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What man is this? Inspiring lives

To gain a greater understanding of the impact of Jesus’ life and teaching by considering the great works of literature, music and art that he inspired.

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To gain a greater understanding of the impact of Jesus’ life and teaching by considering the great works of literature, music and art that he inspired.

Preparation and materials

  • This assembly will be enhanced by the use of interactive resources to illustrate the work of some of the individuals mentioned in the assembly, and some of the works inspired by the life of Christ.
  • Prepare extracts from great musical works (such as in 3. below), including religious music, to be played at the appropriate time.
  • Display images of famous cathedrals and churches.
  • Display a selection of Christian writings and Bibles.
  • Display images of famous religious/secular works of art, as they are mentioned.


  1. Throughout history, people have been remembered by their achievements. The names of people who lived hundreds of years ago are still familiar to us because of the great works that they have left behind.
  2. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the Mona Lisa; Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; and Picasso, who painted the Weeping Woman: they are recognized as great painters of their day and original works by any of them would sell for millions of pounds today. Damien Hirst, a modern artist who has used dead animals to create his art, may or may not be remembered as a great artist in the future.

    Sometimes the work of great artists is only recognized after their death. Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting (The Red Orchard) during his lifetime, but he has become one of the most popular expressionist painters and many children will have copied his ‘sunflower’ paintings in schools all over the country.
  3. Orchestras still play music by composers who lived hundreds of years ago: Mozart, for example, who was writing music from the age of five, and in later life wrote many piano concertos and operas, such as The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Handel’s music was sung at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (Zadok the Priest); Beethoven composed some of his greatest works when he was almost completely deaf. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach was not fully appreciated until some 80 years after his death.
  4. The name of Christopher Wren is famous for his design for St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He is buried in St Paul’s, and on his grave is written: ‘If you seek his monument look around you.’ Another architect, Antoni Gaudi, designed La Sagrada Familia (The Sacred Family) cathedral in Barcelona. He worked on it throughout his life, and so complicated and elaborate was his design that the work is still going on over 70 years after his death; it is not expected to be completed until 2026.
  5. Works by authors like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are still studied by school children and scholars around the world. They have died, but their work lives on after them.
  6. And what of Jesus Christ? He never painted a picture – but artists have painted more pictures and scenes from his life than of any other person. (You could display some examples here.)

    He never composed a piece of music – but more music has been inspired by his life than by anyone else. (You could play some religious music here.)

    He never designed a building – but some of the most beautiful and inspiring buildings of the world have been built to glorify him. (You could display pictures here.)

    More words and more books have been written about him and his teachings than about any other person – but the only writing he ever reportedly did was in the sand, before he saved a woman from a cruel punishment. (Bibles and Christian writings could be displayed here.)
  7. Christ’s ministry lasted only three years, but over 2,000 years later he is still remembered; remembered not for what he left behind, but for who he was and what he did. Christians believe that he was the son of God and that he came to show God’s love for the world; he died and rose again, giving hope and confidence to all who believe and trust in him.

Time for reflection

Who do you think is the greatest living person? What is it that you think makes them great?

What would you like to be remembered for?

Discuss who, of today’s ‘celebrities’, students think are likely to be remembered in the future.

Which children’s books do they think will be read by future generations?

Consider some of the things Jesus said about possessions, love of others, forgiveness, humility. How do we respond to his words today?

The lives of some of the ‘greats’ of the past can be considered in the light of their achievements and the legacy they left for us today.


We thank you for people in the past who have inspired others

and created great works of art and literature.

We thank you for people who today inspire us to do our best

and use the talents we have wisely.

We especially thank you for Jesus,

who is the example of perfect love and obedience.

May we, day by day, try to follow his example
and remember his love for each one of us.


Play some of the music mentioned in this assembly as the students leave.

Publication date: April 2013   (Vol.15 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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