Jesus, today, tomorrow, forever

Jesus for Tomorrow - Ideas for use in schools

When we made Jesus for Tomorrow, the second, shorter version of our Passion Play video we put it together with reference to Unit 8b of the RE scheme of work for KS 3 that had recently been published around 2000 - What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean for Christians today?  We produced detailed lesson plans to go with the video.

Twenty years on in this 20th anniversary year of the Cheltenham Passion Play with everyone on lock-down Jesus for Tomorrow comes into its own once again this Easter. In it Matt Medhurst goes into a class at Pittville School in Cheltenham to share some of his experiences in playing the part of Jesus in our Passion Play. The young people put him on the spot with some testing questions.

The Passion Play itself was divided into five Acts: Friendship, Conflict, Betrayal, Death, Resurrection. Each of the three videos is also divided into five sections. In Jesus for Tomorrow, at the end of each section there is a question that serves as a conversation starter. You might like to pause the video at that point and have a conversation around that theme.
  1. Friendship: What barriers need breaking down today?  
  2. Conflict:  Why do people reject Jesus and Christianity today?  
  3. Betrayal: Would you have gone along with the crowd or stood up for Jesus? 
  4. Death:  Is death the end?  
  5. Resurrection:  Could it really be true?
Children are introduced to the Easter festival at Primary School.  Twenty years ago, the RE curriculum at Key Stage 3 encouraged students to seek out the deeper meaning behind the stories of Jesus.  With the help of those who took part in the Passion Play it's possible to focus on the Easter story and explore not just the historical evidence for resurrection but the importance of Easter and a belief in resurrection to Christians today. In his responses, Matt Medhurst opens up about his own faith and how it had been challenged by the death of his father only a couple of months before he agreed to take on the role of Jesus in the Passion Play.

One of the strengths of the Christian faith is that it takes seriously not only life and what it means but also death and the grief that is so real. When we did the Passion Play a new organisation had developed in Gloucestershire responding to the needs of children in bereavement. Since then Winston's Wish has gone from strength to strength. It has some excellent material to help children and their families through the experience of bereavement. You can access their resources here via the Winston's Wish website.

The activities below relate to the questions posed in the scheme of work.  There are other links under the More tab at, providing background material for teachers and while we are on lock-down for parents who are exploring Easter with their children. Some may be helpful for children to use as well.

What happened at the first Easter?
·      Compare our video with another (eg The Miracle Maker or Jesus of Nazareth) and explore the differences between a cinema presentation of the story and our community production of a Passion Play using street theatre. Ralph Fiennes has played the part of Jesus in two films that might be worth comaparing. The Miracle Maker (certificate U) is a good animated account of the life of Jesus, produced with guidance from Tom Wright, a leading British New Testament scholar. It is the fruit of an exciting collaboration between Welsh film makers and Russian animators that followed the highly acclaimed Tales of Shakespeare series. The Welsh version has Ioan Gruffudd playing the part of Jesus. Risen (certificate 12) is a more recent dramatisation of the Easter story that is told through the eyes of a non-believing Roman centurion. 
·      Our account of the Easter story was based closely on John 20 in the Message. Study the text and ask students to underline all words that have to do with the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste in John chapter 20 and chapter 21. John's use of those words suggests he was so convinced of the reality of resurrection that he described the way people had seen, heard, and touched the risen Jesus, and how they had smelled his cooking ... and tasted it too!

What does the resurrection mean?
·      Use the interviews in the programme to contribute to a discussion of concepts such as life after death and the impact the story of Easter has on Christians today.
·      Explore the way street theatre can be used to bring the message home in new and exciting ways.
·      In our Passion Play women carrying banners led the way towards the cross. The first stopped and recited verses from the Bible as the crowd passed, the second stopped and did the same ... so the crowd passed each of the banners as they followed Jesus to the place of crucifixion. We were building on an ancient tradition called following the stations of the cross. Many churches have pictures depicting the points at which Jesus stopped on the way to the cross and share in meditations at each 'station' especially in Holy Week and Good Friday. Have a look at our 'Stations of the Cross' and then, when you are able to try to find other ‘stations of the cross’ in local churches or look them up on the web.
·      Make a banner or picture to depict a station of the cross or another aspect of the Easter story.

 What about life after death?
·      Use the experiences of bereavement described during the programme to stimulate discussion on the way the Christian hope of resurrection helps people through sad times.
·      Use the prayer meditation on Death in Jesus for ever the same to reflect on the grieving process.

What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean for Christians today?
·      Find out how churches in your own locality plan to celebrate Easter this year and compare it with Cheltenham’s celebrations for Easter 2000..
·      Use Looking further onlocation, to make a story board planning a Passion Play in your own community.