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An Easter Celebration

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 2 - Church Schools

Aims

To retell the story of Easter.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and six narrators – ensure that they are familiar with their parts (see under ‘Assembly’ below).
  • You will also need large letters for the narrators to hold up in turn, spelling ‘EASTER’.

Assembly

Leader Today we are going to tell the Easter story one letter at a time.

Narrator 1 ‘E’ stands for ‘entry’.

Hold up large letter ‘E’ for a moment then tell the following story.

Zacchaeus had set out for Jerusalem early that morning. Today was the feast of Passover and everyone would be heading to the city. Zacchaeus wanted to get there early because he knew that Jesus would be coming and, being small in stature, he needed to find a good spot if he was going to get a good view. Yes, he was that little man who climbed the sycamore tree! There were no sycamore trees to climb this time, though.

On that first occasion he had been a very unhappy man – a tax collector, a cheat and friendless as a result. That day had been the turning point in his life. Jesus had walked past, stopped, looked up into the sycamore tree and calmly said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down. I’d like to come to your house for tea.’ Now Jesus was a friend and he, Zacchaeus, was a disciple. He was convinced, along with a growing number of other people, that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah.

He had been wise to come early. Pilgrims lined the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday. There was some activity up ahead in the crowds and a ripple of cheering. Someone was coming.

Zacchaeus spotted a familiar figure, riding quietly through the crowds on a donkey. Yes, it was Jesus. How like him to arrive in such a humble manner. The crowds roared their approval, ‘Hosanna, Hosanna to the Son of David!’

As Jesus passed by, Zacchaeus, along with others, threw down their cloaks and palm branches. Zacchaeus, however, noticed that Jesus was silently weeping. His eyes seemed to say, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How I have longed for you to know me, yet even today your praises are shallow and without understanding of who I am and what I have come to do for you.’

Narrator 2 ‘A’ stands for ‘arrest’.

Hold up large letter ‘A’ for a moment then tell the following story.

Jesus and his disciples had come to the garden of Gethsemane late at night after sharing the Passover meal together at Simon’s house. Jesus had said some disturbing things while they had sat around the table and the disciples were troubled.

‘This night you will all fall away on account of me.’

It hadn’t helped that Judas had been acting strangely and left during the meal. Now Jesus wanted time on his own to pray and had asked Peter and two other disciples to sit with him while he did so.

Jesus was very troubled, overwhelmed by some sorrow or other. Peter watched him for a while, concerned about his master, but did not know what he could do or say to help.

Jesus knelt down, then stretched out in prayer, with his face to the ground. Peter could hear him calling out to his Father, pleading with him about something.

Time went by and still Jesus was wrestling with whatever it was. Peter’s eyes grew heavy with tiredness. He was weary and cold. He pulled his cloak round him and snuggled down, fully intending to carry on praying for his friend, but it wasn’t long before he was asleep. He was aware of Jesus stirring him at some point in the night, aware of feeling guilty, but sleep had been too inviting. He awoke to see Jesus bending over him, his hand on his shoulder.

‘Rise, let us go, here comes my betrayer.’

The garden was suddenly lit up with many torches. A large crowd, armed with swords and clubs, surrounded them. Among them was Judas. He came up and kissed Jesus on the cheek, saying, ‘Greetings, Rabbi.’

With that Jesus was seized and arrested. Jesus was calm, almost as though he had known this would happen. All the disciples, however, were terrified and, when they saw that they could not save Jesus, fled, deserting their master.

Narrator 3 ‘S’ stands for ‘scourge’.

Hold up large letter ‘S’ for a moment then tell the following story.

The chief priest and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus. They hated this upstart who had gathered a great crowd of followers. Jesus was a mere Galilean, the son of a carpenter, but many Jews were calling him the long-awaited Messiah. He had spent his days with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, he had healed on the sabbath, his disciples were mere fishermen, yet he had had the audacity to accuse them, the wise, learned and distinguished teachers of the Law, of being like ‘whitewashed tombs’.

‘Are you the Christ, the Son of God?’
‘Yes, I am’, Jesus replied.

That was it! That was the final straw. They were enraged. They began to spit at him, they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists. Then they handed him over to the guards to be beaten. Caiaphas’ guards would show Jesus no mercy!

Narrator 4 ‘T’ stands for ‘trial’.

Hold up large letter ‘T’ for a moment then tell the following story.

