Rotation.org Writing Team
Jesus Raises Lazarus
"I am the resurrection and the life"
Students will create a "Lazarus Resurrection Mosaic" using air-dry clay and some special materials to illustrate and create a reminder of the miracle of resurrection and the moment when Jesus calls to Lazarus (and to us) saying,"Come out!" "Let him go!"
This lesson contains some special features:
- Two optional opening and closing demonstrations (object lessons).
- Numerous material options.
- A list of good Contemporary Christian songs whose lyrics fit the story that can be played in the background as your Bible artists work. Links provided.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25,26 (Good News)
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- A small bowl of flour for the opening.
- Water for the opening.
- Foam trays (such as 6"x8" meat trays from the grocer).
- Toothpicks broken into non-pokey pieces (to anchor the drying clay to the tray).
- Optional: A black light (to show off the glow gravels and white clay at the end of class).
- Optional: cellphone and bluetooth speaker or some other way to play suggested background music.
You have many choices for making the mosaic described below. Here is a basic materials list:
- A tub of white air-dry clay (and additional colors if desired)
- Art chips, stones, gravels, and/or precious stones. See notes about creative choices.
- A non-serrated dinner knife to trim the clay after it is rolled out.
- Pencils or kabob sticks to add letters to clay.
- Wax paper to roll out the clay on (before transferring to foam trays).
- Plastic rolling pin or smooth plastic drinking glass.
- Glow-in-the-dark paint.
- Non-washable color markers or "finger" paints.
Notes About Air-Dry Clay, Stones, and Paints
About the Air-Dry Clay
Tubs of air-dry clay have become quite inexpensive–which is good because you don't want to skimp on it. You need enough for each student to make a minimum 6" x 6" x 3/8" square into which they will press the stones. Crayola also makes an air-dry clay product that is a little more expensive but is fairly durable, holds the stones well, and stays slightly flexible after drying. In either case, use white air-clay for the mosaic background as it will show off the stones and glow-in-the-dark paints.
We recommend you roll out and trim the clay tile into the 6 x 6 sheets just before class starts. Roll it on wax paper to make it easier to lift off without tearing, then press it into a foam tray (something like a 6"x8" meat tray from your grocer or online). The tray will protect the drying clay from breaking during creation and drying.
Drying time is about 24 hours. If students will be carrying their creations home before they dry, secure the clay to the tray using short pieces of toothpicks so that the clay does not slide off the tray.
About the Mosaic Stones
You have several stone options to consider. In the project seen on this page, the Lazarus Mosaic was created with a combination of inexpensive craft quality "semi-precious" stones and craft "glow in the dark" stones. Using the precious stones is fun and symbolizes the importance of resurrection lesson and promise. We found tubes of "semi-precious" stones in the beading section of JoAnne Fabrics. (See picture.) Their irregular shape and natural luminescence worked well in the white clay. One tube was $3.99 and is enough for 3 students if used judiciously.
Another option is to use aquarium gravel. It's inexpensive, colorful, easy to find, and its irregular shape helps it stick in the clay.
Tip: Use a light touch when pressing the gravel pieces into the clay, and do not press them all the way through the background as this will weaken the clay. Rather than pressing one stone at a time, in some cases, you can sprinkle a few stones onto the clay, move them into position with your finger, then press them into the clay.
Glow-in-the-dark pebbles can be a great addition to your resurrection scene. Use them in a limited fashion to highlight what you think is special in the scene–such as the open tomb. Glow-in-the-dark pebbles are found online typically in quantities of 200 and in various colors. Because they are round and smooth you need to take extra care in sticking them into the clay so they won't pop out when the clay dries. Use your fingers to gently squeeze up a tiny rim around the stones.
An option to go with or in place of glow-in-the-dark pebbles is to paint the white clay with glow-in-the-dark paint (available in any craft or big box store). In the example, glow-in-the-dark paint was thickly applied to the tomb opening, around the cross, on Lazarus, and on the dove.
About Adding Letters and Color to the Mosaic
In addition to the color provided by the stones, you can paint air-dry clay before or after it is dry using any variety of paints and markers. If using paints, help the students avoid covering the stones and applying too much. Apply paint thinly with a finger so that the white clay glows through. Glow-in-the-dark paints offer an interesting option in that they appear rather transparent, but glow in the dark! Apply a second coat for maximum effect.
Use the tip of a pencil to write in the clay. In the example above, after using a pencil tip to poke and shaping the letters into the clay, we colored "Let Him Go!" with a thin blue marker, and filled the letters "Come Out!" with glow-in-the-dark paint so they appear in the dark.
You can also 'build up' clay to create objects. In the example, Lazarus and the dove are built up out of extra pieces of clay. You could also us extra clay to build up the tomb or the stone or any other symbol or word.
Some ideas for designing your resurrection mosaic:
- Jesus wept (tears).
- I am the resurrection (cross, heaven, afterlife).
- Presence of the Holy Spirit–dove.
- The moment of resurrection inside the tomb (glow-in-the-dark paint).
- Come out! –spelled out, or as a raised hand.
- Let him go! Unbind him! Set him free!
- A heart.
- White bands of cloth lying at the entrance.
Welcome your students and explain what they'll be doing in today's lesson.
