I love the way the Godly Play script tells the story from Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-29. It describes the mood of the group of disciples gathered-with the doors shut, afraid for their lives. And then suddenly from within the group someone says, “Peace be with you,” and they realize it is Jesus.
They think he’s a ghost but then he eats a piece of fish. He wishes them peace again and he’s gone. Thomas comes to the group and hears the story of what happened but can’t believe. I like that the script does not find fault with this. “And why wouldn’t he doubt? Their minds were stretching, stretching to be big enough to know Jesus in this new way.”
Then, eight days later, the disciples are again in a locked room and Jesus appears, this time with Thomas present. Thomas doesn’t have to ask. Jesus approaches him and shows him the scars, inviting him, “Touch me.” Of course he falls on his knees. When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” goosebumps rise on my arm. Yours too?
I bet children will identify with Thomas, particularly the older ones. They’ve been told so many things and have been disappointed to find out that they were duped. Proof makes belief so much easier. Older children might like to talk about belief and doubt. We shouldn’t be afraid to share our own experiences and hear theirs.
For younger children, this is a great story to have in their back pocket, so that when times of doubt and questions do arise when they’re older, they remember one who loved Jesus and whom Jesus loved who experienced the same feelings.
So, how do we help the children process the story?
If you are in a classroom where all the materials are near available to the children, I hope you’ll consider going along with the Godly Play script and letting the children gather items that help tell the story. It will be interesting to see the connections they make.
Here are our wondering questions for the lesson:
1. I wonder what is your favorite part of the story.
2. I wonder what the disciples thought when Jesus appeared to them in the locked room.
3. I wonder why Thomas needed to touch Jesus’ wounds.
4. I wonder what Thomas thought when Jesus appeared and came up to Thomas and said, “Touch me.”
5. I wonder if you’ve ever had doubts about anything. I wonder how that feels.
6. I wonder what we can do when we have doubts about believing.
Some Thoughts on Our Gift to God Time:
How can we help the children to re-live this story? Here are a few ideas:
1. Retelling the story through art or drama
a) Kids could act out the story in your classroom. Make it dramatic. Shut the doors. Do the acting out in candlelight. Each child could play a part. The camera in the drawer in the hallway can videotape, if you want to do that.
b) Kids could draw the scenes of the story. The first appearance of Jesus. His eating of a piece of fish. Thomas’s skepticism of the story. Then Jesus’ appearance to Thomas and his touching Jesus. This could be done with markers or paint or three dimensionally with clay. It could be a class project on a mural or done individually.
c) There is also a craft ideas for responding to this story with art here .
2. Digging into the theme of the story of believing without seeing.
a) Children could make a banner for the classroom or a bulletin board that says, “Blessed are those that do not see, but still believe. John 20:29”-or whatever verse or message they pick that they feel tells the story. What illustrations would they want to decorate it with? I’m sure they’d have ideas.
b) Kids could make an illustrated list of ways to handle their doubt. What do they do when they doubt? Read the Bible? Talk to their parents? Talk with their teachers? Pray? Think hard about it? Or they could illustrate the statement: I can ask God for help with my doubt.
c)Children could discuss what faith really is and illustrate “What faith in Jesus means to me.” or make an “I Believe” door hanger or sign and decorate it however they like-with stickers or sequins or markers. We have some foam stickers in the game room on the craft table if you want to use them.
Check out my Pinterest page on this story here. One kind of thing that I pinned several times was the idea of using watercolors on a page from the Bible to illustrate a verse from the story. (Like Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet believe. John 20:29.) We have some old Bibles that I’ll put out that you can take apart and use for this purpose. It might be nice to glue them on mat board when the watercolors are done and dry. I’ll put the mat board on the cart as well.
Enjoy the story!