The Lion King vs The Lion of Judah
A retelling of the Easter story
by Alexandra Palmer
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To use the story of Simba from The Lion King to consider the life of Jesus.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (The Lion King vs The Lion of Judah - Part 1 and The Lion King v The Lion of Judah - Part 2) and the means to display them.
- Have available the YouTube video ‘The Lion King Simba’s Ending Roar’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.29 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6INp3k-vFc
- Optional: you may wish to have two teachers leading two teams for the film quiz at the start of the assembly. In this case, you will need the means for the teams to record their answers and you will also need to make sure that other children don’t shout out the answers! Alternatively, ask the children to put up their hands to guess the answers.
- Show Slide 1 of ‘The Lion King vs The Lion of Judah - Part 1’ slide deck.
Introduce the assembly by telling the children what your favourite animated film is and explain why you like it. Ask a couple of the children to name their favourite animated films.
- Show Slide 2.
Ask for some children to form two teams at the front, ready to play the quiz, or ask the children to raise their hands to give an answer.
Explain that you are going to show a small part of an image from various animated films. You want the children to guess what the film is from the tiny glimpse.
- Show Slides 3-16.
There are two slides for each film: in each case, the first slide shows a small part of a still from an animated film and the second shows the full picture and the film title. The films are:
- Despicable Me
- Beauty and the Beast
- Inside Out
- Show Slide 1 of ‘The Lion King vs The Lion of Judah - Part 2’ slide deck.
Ask the children, ‘If you could be an animal, what would you be?’
You may wish to answer the question yourself or ask the children for their answers.
- Show Slide 2.
Explain that in the Bible, Jesus is described as an animal. It’s the same animal that C. S. Lewis used in his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Ask the children to put their thumbs up if they have ever heard of the book or the film.
- Explain that C. S. Lewis wanted to use the Bible as the basis for his book. He decided to change the setting from Israel to Narnia and created the character of Aslan to represent Jesus. Lewis used a lion to represent Jesus because one of Jesus’ names in the Bible is ‘the lion of Judah’.
- Show Slide 3.
Explain that if someone wrote an animated film about the life of Jesus, the title might be The Lion of Judah.
Ask the children whether they have seen the film The Lion King. Explain that you are going to use this story to explain a bit more about the life of Jesus.
- Show Slide 4.
The Lion King starts with Simba’s birth. All of the animals in the Pride Lands of Africa gather to celebrate Simba’s birth at Pride Rock. His birth is so important because Simba’s dad, Mufasa, is the king of Pride Rock. Simba is destined to take Mufasa’s place as king one day.
The Lion of Judah would begin with people gathering to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The first people who visited Jesus were the shepherds, and the second set of visitors were the three wise men, or the three kings. Christians believe that Jesus’ birth was so important because Jesus was God’s son. Like Simba, he was destined to take his place as king, but Jesus would be king of heaven.
- Show Slide 5.
Friendship is an important part of The Lion King. In the film, Simba has a best friend called Nala.
Jesus’ life at home would have been very busy. We know from the Bible that he had at least four brothers and two sisters. He also had a cousin called John, who would be an important person in his life when he turned 30. So, Jesus would have had plenty of friends to play with.
- Show Slide 6.
In The Lion King, Simba and Nala decide to run away to the elephants’ graveyard. They both know that they shouldn’t go there because it is outside the borders of the Pride Lands. Simba and Nala end up in a dangerous situation and have to be rescued by Mufasa.
In a sense, Jesus ran away when he was 12 years old while he was staying in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Mary and Joseph had started on their journey home to Nazareth when they realized that Jesus was missing. They returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the temple. He explained that he was spending time in his father’s house, that is, God, his father in heaven.
- Show Slide 7.
In The Lion King, Simba loves spending time with his dad, Mufasa, because he has a lot to learn.
Jesus would have spent a lot of time with Joseph, his father on earth, because Joseph taught him how to be a carpenter. Jesus would also have spent time with his father in heaven through praying and talking to him.
- Show Slide 8.
In The Lion King, Simba’s uncle, Scar, is jealous of Simba because Simba is next in line for the throne. Scar plays an awful trick on Simba and Mufasa, and - this is the sad bit - causes Mufasa’s death. Scar then tells Simba that Simba is to blame for his dad’s death, so the young lion cub runs away into the desert, feeling fearful and scared.
