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Expect the Unexpected

Pentecost is on Sunday 20 May

by Lee Jennings (revised, originally published in 2008)

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To explore God’s promise that he will always be with us.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to prepare three presents that look exciting, but have a disappointing gift inside.

  • You will also need a small, scruffy box with some money inside it.

  • Have available the Bible passage about the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is in Acts 2.1-4.


  1. Invite a few volunteers up to the front and ask them each to choose a present from the three exciting boxes. Ask each of them why they chose that particular one.

  2. One at a time, ask them to open their present, asking how they felt when they saw the gift inside. Most should feel disappointed or annoyed at you for stitching them up!

    Finally, invite a volunteer to open the small, scruffy box. Ask them how they felt about getting a good prize.

  3. Remind the students that on Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus travelling into Jerusalem on a donkey. People were excited that he was coming; they went out onto the streets to see him and they waved palm branches and threw their coats down on the floor for Jesus to walk over. These were actions that people would usually take to herald the arrival of a king. The only problem was, the Jews were expecting a king who would come to set them free from the Romans. They didn’t think that Jesus really looked like the person who was going to save them. Because of this, the Jews thought that Jesus wasn’t telling the truth, and some of them took him to court. They tried him, and then decided to kill him. They had expected something, but were disappointed with what they got.

  4. However, Jesus came back to life again, which was an even bigger surprise to his friends. Instead of being disappointed, they were ecstatic that Jesus was alive again. This is what we remember at Easter time.

  5. After Jesus had been with his friends for 40 days, he ascended into heaven. His friends didn’t expect this and they must have felt disappointed. They also felt frightened. Jesus had told them to go and tell everyone about him and even to do the things that he did, such as amazing miracles. The disciples were so scared that they hid in a room, wondering what to do. Then, suddenly, God sent his Holy Spirit.

    Read the Bible passage, Acts 2.1-4.

    ‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.’

  6. The followers of Jesus certainly weren’t expecting that! It seems that the arrival of the Holy Spirit changed the followers from scared people into bold, courageous people who travelled all over the world, telling people about Jesus.

Time for reflection

Sometimes in life, we don’t get what we expect. Sometimes, people let us down, and sometimes, we can feel that God has let us down. However, God promises that he will never leave us. Jesus made a promise that he would send his Holy Spirit to be with us and help us so that he could always be with us. This is what Christians remember at Pentecost: Jesus sending his Holy Spirit to be a helper for Christians in every aspect of their lives.

Dear God,
Thank you that you promise to be with us always.
Thank you that you promise that you will never leave us.
Thank you that we can always trust you to keep your promises.

Publication date: May 2018   (Vol.20 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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