Easter is a time of celebration of new life in Jesus! As Christians, we’re obviously elated at what our Savior accomplished for us on the cross and when he arose from the dead. Easter is definitely one of the high-holy happy days in our faith.
Yet, it’s possible that we may overlook the amazing and emotional journey Jesus embarked on in the last days before he was crucified. To keep that from happening, we’ve prepared a multisensory journey for you to take children and their families through the paths that Jesus walked during his last days on earth.
Go far beyond Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies—send families on this sojourn to Christ that’ll give them a deeper understanding about his crucifixion and resurrection, and the powerful, everlasting truths of his teachings.
To create this multisensory event, you’ll need a large activity area or classroom. Divide the area into three sections. You can hang sheets as partitions, or use separate rooms. Each section represents an area of the journey.
You’ll need volunteers to dress in Bible-time clothing and be stationed at each section to help manage materials, give instructions, and answer questions. Turn off the overhead lights in the room. Use lamps to light each section independently. Provide several Bibles with the marked Scriptures for that section. Also, make a poster for each section of the Scripture so families can read the verses as they move through.
Encourage families to wear casual clothes and bring their Bibles.
After all the participants arrive, divide them into groups of no more than 12, keeping families intact. Have groups travel together through this journey. You’ll have to stagger sending groups through as it’s critical to experience this journey sequentially.
All Earthly Possessions
Each family needs a bag with two chocolate coins (available at www.candywarehouse.com); construction paper cutouts of a coat, a fish, a house, and a loaf of bread; muslin strips; a baggie of dirt; and a baggie of dried beans.
At the entrance of the room, set up a table with these bags of earthly possessions for families to take with them on their journey. For groups or families of more than six, provide two bags. Explain to families that the earthly possessions inside the bag represent everything they have. Their possessions are few, and they’ll have to sacrifice some of them along the way, so they need to choose wisely as they go.
Decorate this section like the interior of a modest home during Jesus’ day. Spread a blanket on the floor, and place a few pillows here and there as seats. Keep the walls bare, or cover them with white butcher paper or sheets. Burn incense or sage in a safe place out of kids’ reach. Hang old shirts in one corner. Place a stuffed goat or lamb in another corner. Play barnyard sounds (available at www.sounddogs.com) in the background.
In Lazarus’ House
Station 1: Those Who Are Last
Scripture: Matthew 19:23-30
Materials: Large bowl, cold water, slivers of soap, a conspicuously dirty towel. Set up a wash station at the entrance of Lazarus’ house. Make a sign that says,”Many people have come before you to use this soap, water, and towel. Please wash your hands.”
Before allowing families to enter this section, read aloud the Scripture and have each person dip his or her hands into the water, wash, and then dry with the dirty towel.
Then after everyone has washed, ask: “How did it feel to put your hands in water after other people used it? Do your hands feel clean? Why or why not? What do you think Jesus meant when he said, ‘But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first’? How did it feel to not have clean water, good soap, or fresh towels? Would you have liked to have been the first person to use the water rather than the last? Why or why not? How do you think other people felt who had to use the dirty water? How about the person who used it first?”
Station 2: Palms in the Air
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
Materials: Green construction paper, scissors, clear tape, staplers, 12-inch wooden dowel rods.
Have children each cut five palm leaves from a sheet of green construction paper. Arrange the leaves so they connect at the base and fan out at the tips. Staple the leaves together at the base. Then tape the base of the leaves to the end of one 12-inch wooden dowel. Make sure the leaves are securely in place.
Have children wave their palm fronds in the air. Then read aloud the Scripture. Afterward, say, “Imagine what it was like when the people heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. What do you think they did? How would you have prepared? Would you have brought a gift or an offering? Why or why not? Why do you think the people put their clothing and palms on the ground for Jesus to use as a path?”
Then ask families to look through their earthly possessions and decide what they’ll put on the pathway leading into Jerusalem to honor Jesus’ arrival. When they’ve decided, have them place their item on the pathway along with others’ offerings.
Station 3: Give Your Best to God
Scripture: Matthew 26:6-13
Materials: One-gallon unscented liquid castile soap, one box chamomile herbal tea bags, bowls, liquid measuring cups, funnels, one 4-ounce plastic bottle with fliptop (available at www.specialtybottle.com, item #PN4F) for each child, peel-and-stick labels, black fine-tipped markers, glitter pens. Brew a pot of tea at three times the normal strength before families arrive. Store it at room temperature.
Read aloud the Scripture. Ask, “What do you think Jesus meant when he said, ‘She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me’? Why did the woman anoint Jesus’ head with her best, most expensive perfume? What does it mean to give your best to the Lord? Can you think of a way to give your best to God?”
Have parents help their children make some shampoo that’ll remind them of the woman who anointed Jesus with the perfume to get Jesus ready for burial.
Have children mix 1/3 cup of liquid castile soap and 1/8 cup of strongly brewed tea in a bowl. Using a funnel, fill a 4-ounce bottle with the mixture and tighten the fliptop lid.
