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No escape?

To explore an aspect of the Easter message: that Jesus showed great courage when he could have escaped the cross.

by The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To explore an aspect of the Easter message: that Jesus showed great courage when he could have escaped the cross.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need some items that colleagues have to ‘escape’ from, e.g. dressing gowns tied up backwards, rope, etc.
  • Background music and prizes.
  • Optional: a picture of Houdini.


  1. Say that today you are going to talk about escaping. Talk about Houdini (1874–1926), who started off as a magician, and then became a famous escape artist. For example, you could mention:

    His early big success was the Needle Trick, a grisly effect involving the swallowing of dozens of needles and thread, then the regurgitation of the thread with all the needles neatly threaded on. This trick would be a cornerstone of his act throughout his life.

    During a visit to a psychiatrist friend in Nova Scotia, Houdini saw his first straitjacket. Rather than be shocked by it, he was inspired to create an act around escaping from it. And Houdini didn't just escape from a straitjacket – he did it hanging upside down from his ankles, suspended high above the ground.

    Then Houdini came up with the Challenge Act, the act that would make him a legend. As the Handcuff King, Houdini would escape from any pair of handcuffs produced by the audience. Houdini then expanded his Challenge Act to escape not only from any handcuffs offered, but from almost any location suggested. Houdini escaped from jail cells, from handcuffed bridge jumps, from padlocked crates thrown into rivers, from locked canvas mailbags – even from a giant paper bag, without making a single tear in it.

    Possibly his most memorable escapes were the stage illusions he made famous: the Water Torture Cell, the Milk-Can Escape and Buried Alive.

    In the summer of 1926, a few months before he died, Houdini heard about a magician who had sealed himself inside a box and been lowered into water, where he allegedly stayed for over an hour, submerged; when the box was brought up out of the water and he was let out he emerged triumphant. Houdini purchased a bronze coffin and had himself locked into it and submerged in a hotel swimming pool for an hour and a half. The coffin was then pulled out of the water and opened to reveal a smiling, healthy Houdini.
  2. Ask two previously primed colleagues to be bound in your escape devices. Build up the atmosphere – say they must be very brave, not try this at home, etc. Make sure it will be possible for them to escape! Play some exciting music in the background, and see who can get out first. Give both prizes.
  3. Say that some people are good at escaping; some people are not so good. But:

    If your best friend was about to betray you – you would try to escape.
    If soldiers have come to arrest you – you would try to escape.
    If you were taken before a king for an unfair trial – you would try to escape.
    If you were being tortured and insulted – you would try to escape.
    If you were nailed to a cross – you would try to escape.

    Say that many Christians believe that Jesus could have escaped all these things happening to him – but he chose not to. And they believe that he did that because he believed that God wanted him to go through his terrible ordeal but then rise again after three days.

Time for reflection


It takes courage to go through difficult times when you could just walk away.

Like staying with your friend who’s upset when you’d rather watch TV …

Like doing difficult work when you’d rather give up …

Like doing chores that you don’t want to do …

Sometimes it’s hard to do things but we do them because they help others, and because they’re the right things to do.



Dear God,

Thank you for the courage and love of Jesus.



‘Jesus in the garden’ (Come and Praise, 129)

Publication date: April 2007   (Vol.9 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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