission will be using the kitchen for fellowship Sunday, you may want to make the rolls downstairs with your class, then have an adult bake them while another leads story time as the children wait.
Singing: Sing the song, Where is Jesus? Where is Jesus? (to the tune Frere Jacques) with hand motions.
Where is Jesus? Where is Jesus? (Hand over eyes as though you are searching in the distance)
He has risen! He has risen! (lift hands up from waist level to shoulder level)
The great big stone has rolled away (roll hands around each other)
Jesus is alive today!
Hip, hip hooray! Hip, hip hooray! (two claps and pump hands in the air)
Close in Prayer