Then have kids decorate a peel-and-stick label to put on their bottles with the words, “What she has done will be told in memory of her (Matthew 26:13).”
In the Temple
Place an upturned table near one wall. Spread feathers, coins, and dried beans on the floor. Hang a large coin cut from butcher paper on the wall above the upturned table.
Station 1: At What Cost?
Scripture: Mark 11:15-18
Materials: Each family will need two medium plastic foam cups, two 12-inch wooden dowel rods, one chenille craft wire, and six 12-inch pieces of yarn.
Make scales by punching three evenly spaced holes in the lip of each plastic foam cup. Tie a piece of yarn through each hole. Then tie one cup to each end of one wooden dowel to make the scale’s “buckets.”
Form a cross with the dowel rods, keeping the rod with the buckets on top. (This may require more than one person.) Using the chenille craft wire, lash the two rods together. Make sure the rod is centered on top of the other rod.
To use the scale, have one person hold the dowel rod balancing the scales. Another person can carefully place items from the bag of possessions to be weighed in the buckets.
Read aloud the Scripture. Ask, “Why did Jesus turn over the vendors’ tables and free their livestock? What did he mean when he said, ‘But you have made it a den for robbers’? Why did the people turn God’s temple into a place of business? How do you feel about that? Can you think of ways we can better honor God’s temple?”
Station 2: Judas Balloons
Scripture: Mark 14:17-20
Materials: Multiple colors of balloons, paper strips, marker, string, scissors.
Write each disciple’s name on a paper strip, roll it, and insert it into a deflated balloon. Make enough balloons for several groups with 12 in each group. Make sure you know which balloon is the Judas balloon. Inflate and hang a group of balloons from the ceiling, making sure they’re easily reached.
Read aloud the Scripture. Ask, “What do you imagine Jesus’ disciples were thinking when Jesus told them one among them would betray him? What does it mean to betray someone? Have you ever depended on someone who betrayed you or let you down? Explain. How did you feel? Do you think Judas knew all along he would betray Jesus? Why or why not?”
Have everyone select a balloon, then sit in a circle. Explain that even though they don’t know it, someone in their group has chosen the Judas balloon. Have group members think about how they can tell which is the Judas balloon. Then have each person select the balloon he or she thinks is the Judas balloon.
Say, “Even though Jesus knew he would be betrayed, he put his life in the hands of his disciples. I’m going to ask you to put something precious to you in someone else’s hands.” Have each person select something from the bag of earthly possessions and put it in the center of the circle.
Say, “Each of you will pop your balloon, and we’ll see if anyone guessed the Judas balloon correctly. If you didn’t guess correctly, you forfeit your earthly possession. If you guessed right, you get to keep your possession.”
Starting with someone sitting next to the person you know has the balloon with Judas’ name in it, go around the circle and have kids and adults identify which balloon they think is the Judas balloon. Make sure the person who’s chosen the Judas balloon goes last.
Ask, “How did you feel if you guessed wrong and you had to give up your earthly possession? What if you really had to give up your home, food, or clothes based on that guess? That’s really hard to imagine, isn’t it? Imagine how Jesus felt knowing for sure that someone would betray him and that he would die because of the betrayal. How do you think Jesus felt? What would you have done if you had been Jesus?”
Station 3: The Lord’s Supper
Scripture: Matthew 14:22-25
Materials: Fresh bread loaves, small paper cups, grape juice.
Invite families to share in the Lord’s Supper as they read the Scripture. Depending on your church tradition, you may need to have a pastor lead this time.
Station 4: Cup of Suffering
Scripture: Matthew 26:36-39
Materials: Small plastic foam cups, bulk whole cloves (available at www.bulkfoods.com), scissors.
(Best for kids ages 6 to 12)
Read aloud the Scripture. Then ask, “When Jesus asked God to take the cup of suffering from him, what did he mean? Have you ever had a responsibility you didn’t want to fulfill or that you really dreaded? Explain. Did you fulfill it? Why or why not?”
Say, “Even though Jesus pleaded with God to take away his responsibility, in the end Jesus still said, ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ What do you think this means about responsibility? Jesus made the greatest sacrifice of all for us because it was what God wanted, and Jesus intended to fulfill that responsibility even though it caused him great pain. How can we be more like Jesus when we have a responsibility that we dread or dislike?”
Have each child cut the top half off a plastic foam cup to make a shallow cup. Give each child a small handful of cloves. Then have kids push the cloves through their cups, starting at the inside bottom and working their way up to create a “thorny” cup of suffering.
Have kids smell their cups. Say, “Whenever you see the cup of suffering you’ve made, you’ll see its thorny appearance. Sometimes our responsibilities look threatening or even scary. When you hold the cup, the spikes poke into your hands. Sometimes our responsibilities feel unpleasant or difficult. But when you smell the cup, its sweet scent overwhelms you. And when we fulfill our responsibilities-even if they seem unpleasant or difficult-we please God and we feel a sense of accomplishment. Every time you smell the cup, remember the sweet reward of Jesus’ sacrifice when he fulfilled God’s Word by giving his life for us.”