Roman law granted the Jews many freedoms, including the right to their own courts and to hold trials. However, the Jews had no authority to order the death penalty. So it was that Pilate found himself presiding over the trial of a man called Jesus.

Pilate had never seen the Jewish elders and leaders so agitated. Initially he thought that this man must be one of the worst criminals to have got them so worked up, but his first impression of Jesus was of a quiet, mild-mannered man. Even though he could see that Jesus had been badly beaten, there was about him an air of dignity and peace.

Jesus had shocked the Sanhedrin with his answers to their questions.

‘Yes, I am the Son of God.’

Horrified, they had yelled, ‘Blasphemy! He is guilty of blasphemy. He should be put to death!’

Pilate was intrigued by the man before him.

‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ he asked.

The accused man stood silently. It unnerved Pilate. The Jews must be mistaken. This was no criminal. Even his wife had warned him that she had had a dream about this man and said to him, ‘He is innocent. Don’t get involved.’

He certainly could find no crime here, but what was he supposed to do? He had never seen the Jews so angry. There would be a riot if he wasn’t careful. Then he remembered, it was Passover. The Jews had a custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover. This was his way out! His plan backfired, though. Pilate could not believe that, when given the choice, the crowd demanded to have this man crucified and, instead, free the notorious murderer Barabbas.

‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for giving him the death penalty.’

The angry crowd, now in a state of uproar, continued to insist that Jesus be crucified and Pilate reluctantly gave in to its demands.

Pilate took a bowl of water and washed his hands of the decision in front of them, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility!’ Then he handed Jesus over to the soldiers to be crucified.

Narrator 5 ‘E’ stands for ‘execution’.

Hold up large letter ‘E’ for a moment then tell the following story.

A Roman execution was a cruel way to die and not a pleasant task for the man in charge of carrying it out. A Roman centurion, however, had to do his job. Usually he approached it dispassionately, knowing that the man he was to execute had done something terrible. Usually the death penalty was given to a life-long robber or murderer. This man, however, seemed different.

Jesus had been severely flogged and another man ordered to carry his cross because he was exhausted, but he was quiet and almost dignified – not swearing and cursing like the other two who had been crucified before him. The centurion did the deed, carrying out the crucifixion of Jesus quickly and efficiently. He then stood guard until Jesus breathed his last.

Jesus’ final cry and the manner in which he died completely unnerved the centurion and he said, ‘Surely this man was the son of God!’

Narrator 6 ‘R’ stands for ‘resurrection’.

Hold up large letter ‘R’ for a moment then tell the following story.

Mary was distraught. She had stayed until the last moment yesterday, huddled up to and weeping with Jesus’ mother and the other friends on the hilltop. She had hardly been able to bear the pain of watching her Lord suffer such agony, but he would never have left her in a moment of need so she stayed.

Jesus had saved her life in so many ways. With him she had felt totally, unconditionally loved. It wasn’t as though he didn’t know about her past either, the shameful Mary she had been then. Following him had brought her a peace and joy she would never have dreamed possible – life in all its fullness.

Mary had been relieved when Jesus finally uttered the words ‘It is finished!’ His suffering was over, but, oh, the feeling of loss. Kind hands had taken him down from the cross and carried him to a tomb – his last resting place – but this morning she just needed to be with him, even though he was gone.

Mary hurried to the tomb in the early light, but, as she approached it, she knew something was wrong. The large stone guarding the entrance had been moved. Mary ran to the tomb and looked in. It was empty! Her Lord and Saviour had gone! It was all too much. Utterly spent with grief, Mary fell to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably.

A man approached her quietly. She thought he was the gardener.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked kindly. ‘Why are you so upset?’
‘Oh, sir,’ she replied, not even looking up, ‘they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where to find him.’
‘Mary!’ the gentle voice said.
Mary recognized that voice! It couldn’t be! She lifted her head. It was! It was Jesus!
‘Yes, Mary,’ Jesus smiled, ‘it’s me, I am alive again.’

Mary whooped with joy, laughing through her tears, then she took off! Down the hillside she ran, as fast as her legs would carry her, to waken everyone up and to tell them the wonderful good news that their friend Jesus was alive!’

Time for reflection

Sit quietly for a few moments, reflecting on the story you have just heard. 

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for your son, Jesus.
Thank you that his death and resurrection now offer us peace with you.
Amen.

Song/music

Traditional Easter hymn of your choice

Publication date: April 2014   (Vol.16 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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