Session 1: Good News!

The purpose of this session is to present the Gospel - the life and teachings of Jesus Christ - as Good News.

Objectives: By the end of this session participants will be able to:

  • Retell the basic facts of the resurrection account in Matthew 28.
  • Identify the Gospel of Jesus Christ as The Good News.
  • Explain that the Good News is meant to be shared with all people, since God has a special plan for each of us.

Useful Texts for Leader Reflection/Preparation

(Scriptural, Liturgical, Lives of Saints, etc)

Matthew 28:1-10

Texts of the following hymns: Christ is Risen, Resurrectional troparia, various festal troparia, etc.. (Talk to your choir director for the settings done in your parish and check out the introductions in the OCA liturgical booklets for Holy Friday Vespers, Holy Saturday, Pascha, and Pascha Vespers.)

Materials:

A. Bible, posterboard or blackboard, materials for making “Good News” cards, tapes of Holy Week and Pascha music (the Noble Joseph, Arise O God, Christ is Risen), crayons, copies of bookmarks

B. News reporter sheets (included), notebooks and pens, posterboard, or chalkboard, tapes and texts of Resurrectional, festal, and Paschal troparia, front pages from various newspapers.

C. Pens, posterboard, or blackboard, notebooks and pens, texts of Resurrectional, festal, and Paschal troparia, two or three video camcorders.

Reminder:

While suggested answers are given after most questions, don’t limit discussion to these particular phrases. The more participants can describe these and other appropriate answers in their own words, the more they will learn!

Also, the outlined sections are NOT lesson plans. Do not try to accomplish everything in a section in the usual 45-60 minute class period. You will have to decide which activities to do with your group. You may decide to expand a session to two or more classes.

A: Younger Children

1. Opening Prayer: Opening and closing prayers should be selected and offered according to local custom.

2. Opening Discussion: Ask the students, “What were some good things that happened to you recently that you would like to share with us?” Call on volunteers for answers.

Teacher continues by relating something exciting from his/her life that involved receiving good news. For example, “One of the happiest things that happened to me was the birth of my cousin Debbie’s baby. It was really good news, and as soon as the baby was born, we couldn’t wait to share the news with others.” Continue by asking students for examples of good news they received in the past few months. After students volunteer answers, ask, “Why do you think we always want to share good news with others?” Record answers on chalkboard or large posterboard.

3. Conclude this segment by emphasizing the following: “When we receive good news about someone or something, we always want to tell others about it. Can you imagine how excited Jesus’ friends were when they found out that He had been raised from the dead? That was certainly good news, and they couldn’t wait to share it with others.”

4. Write the word GOSPEL on the board. Ask if anyone knows what this word means. (Get students’ ideas; if anyone says the words ‘Good News” put an = sign after GOSPEL and add “Good News.” If after several tries, no one gives the right answer, fill it in yourself.

Ask the students if they know what is contained in the Holy Gospel. Ask them to open their Bibles to the New Testament. Tell them to find and to read the titles of the first four books, then write down the names of the writers of these books: e.g., “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” (or Mark, Luke, John). Tell them that the Gospel Book that is used in the Church includes only the four Gospels.
Say, “The Gospels tell the story of the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ask the students what they remember best about the life of Jesus Christ. Help them to summarize briefly the main events: Nativity, Baptism, Teaching and Miracles (give a few examples), Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. List on the board the names of the actual stories they remember. Then ask them to turn to Matt. 28:1-10 and read the story together. The paraphrase included may be used for telling the story to younger children. Go then to the discussion questions and activity.

5. Read the story of Jesus’ Resurrection from Matthew 28:1-10.

Ask the students: What was the good news that we heard in this story? [Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.] Ask students to imagine that they were there, discovering the empty tomb.

Assign parts and have each student act out what they think the person would do as you read the text slowly.

Persons in reading

Jesus Joseph of Arimathea

Nicodemus Mary

Mary Magdalene 2 Soldiers

Angel

Be sure to allow enough time for them to think about what their character would do. You will need two chairs (one for the cross and one for the stone to seal the tomb.), a big white towel, sheet, or piece of muslin. After they are done role-playing ask, “How do you think everyone felt as they were taking Jesus down from the cross and burying him? [Sad, upset, etc.] Why do you think they felt this way? [They loved him and felt that they would never be able to talk to or be with him again.]

Why do you think they thought the message from the angel was good news?” [It meant they would get to see him, talk to him, and learn from him again.]

6. Sharing the good news:

What are ways that we share good news with people? [Call them on the phone, write letters, send cards, send e-mails, go over and tell them yourself, put an article in the newspaper, etc.]
Say, “Every year we share the good news about Jesus with people by sending them cards. Who can give examples of times when we do this?” [Christmas, Pascha, Names’ Days, etc.] “What would be other events in Jesus’ life that would be good news to people?” [Various miracles, sending of the Holy Spirit, etc.] For each suggestion ask, “Why do you think that would be good news for someone else?” [Jesus can heal people, Jesus makes it possible to live forever, Jesus has the power to help us, etc.]