The story of The Lion of Judah would be slightly different here. Jesus got baptised by his cousin, John the Baptist, and was blessed by God, giving Jesus the strength to go into the desert for 40 days. So, unlike Simba, Jesus went into the desert knowing that he was loved by his father in heaven, which gave him the determination to endure some testing times. God allowed Jesus to be tested because his time in the desert was intended to be a time of preparation for the next three years.
- Show Slide 9.
In The Lion King, Pumbaa the warthog and Timon the meerkat meet Simba in the desert and rescue him. As Simba grows up, the three of them become best friends.
Jesus picked 12 people to become his disciples so that he could teach them about God. However, they weren’t highly qualified people or priests who already taught about God; they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. For example, Simon (who was renamed Peter by Jesus), Andrew, James and John were all fishermen. These four disciples were Jesus’ closest friends.
Jesus taught about God by telling stories called parables and performing miracles. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding. After that, Jesus calmed a storm on Lake Galilee, made the deaf hear, made the blind see, healed the sick, fed 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fishes and performed many other miracles.
- Show Slide 10.
In The Lion King, Simba doesn’t want to return home to Pride Rock, even though he knows that he should. It takes Rafiki, a mandrill, to knock a bit of sense into him to give him wisdom.
Jesus was well known for his wisdom, especially in the parables that he told. For example, the parable of the Good Samaritan was all about helping each other out. This wisdom came from God.
- Show Slide 11.
In The Lion King, Simba has to return home to Pride Rock because Scar and the hyenas have ruined the Pride Lands. The lions and all the other animals are starving because there is no food left to eat. When Simba’s family discover that he is alive, they are relieved and delighted to see him return to Pride Rock.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, on a day that we call Palm Sunday, he knew that he was going to die on the cross. In Jesus’ time, people wouldn’t have had flags and banners to wave like we do today to cheer somebody on. Instead, they used leaves from palm trees to cheer Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowd were excited to see Jesus because they had heard about his miracles.
However, a few days later, the crowd turned on Jesus and he died on a cross. Christians believe that Jesus had a choice about this. Like Simba, he could have walked away. However, Jesus knew that he must die to take the punishment for the wrong things that others had done. His body was placed in a tomb, but on the third day, Jesus came back to life and burst out of the tomb. This is what Christians celebrate at Easter: Jesus is not dead, but is alive again!
- In The Lion King, when Simba returns home, he defeats Scar and the hyenas.
Let’s watch this video to see what happens next.
Show the YouTube video ‘The Lion King Simba’s Ending Roar’.
- As the evil gets washed away in the rain, Simba climbs Pride Rock and roars over the land. This is his way of claiming back the Pride Lands.
The story of Simba continues in the sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, with Simba and Nala’s daughter, Kiara, whom we saw at the end of the video.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to think about what it would be like to be a king or queen and be in charge of a country.
- Would they find it scary? A challenge? Enjoyable?
- What sort of laws would they make?
If there is time available, listen to a range of responses.
Show Slide 12.
In The Lion King, when Simba climbs Pride Rock, Rafiki says some interesting words: ‘It is time.’ Rafiki is encouraging Simba, and telling him that it is time for him to become king and rule over the Pride Lands.
Just before Jesus died on the cross, he said a couple of things. He said that he forgave the people who had put him on the cross: the Roman soldiers, the Jewish priests and his disciple, Judas, who had betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. The last thing that Jesus said was, ‘It is finished.’ This meant that he knew that he’d done what God had wanted him to do and had taken the punishment for the things that we do wrong.
As we heard before, after Jesus died, his body was taken off the cross and placed in an empty tomb. Today, we call this day Good Friday. Three days later, Jesus came back to life again, on the day we call Easter Sunday.
It says in the Bible that Jesus spent 40 more days on earth. Then, after telling his disciples to spread the good news and start teaching people about God, he returned to heaven. He didn’t die again, but the disciples watched him go up into the clouds. The Bible says that Jesus is sitting next to God and is the king of heaven and earth.
Thank you that we can enjoy animated films and learn lessons from them.
Thank you for allowing Jesus to die on the cross for the things that we do wrong today.
Please help us to say sorry for the things that we do wrong and to forgive those who have hurt us.
‘We have a king who rides a donkey’ by The Jamborees, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSbEEwik2hs (2.25 minutes long)