Opening "Dust" Demonstration: You will take a handful of flour dust and pour it onto the table as you introduce the concept of our resurrection for the glory of God. You can give them some flour dust as well. Tell them they can pour it out when you do. (Older kids might 'clap' it, so you might not want to give it to them.)
Today's story is about a very important subject. It's about what happens when you die. And depending on what you believe, the answer to that question can be SCARY or full of HOPE.
So tell me, ...what happens to your body when you die?—Over time, it becomes dust...like this flour. In fact, many verses in the Bible describe us as "dust." Genesis 2:7 "and the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being."
(Now take some water and form a ball of flour in your hand, saying,) but the cool thing about being a creature of the dust, is that God WANTS to breath his life back into us after we have died. God wants us to live again with him in heaven. We call that "being resurrected."
In today's scripture reading, you're going to hear about how Jesus brought one of his best friends back to life, a man named Lazarus, and how he did it not only for his friend but as a promise of what God will do to all of us when we die and our bodies return to the dust.
Exploring the Scripture
Assign the following four parts and read verses 1-44 dramatically: Jesus, Mary, Martha, Narrator. When you get to Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb, let several students try their voice at calling Lazarus to come out!
Follow up Questions
- Do you think Mary and Martha really believe Jesus could bring their brother back to life? (If they did, would they have been so weepy?)
- What was the reason Jesus gave for raising Lazarus from the dead? (to show God's glory and make a promise to all who believe in him)
Keep the discussion short as you will have more time to talk with the students during the art project.
Short on time?
44 verses is a lot. If you think you will be short on time, or have covered the scripture in-depth in other workshops during this rotation, you can choose one of the following options:
Short Option 1: Summarize verses 1-17, and pick up where Jesus arrives in Bethany. This will include the "I am the Resurrection" passage.
Short Option 2: Summarize verses 1-32, and pick up where Jesus is moved to tears.
Short Option 3: Show a free brief animated retelling of the story, such as the one suggested in the Games Workshop lesson, then read aloud verses 38-44, Jesus at the tomb.
Short Option 4: Read the Lazarus story using an illustrated Bible storybook.
Creating Your Resurrection Mosaic
Read the Important Tips and Project Suggestions above in this lesson for making the mosaic.
As you begin, circulate and make suggestions. Call out interesting ideas to help their mosaic take shape.
After a few minutes, introduce some questions to the group as they continue to work. In fact, you might write these on the Board ahead of time, and then invite individual students to tackle answering one of the questions so the entire group can hear.
- Why did Mary and Martha at first think that Lazarus was dead and not coming back?
- Why did Jesus cry even though he had the power to resurrect Lazarus? What does that say about Jesus?
- Do you think Lazarus deserved to be resurrected? What do you think he was thinking when he came back to life? What did he think about Jesus?
- Do you deserve to be resurrected? How does it make you feel to know Jesus loves you that much?
- When you die and come back to life at your own resurrection, what do you think will be the first thing you see? Where do you think you will be? Who will you meet there? What questions will you have?
A Ball of Clay Reflection
After everyone is done making their resurrection mosaics, invite the whole group to follow you on a tour of each student's resurrection scene. Ask questions about what they imagined and praise their insights. (You should do this during the creative process as well.)
Following the tour, give each student a small ball of clay, then say and do the following. As you do, mold the clay to represent what you are saying. Let them follow along with their clay if they wish, and let them take the clay home.
The prophet Isaiah (64:8) tells us that we are like clay in the potters' hand—being shaped into what God wants us to become. (Do some shaping.) Does that happen overnight? (no) Can we fight it? (Yes, do some breaking of the shape God is trying to make.) Can God remodel, reform, reshape us? Yes–if we let him. God doesn't force the clay. Believing in Jesus doesn't make you perfect, it says, "I want to be in your hands, Jesus, shape me." (Do some shaping.) In that sense, resurrection (that is, new life) really begins when you believe. We are to live resurrected lives now as best as we can by allowing God to work with us. And yes, we also look forward to a great resurrection when we die—when these "earthen clay vessels" are no longer needed, and God continues to shape our souls for his "glory" as Jesus said, because he loves us that much.
For younger students:
- Offer to draw a simple outline of the tomb on their clay to help them get started. See the empty tomb clipart attached to this lesson.
- Ask them if they want you to spell any special words or phrases, such as, "Lazarus Come Out." You can write the letters into the clay using the tip of a pencil, then the younger children can fill in the letter depressions with tiny bits of colored clay or stone.
- Skip the final "ball of clay" reflection activity.
- Use paint sparingly—smearing it lightly with their finger on the clay and then wiping it lightly with a tissue (this will not only hasten drying, but also make the color appear translucent on the white clay).
For those short on time:
- Skip either the opening flour or closing clay demonstration.
- Invite some special guests to come and perform a quick dramatic reading of John 11:1-44, shortening it if needed, as noted above.
- Make your mosaic area smaller.
Three great contemporary Christian songs for this lesson
Play these songs in the background while creating the mosaics (pausing them during discussion). The following links take you to YouTube to hear and see the songs in music video format. You can play them over your cellphone (with Bluetooth speaker) in the classroom, or via a laptop connected to the internet.
Keep Making Me, by Sidewalk Prophets, https://youtu.be/UI1obeb3A9c
‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making
I know you keep making
Lord, please keep making me
Written by the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2018, Rotation.org Inc.