In the Tomb
To re-create Jesus’ tomb, you’ll need large cardboard boxes (refrigerator boxes work best) to make a crawl space, flashlights, crayons, sheets, a cot, and strips of muslin.
The entryway to this section is a crawl space made of cardboard. Scatter crayons through the crawl space and provide families with a flashlight. As they crawl into the tomb, encourage them to write or draw something special about Jesus’ life.
Decorate the tomb with an empty cot. Spread plain white sheets over the cot, then drape the strips of muslin over it to represent the empty shroud. Keep the room very dim, and cover or remove anything on the walls. Use gray spray paint on torn chunks of foam to make artificial stones and toss them around the room. Use a lamp with a dimmer on it so you can light up the tomb after everyone has crawled through the crawl space.
Dot a few cotton balls with fragrant perfume and place them around the area in out-of-reach places. Play cave or tomb sounds (available at www.sounddogs.com).
Station 1: Good News Tulips
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-8
Materials: Pre-cut 4×5-inch pieces of red, pink, blue, and white felt; glue; ribbon; glitter; scissors; staplers; green chenille kraft bump stems; plastic sandwich baggies; mixed dried fruit; yellow paper strips; fine-tipped permanent markers.
Read aloud the Scripture. Then say, “It may seem dark and gloomy inside this tomb, but this is really a place of great joy! When Mary Magdalene and Mary went to visit Jesus’ tomb, the angel told them Jesus was raised from the dead. Imagine how excited they were! The angel told them to spread the word about Jesus’ resurrection.”
Have kids layer three 4X5-inch pieces of the same color felt, then cut the layers into an egg shape that’s 4 inches tall and 3 inches wide. Have kids take the top egg off the stack. Then staple the two stacked pieces along the edge of the right side, leaving the top ¼ open.
Fold both pieces in half toward the stapled outer edge. Then lay the third piece on top of the other two, matching the edges, and staple them together along both edges. Again leave the top ¼ open. You should have a triangular shape with all three egg shapes standing upright to form a tulip bud. Trim the bottom of the tulip to get it to stand up.
Decorate the outside of the tulip with glitter and ribbon. Then form leaves at the base with green chenille kraft bump stems.
As the glue dries, fill baggies with dried fruit and tie baggies with ribbons. Place the fruit baggies inside the tulips.
Write “I am with you always”-Matthew 28:20 on the yellow paper strips and place them inside the tulips. Have children deliver their Good News Tulips to friends and neighbors.
Station 2: Gumdrop Flowers
Materials: Large gumdrop candies, rolling pins, sugar, wax paper, scissors, plastic sandwich bags.
Have children cut large gumdrops in half around their middles for the petals of a flower. Then have them design their flowers using a yellow sliced gumdrop for the center of the flowers and different colors for the petals. They can use green gumdrops to form the stems and petals.
Have kids arrange their flowers on a sugared piece of wax paper, then sprinkle sugar on top of the candies to keep them from sticking. The have kids roll out their flowers.
Have children carefully slide their flowers into plastic sandwich bags.
-Mary Davis Montrose, Iowa
Station 3: Stained Glass Craft
Materials: Colored tissue paper, clear self-adhesive vinyl (available at grocery stores), scissors.
Give each child two 10X10-inch pieces of clear self-adhesive vinyl. Peel the backing off the first piece and lay it down tacky side up.
Have kids tear small pieces of tissue paper and place them on the tacky side of the self-adhesive vinyl in the shape of a cross, fish, heart, or crown. When they’re done, peel the backing off the second piece of self-adhesive vinyl and carefully lay it over the artwork (tacky side down).
Cut around the shape with scissors.
Kids can lightly moisten one side and stick their stained-glass art to a window.
-RoseAnne Sather Greeley, Colorado
Station 4: God’s Promise
Materials: Coffee filters, scissors, hole punch, yarn, tape, tempera paint, paintbrushes, water.
Have children make butterflies to remind them of God’s promise of everlasting life.
Have kids fold a coffee filter in half. Then using scissors, make butterfly wings by trimming the folded edges from the center out, careful to leave the center intact. Decorate butterflies by dipping them in watery tempera paint. Let the paint bleed into the filters. Variations in the color can be guided by dipping different points into the paint. Paintbrushes work well to fill in empty spots. The filters dry very quickly.
Once the butterflies are dry, punch a hole in the center of the filter. Tie yarn through the hole.
Kids will love to see the way their butterflies flutter in the breeze.
-Lynn Oberbroeckling Knoxville, Iowa
Station 5: Come, Wash Your Hands
Materials: Large tub, several pitchers of clean water, new sample-size soap bars, clean towels.
Say, “You made it through your journey with fewer earthly possessions but more eternal possessions. You learned about Jesus’ teachings.
“Come wash your hands. The water and towels are clean. Remember what Jesus said. ‘Many who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first.’ No one else has used this water or these towels.
They have been brought here especially for you. As you wash, remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us. He rinsed away our sins and gives us eternal hope for a new life. Go spread the word; be joyful as you celebrate this Easter!”
Jennifer Hooks is the editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.