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Half Empty or Half Full?

Living in the light of the resurrection

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage taking a positive approach to difficulties in life (SEAL theme: Motivation).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.
  • You will also need a half empty/half full bottle of water or a soft drink.
  • Have available the song ‘The only way is up’ by Yazz and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


Leader: Hold up the bottle of water or soft drink.

What's this?

Listen to a wide variety of responses, ensuring that there are some ‘half empty’ and some ‘half full’ responses.

So, is this bottle half empty or is it half full? It depends how you look at it. Some people will focus on the fact that some of the drink has already gone, while others will focus on the fact that there's still at least half of the drink remaining.

This is a good image for the way different people react to what is going on in their lives. Some focus on all the things that are going wrong, waking each morning with a sense of dread, while others focus on all the things that are going right. They can even display these contrasting reactions to exactly the same situation. To illustrate this, simply ask everyone you meet the question, ‘How are you today?’

It was a bit like this for the characters involved in the Easter story, except that it was actually only Jesus who could see the positive side of events as they unfolded.

Reader 1: (Dramatically.) Oh no! What are we going to do? They've arrested Jesus. It's the end. All those powerful people were after him and now they've got him.

Reader 2: (Calmly.) It is all going according to plan.

Reader 1: (Dramatically.) They are beating him up now. They want to soften him up before bringing him in front of the court. They want a confession out of him.

Reader 2: (Calmly.) This is what I've been teaching you about for these many months. I've got to suffer. It is still part of the plan.

Reader 1: (Dramatically.) Now they're sentencing him to death, a horrible death, a crucifixion.

Reader 2: (Calmly.) Even then, they couldn't find me guilty of anything. I'm a totally innocent man.

Reader 1: (Dramatically.)  He is dead. It really is the end. On this Friday, our whole world has come crashing down. We have nowhere to go and nothing left to live for.

Reader 2: (Calmly.) Remember what I said - that I will rise again to life in three days. Wait until Sunday.

Leader: Christians believe that, on the first Easter Sunday, Jesus rose again, came back to life, defying the expectations of both his friends and his enemies. Christians believe this demonstrates that good overcomes evil, life is stronger than death, light shines through the darkness, the half full bottle is superior to the half empty bottle.

Time for reflection

There is a key question that needs to be answered. Am I saying merely that Jesus was the supreme optimist, it was simply a matter of his frame of mind?

In actual fact, Jesus' attitude to events came from a firm belief that his suffering and death was a necessary part of a bigger plan. The bigger plan was that God the Father was in the process of showing that he, and he alone, was in control of the universe. To put it another way, good would ultimately triumph totally over evil.

There is no denying that we live in a world where both good and evil exist. In the news, we see and hear stories about people who bravely and unselfishly do good to others.

You may wish to give examples from current news stories.

Yet, there are as many stories about people who, for a mixture of motives, commit acts against other people that can only be described as evil.

Again, you may wish to give examples from current news stories.

It would sometimes be easy to come to the conclusion that evil prevails, things can only get worse and we are all doomed. That's the half empty bottle approach to life. At worst, it leads some people to take their own lives. At best, it results in a pessimistic approach to today, tomorrow and the future. Maybe that's how you feel about the state of your life right now.

Because of the Easter story, however, Christians believe that, actually, things are very different. They see the resurrection of Jesus as a demonstration that, ultimately, good does triumph over evil and, in the end, things will work out well.

Belief in this long-term plan puts a new perspective on the events we face in our lives. The Easter story also illustrates that life will have its difficult times along the way as well as its good times. Christians believe that, by looking to the resurrection, they can see the bottle is always at least half full. They also believe that, although some people are blessed with a greater sense of optimism than others, it is important to believe in the power of God or the power of good.
Dear Lord,
Thank you for the Easter story, with its ups and downs.
Please remind us that it ends with the triumph of good over evil.
May this give us a positive sense that we can handle every difficulty life throws at us.


‘The only way is up’ by Yazz

Publication date: March 2016   (Vol.18 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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