Walking on and in Water
Getting (and not getting) wet
by the Revd Oliver Harrison
Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools
To encourage thinking about Jesus as king and servant.
Preparation and materials
- Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage Matthew 14.22-33 (NRSV), which is about when Jesus walked on the water. Also the passage John 13.1-1 (NRSV), which is about when Jesus washed his disciples' feet.
- You will need a washing-up bowl with some water in it, a towel and a chair.
- You could act out the first story in the assembly or use a picture Bible or display images to illustrate it.
- Have available a recording of waves lapping on the shore and the means to play it during the 'Time for reflection' part of the assembly.
- Start with a brief and age-appropriate retelling of the passage Matthew 14.22-33, which is about when Jesus walked on the water. You may like to use the following text (from NRSV). Act the story out, use images and so on as decided in your preparation.
Jesus walks on the water
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
- Ask for a volunteer to try to walk on the water in the washing-up bowl. (He or she will, of course, need to remove shoes and socks, roll up trousers if necessary and so on.)
When the volunteer can’t do it, praise the attempt and be sympathetic!
Use the towel to dry the volunteer's feet or he or she can do it.
- Then go on to talk about when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Tell the story, which is the passage John 13.1-11, using the following text (from NRSV) or your own, explaining that the disciple's feet would probably have been dirty and smelly and so ask the children why they think Jesus did it.
Jesus washes his disciples’ feet
Now, before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
- Explore the idea of Jesus as servant in relation to the passage from John and how he is setting us an example he wants us to follow of being kind and helpful.
Time for reflection
Play the recording of waves lapping on the shore.
After a few moments, ask the children if they would be prepared to wash their friend’s feet.
Remind them that Christians believe we need to be helpful and care for each other. Ask, 'What could we do for someone or others in general today?'
Leave the recording playing and ask the children to leave quietly.
Recording of waves lapping on the shore.