I love the stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, and especially the two related to “doubting Thomas.” But writing a children’s sermon on John 20:19-31 could go a couple different ways.
That’s because there are two separate but related resurrection appearances here:
- Jesus appears to the Apostles, without Thomas, on Easter evening.
- Jesus appears to them again, with Thomas, a week later.
I decided to focus mostly on the first of these appearances this time around. Usually the second gets all the attention, with its focus on Thomas’ resistance to believing and getting his own resurrection appearance.
But the first appearance deserves a closer look: It is John’s version of the “Great Commission” and has a lot to tell any Christian about what we are called to be and do in the world.
Feel free to use this, whether as a children’s sermon or as a bedtime story for your kids. But be sure to include the wondering questions at the end! That’s where you see the wheels turn as the integration of a great Bible text begins.
A Children’s Sermon on John 20:19-31
Last week we celebrated Easter, when Jesus stopped being dead and was alive again. Well Jesus being alive again is such a big, wonderful thing, that we are still celebrating it. In fact, we’ll be celebrating Easter for five more Sundays.
Today the Gospel reading tells about two more times that the risen Jesus came to visit his friends.
On the evening of that first Easter Sunday, Jesus’ friends had locked themselves inside one big room. They were afraid. They didn’t know what to do. They had heard from Mary Magdalene that Jesus was alive again, but none of the Apostles had actually seen Jesus.
They were trying to stay safe by staying inside together. But sometimes, when you are all cooped up inside together, it just makes you feel even more scared.
Thomas, he was one of the Apostles, was starting to feel like one more hour stuck in that room would drive him CRAZY.
So he said, “I’m going for a walk.”
They asked, “What? Out there? Aren’t you scared?”
And Thomas said, “I’m more scared that if I stay in this room I’ll go completely bonkers! Plus, we need groceries.”
So Thomas went out.
But just then, when the doors were all closed and locked, Jesus walked in.
Well, you can just imagine how startled they all were.
“Hello, my friends!” Jesus said. “I have something for you.”
“What is it?” they asked.
“Peace!” said Jesus. “You don’t have to worry or fight any more. I’m alive! Peace be with you! And guess what? I have a job for you to do.”
“What is it you want us to do?” they asked.
“Two things: First, I want you to be at peace inside yourselves and between each other.”
“Didn’t you already mention that?” someone asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but it’s so important I didn’t want you to forget.”
“What’s the other thing?” someone asked.
“I’m sending you out of this room,” said Jesus. “I want you to go out into the world in the same way my Father sent me into the world.”
“Um… how did your Father send you again?” someone asked.
“Good question,” said Jesus. “The Father sent me with the Holy Spirit so that I could bring God to the world. Everywhere I went, God was there. And now I’m sending you the same way.”
“But Jesus,” someone asked, “we don’t have the Holy Spirit.”
“Good point,” said Jesus. “Come here!” and as they came close to him, he breathed on them and said “Now you have the Holy Spirit! God’s own breath has come over you to fill you up. Now you can go and bring God in the world too. But hey: Where’s Thomas?”
“He went out for groceries,” someone said.
“Well tell him about how I came by and everything I told you.”
Well, Thomas felt bad that he didn’t get to see Jesus that day. But a week later, Jesus came again and talked specially with Thomas.
And you know Thomas took the message of Jesus seriously. According to the earliest records, the apostle Thomas traveled a long way to bring the good news of Jesus. He carried the presence of God with him all the way to India — where there are Christian churches named after him to this day.
- I wonder what it felt like to be cooped up in that room with the apostles.
- I wonder what they thought and felt when Jesus came through their locked door.
- I wonder whether they felt peaceful when Jesus said “Peace be with you!”
- I wonder what could help you and me feel more of the peace Jesus wants to give.
- I wonder what they thought and felt when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto them.
- I wonder where you will go, and who you will bring the presence of God to in your lifetime.
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