Reply to "The Walk to Emmaus Lesson Set -- FUMC Ann Arbor, MI"

The Walk to Emmaus:

Old Science Workshop

Summary of Activities:

(Done 6 years ago. Not used in 2008.) It’s hard to recognize Jesus. Optical illusion and slight of hand magic tricks open discussion on how things are not always what they appear.

Old Science Workshop Objectives:

  • To know that Jesus appeared to his followers after his crucifixion. They didn’t always recognize him immediately but once they did, this helped them understand and believe the resurrection.
  • To understand that sometimes we have a hard time recognizing Jesus in our lives.
  • To know that having the Bible opened up for us allows us to grow in faith.

For scripture - see above.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read the scripture for this lesson.

  • Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.

  • Gather the materials
  • Practice the magic trick; set it up for the start of class.

Supplies List:

  • Bibles
  • Four opaque film canisters with lids (put a few coins in one)
  • A rubber band (large enough to fit around wrist)
  • An instant camera loaded with film
  • Several black, washable markers (must be washable or water-based markers)
  • Cone-shaped coffee filters (one per child)
  • Small, clear plastic cups (one per child)
  • A pitcher (fill with water before class starts)
  • Paper towel
  • A ruler
  • Newspaper

Lesson Plan


Introduce yourself. Pass around the attendance…etc. Open class with prayer if you desire—ask first for prayer requests then ask if someone else would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests.


Start by telling everyone that you want to perform a magic trick. Point out the three film canisters in front of you on the table.

Say: If you can guess which one of these containers has coins in it, you can keep the money. See, the money is in this container. Give one of the film canisters a shake (executing the trick) so that everyone can hear the rattling inside. 
Say: Now I'll mix them up so keep an eye on them.
Rearrange the canisters—awkwardly—so that anyone watching this trick closely can keep an eye on the one with the coins.

Challenge someone to point to the one with the money. Pick up the one they pointed to and shake it vigorously. They are wrong, of course. 
Say: This is the right one.
Pick up another (again executing the trick) and give it a shake. If the kids seem interested (and don’t know the trick) you might try it again. When finished, show them how the trick was done. Say: Magic tricks can be fun because they surprise us. Magic tricks remind us that things aren’t always what they appear to be.
[Here’s the trick: None of the canisters on the table have money in them; instead, it's in a fourth canister rubber-banded to your left wrist and hidden by your sleeve. When you shake any canister with your left hand, the audience hears a rattling sound. Shake with your right hand, and they hear nothing.]

Now tell everyone you want to take a class picture.

Gather everyone together in a group, and using an instant camera, take a photo. Pass around the picture right after you take it. Ask: What do you see? (they won’t see much of anything at first) Pass the picture around again. Asking: Now what do you see? Is the picture any clearer? (some detail will be starting to emerge) 

Say: The characters in our Bible story, had an experience like you just did with this photograph – where the picture started off fuzzy, but then got clearer. Let’s read our story so you can see what I mean.
Help the kids find Luke, chapter 24, verses 13 to 35. (Encourage kids to bring their own Bibles!) Since it’s a fairly long story, you read it to them and have them follow along. (In week 2 or 3 of the rotation ask them to help you tell the story.)

Have the kids pass the photo around again.
Ask: How does the photo look now? Is the picture still fuzzy? Can you recognize people in the picture? 
In our story, did Cleopas and his traveling companion recognize Jesus when they first saw him? (no) Say: They did not realize that the stranger traveling with them was the risen Christ. What did it take for them to recognize Jesus? (it took time; during the time it took to journey to Emmaus they listened to Jesus teach them. They eventually recognized Jesus when he broke bread with them)
Say: Just as we can now clearly see our group photo, the two disciples traveling to Emmaus eventually clearly recognized Jesus.

Say: Let’s do a science experiment. Have everyone gather around the table. Pass out one plastic cup and one coffee filter per child. Demonstrate how you want them to each draw a stick-figure person about 1” tall, using the provided markers. (Draw the figure near the wide part of the coffee filter). While the kids are drawing, fill their cups with 1/2 inch of water. When everyone is ready, have them place the coffee filter, wide side down, with just the edge touching the water. Ask: what is happening to the person you drew? (the colors in the black ink will separate out) How many colors do you see? Say: the scientific word to describe what you see is called chromatography. It looked to us like we drew a little person in one color but it was actually many colors combined together. This experiment shows us that we might look at something and not really see the whole picture.

Say: Here is something to try. Have all the kids make a circle with their thumb and index finger. Hold the circle at arm's length. With both eyes, look through the circle and focus on an object. Without moving, close one eye and then the other. It will appear as though your hand has somehow moved when in fact it hasn’t. Say: Science can explain this because one eye is dominant, or stronger than the other. It does the job of focusing your gaze. So we can be looking at things and something surprising still happens.

Say: Here’s another experiment.
Place a ruler on the table with several inches hanging over the edge of the table. Fold a large sheet of newspaper to make a double sheet and spread it over the ruler so the paper lies flat along the table edge. Ask: Do you think that I can hit that ruler and make that paper go flying? (they will probably think that you can) Hit the ruler that sticks out over the edge as hard as you can. You would expect everything to go flying but the paper holds the ruler in place. Say: the paper didn’t move because there is actually about two tons of air pressure holding it in place. The air over the newspaper is pushing down at 15 lbs per square inch of weight on every inch of paper. No wonder it wouldn’t budge. Another example of how things aren’t always as they appear.

Say: The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus at first. Why do you suppose Jesus made himself unrecognizable or hidden? (accept all answers – try to lead to the idea that perhaps Jesus did this as a way to show us that the Lord comes to us in different ways and uses different people and events to teach us and reach us)

Ask: Is it sometimes hard to recognize Jesus in your life?
What can keep us from seeing the risen Christ? 
In what ways are the hidden Christ revealed to us?

Say: Sometimes we can see God in our lives by reading the Bible. When they were walking to Emmaus and Jesus joined them (but they thought he was a stranger) how do you think the disciples felt when Jesus was explaining the scriptures to them? (later they described the feeling as though their hearts were burning) I think it meant they felt reassured of the truth of the Bible. So reading the Bible and having the Bible opened to us helps us grow in faith.


When it’s time to wrap up, say: In closing, remember that hidden things can be revealed to us – whether it be the meaning of a Bible story or the realization that Jesus wants to be a part of your life journey. Remember the verse in our Bible story: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” Luke 24:31a (NRSV) 

Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Say a prayer yourself if no one volunteers. A suggestion: Thank you God for sending your Son, Jesus. Help us to recognize you in our lives. Thank you for traveling with us through our journeys. Amen.

In case you need an additional project, here’s a problem to solve that involves cups and water: Take 6 cups and mark a line on them with permanent marker at about the half full line. Set out the 6 cups in a row and fill (to the mark) cups number 3, 4, and 5. Ask the kids if they can rearrange the cups to the following pattern: one full, one empty, one full, one empty, one full, one empty by moving only one cup. Answer: pour water from cup 4 into cup 1 and put cup 4 back in its spot. You can tie this difficult problem to what do we do in life when faced with difficult problems? (turn to the Bible for help)

Written by Carol Hulbert for First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI 

Copyright 2002 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material
Note: This workshop was used back in 2002. The newer lesson for Science was used in 2008. (See link above.)

If you use this material, even in a modified form, please include the following reference:

Hulbert, Carol. "The Walk to Emmaus – Old Science Lesson." Feb 2002. Place URL where lesson found inside angle brackets<>.

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