Have participants choose something about Jesus’ life that they think would be good news for someone and make a card telling them about it. Try to include as many events as possible. (Include this as part of the work of a “Sunshine Committee” that sends cards to shut-ins, newcomers, or people in the hospital. Another option is to display the cards on an ongoing bulletin board to show parents and parish members what they are learning.)

Conclude the session by stating: “Jesus’ resurrection is good news for all people. It shows us that God loves us, cares about us, and shares a whole new life with us.”

B: Pre-teens

Follow steps 1-3 as above, then...

4. Hymns of Praise

Say, “One of the things we do to celebrate good news is sing songs. What are some examples of some songs we sing to celebrate various events in our lives?” [Happy Birthday, Christmas carols, For He/She is a Jolly Good Fellow, Many Years, etc..]
“We do this in the Church as well.” Handout texts of various troparia (Paschal, Resurrectional, festal). Give them 3-5 minutes to look through their text and summarize the good news the text expresses. Share results.
5. Ask a student to read the story of Jesus resurrection from Matthew 28:1-10. Pass out the newspaper forms (included). Ask students to pretend that they were 1st century newspaper reporters whose job it is to report the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Pass out newspapers with headlines. Discuss with students how headlines are worded and the main elements that go into a news story (who, what, when, where, and why). When everyone is finished, ask students to read their “articles” out loud. Include them on an ongoing bulletin board to share with parents and the rest of the parish what the group is studying.

Another option is to this task as a class assigning various aspects of the story to various participants. For example, one person can write an interview with one of the disciples, while another person writes an interview with the soldiers at the tomb, and another person interviews Pontius Pilate.

If time permits you may want to do the activity #6 described above.

C: Teens

Follow steps 1-3 as in section A and then...

4. Hymns of Praise

Say, “One of the things we do to celebrate good news is sing songs. What are some examples of some songs we sing to celebrate various events in our lives?” [Happy Birthday, Christmas carols, For He/She is a Jolly Good Fellow, Many Years, etc..]
“We do this in the Church as well.” Handout texts of various troparia (Paschal, Resurrectional, festal). Give them 3-5 minutes to look through their text and summarize the good news the text expresses. Share results.

5. Terminology

Write down the following words on the chalk board and draw a circle around them: evangelion, evangelist, evangelical. Ask participants what they think of when they see these words. Write all responses around the words.

Tell participants that while all the hymns and texts in the liturgical services are full of good news, they are based upon one piece of really good news. Ask them what they think that one piece is. [The Good News that Jesus died and rose from the dead.] As Christians we call this the Good News, or Gospel, in Greek evangelion. Ask, “If evangelion means the Good News or the Gospel, what does the word evangelist mean?” [Someone who spreads the good news by writing or speaking.] “Who are the 4 evangelists?” [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.] “What then do you think would characterize something as ‘evangelical’?” [Something conveying the good news of Jesus Christ.]

6. On Location

Ask a student to read the story of Jesus’ resurrection from Matthew 28:1-10. Split class into two or three groups. Give each group a video camera and instruct them to stage a newscast “live and on site with the resurrection of Jesus.” Brainstorm with them different ideas of people they could interview (i.e., Jesus’ mother, apostles, the disciples, Pontius Pilate, Centurion, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus etc.). Give them the following parallel references to help them develop their interviews: Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20.

You may wish to schedule additional time to complete this project, or you may want to divide teams geographically by where they live and have them work together during the week. Upon completion show the interviews at beginning of next class. The videos may also be shown to parents or other class groups as “discussion starters.”

7. Conclude the session by stating: “Jesus’ resurrection is good news to all people because it assures us that God loves us and that life has meaning. It shows that though we die, we will rise again like He did, and be with Him and all our loved ones.”

If time permits you may want to do the activity #6 described above in section A.

Bible Story for Younger Children

(Summary of Matt. 27:57-61 and 28:1-10)

After Jesus was put to death on the Cross, his friends Joseph and Nicodemus took his body down from the Cross. They wrapped it in a clean white cloth and laid it in a new tomb, the tomb that Joseph had made for himself! The women who followed Jesus were also there. They were very sad as they watched the men roll a large stone in front of the entrance to close the tomb. Then they all hurried home, for the Sabbath day, the holy day of rest, began that evening.

When the Sabbath day was over, Mary Magdalene and another Mary who watched Joseph and Nicodemus bury Jesus’ body, went back to the tomb. It was very early in the morning and the sun was only beginning to rise. Suddenly there was an earthquake, and an angel came down from heaven and rolled the big heavy stone away from the door. The angel was as bright as lightning and his clothes were as white as snow. The soldiers who were guarding the tomb were so frightened, they couldn’t move!

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen as he said. Come, see the place where he was buried.” The women slowly approached the door of the tomb and saw that it was empty. The white linen clothes that were wrapped around Jesus’ body were lying in the place when Joseph and Nicodemus had placed him. The angel said to them: “Go quickly now and tell his disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. He is already on his way to Galilee and will see you there.”

The women were frightened by all this, but they were happy and excited to hear that Jesus had risen from the dead. They ran to tell the disciples. Just then Jesus met them on the road and greeted them. The women fell down at his feet and worshiped Him. Jesus said to them: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”