Firstly, being met at the door by a costumed story-teller, carrying a water jar, who prepares the children to be ready to go back in time and enter the world of first century Jerusalem AD 33.
The Upper Room
This is the first area seen by the children as they enter after the introduction outside. The main feature is the life-sized picture of the Last Supper. As the children enter they are naturally drawn into the events of the meal as they sit, as it were, with Jesus and the disciples at the low Passover table.
The typically low first century Passover tables have bread and wine positioned in front of Jesus along with other suitable items – plates/bowls some containing fruit and others bread, 1st century oil lamp replicas, earthenware pots, jugs etc, a menorah (7 branched candlestick).
At the ends of the table and in odd corners are pots, basketware and other suitable objects, all enhancing the feeling of being there with the disciples.
Jesus and his disciples are eating a Passover meal together. Before it begins Jesus washes their feet. As the meal progresses and the ancient story of Passover is told, Jesus stuns them by asking them to eat bread (‘This is my body’) and drink wine (‘This is my blood’) in remembrance of him. Judas, one of the twelve, leaves the room, noticed only by Jesus. As the meal finishes they decide to go to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Garden of Gethsemane
A Garden. The children are enchanted as they turn the corner to discover what appears to be a real garden. Tall trees, foliage, splashes of spring bulbs, large plants, small plants and even a pond fill the children’s eyes and senses.
Jesus is troubled, he asks three of his disciples to pray with him, but whilst he wrestles in prayer they are unable to keep awake. Judas returns, leading soldiers from the Temple guard, who arrest Jesus as he is identified with a kiss. Jesus is led away to the house of Caiaphas, the chief priest, who, along with the Sanhedrin, interrogates Jesus, and find him guilty of blasphemy. They take Jesus to Pilate who believes him to be innocent but is outmanoeuvred by the chief priests and fails to get Jesus released. In a public vote Barabbas is freed and cries for Jesus to be crucified are upheld.
A large empty cross – against a stark background alters the mood and feel as the children settle down at the foot of the cross. The focus is the cross; there really isn’t much else to see.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning and Jesus is fastened to a cross and left dying. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” he prays. “I’m thirsty”, he calls out, and a drink is offered. “Come down from the cross and we’ll believe in you”, the chief priests taunt. At twelve O’clock it goes dark. In the midst of that darkness he cries out, “My God, My God, where are you, why can’t I feel you close any more?” Just before three he utters his final words, a triumphant “It’s finished!” And with that he dies. The centurion looks up in amazement, “This man really was the Son of God.” Some of Jesus followers obtain permission to have his body and they take him down wrap him in cloth and place him in a tomb, sealing the door with a large rock. Their lives are in ruins, they are without hope. Early on Sunday morning three ladies are getting ready to take spice to anoint Jesus body – they are concerned about the rock sealing the door; will they be able to move it? Let’s follow them and find out.
The Empty Tomb
A sealed tomb greets the children as they hurry away from the cross eager to “catch up” with the womenfolk and see what happens next. The children are getting used to moving about now, but there is a certain amount of awe and wonder as they stare at the rock which seals the tomb doorway.
Mary, Mary and Salome are coming with spices, but they are worried about the rock that covers the entrance, but when they arrive, to their amazement, the rock has already been rolled away. On entering the tomb they find no one there, not even Jesus. Leaving the tomb they are confronted with two men dressed in white, who tell them they are looking in the wrong place – he’s not dead, he’s alive! The women run to tell the others, some of whom come to see for themselves and find it very perplexing. Mary remains at the tomb and encounters Jesus, having first mistaken him for the gardener. She goes to tell the others who do not believe her until that night when Jesus appears to them in the Upper Room. At first they think he is a ghost, but after he has eaten food they are overjoyed. Thomas, who was not with them when Jesus appeared, will not believe until Jesus appears again a week later. For forty days Jesus often appears and speaks with them until finally he is taken up into heaven.
Return to the Upper Room
The children are invited to return to the Upper Room, where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection and spoke with them.
What sort of things did Jesus and his disciples talk about when he appeared to them after his resurrection? Did they talk about the bread and the wine he asked them to eat and drink in remembrance of him and what it meant? Why did he want his friends to remember his death above all else? A time for reflection, a drink and a biscuit and an opportunity to ask questions raised by the whole experience.