Rotation.org Writing Team
Jesus Raises Lazarus
"I am the resurrection and the life"
Students will watch and discuss the excellent "Lazarus Lives" animated video (Nest), and conclude with an interactive reflection activity.
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.
At the end of this lesson, we've listed several reasonable alternatives to Nest's "Lazarus Lives"–the terrific video we are recommending for this Video Workshop lesson. The alternatives, however, are much shorter. Nest's 30-minute video does a great job of telling Lazarus' backstory with feeling, and it weaves together a number of scriptures about life, death, and the resurrection.
Nest Video's "Lazarus Lives" is a great choice for teaching the Lazarus story with pathos and background.
The first 10 minutes of this 30-minute video imagines a plausible backstory about who Lazarus was and how he came to follow Jesus. It assumes that Lazarus knew Simon the Leper of Bethany (Matthew 26:6–13) and perhaps it was he who introduced Simon to Jesus. Helpfully, the video includes the famous story of Lazarus' sisters—Mary at Jesus' feet while Martha is in the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42) ...which is a good intro to who Lazarus really was—which is to say, the brother of two of the most famous women in the Gospels, and a close friend of Jesus. The video also (carefully) shows us a suffering and dying Lazarus. The retelling of the John 11, the "Raising" of Lazarus, starts at the 19th minute and makes sense because of the previous scenes and emphases.
With this video's backstory, we understand why "Jesus wept" (v35). The video's story also makes clear Jesus' promise of the resurrection.
Nest's videos have "Disney quality" animation, and include dramatic music and the occasional snippet of song and lyrics to emphasize a point. They do feature a blue-eyed Jesus (as did several famous films about Jesus), but that (likely) flaw should not overshadow what is otherwise a very good retelling of the resurrection of Lazarus. There's an interactive quiz on the DVD, and you can download a nice booklet of activity pages when you purchase the video from Nest.
Here is Nest's 3 min preview on YouTube: https://youtu.be/AH2LXKwsnXg. Someone has also posted a full-length, lower resolution preview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKwjsNev9eo for preview purposes only. You need to buy the video if you do not already own it. It's under $20 and frequently goes on sale.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- Preview the video and set up your equipment to show it.
- Write the names of characters and opening questions on the board (seen below).
- A bag of mixed minty and cinnamon hard candies (or "Lifesaver" candies if you're not going to use the Lifesaver part of the computer workshop).
- A small box decorated with crosses and a picture of Jesus (place the above candy inside).
- Optional: Write out the 5 questions on slips of paper, in duplicate, if you'll have more than 5 students (see 5 questions to ask after movie techniques).
Welcome your students and explain what the lesson will be about today: our resurrection!
Ask students if they've ever known someone who has died.
Ask "where do you go when you die?" (Accept any answer at this point.)
In advance, write the following names on the board. Briefly explain who they are, and point them out when they first appear in the video:
- Simon the Leper of Bethany (explain that while he was a real person who met Jesus according to Matthew 26, the Bible doesn't tell us that Simon and Lazarus were friends. The video only guesses that to help us understand the power of Jesus. Explain that at the beginning of the video, we see Simon with his leprous daughter Sarah in a leper colony).
- Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha
- The Disciples
- Messenger who sort of looks like Lazarus but with a grey beard.
In advance, write the following questions on the board to "prime" your students about what to watch and listen for in the video. Tell them you'll be asking these questions after the video.
- Before she meets Jesus, what does Mary think about death?
- Why did Jesus wait for two days before coming to heal his friend Lazarus?
- Jesus said, "For now you will see things that will help you understand what I have told you?" What things did you see in the video that helped you understand the promise of the resurrection?
- Why do you think the video ended with a scene of the cross and the stone rolling away from the tomb? What was that trying to tell us?
The video has almost all of John 1:1-44 in it, as well as some other scriptures. Rather than read all 44 verses, first teach your students where to find the story in their Bibles. Then, zero-in on two key verses and read them together.
- John 11:25-26 "I Am the Resurrection...."
- John 11:35 "Jesus wept" (the shortest verse in the Bible)
Following the reading of those verses, tell the students that you have some mint and cinnamon candies they can win in a little "question game" to get them to pay attention to the movie.
- The first winner will be the first person who raises their hand during the video when they hear Jesus say "I Am the Resurrection and the Life."
- The second winner will be all those who after watching the video correctly answer the question, "Did we see Jesus weep in the video, yes or no?"
(You will be sharing plenty of candies afterward in the Reflection so don't worry about favoring one over another.)
Show the Video
Nest's "Lazarus Lives" DVD Chapter Index:
- We'll Always be Together
- The Dead Shall Arise
- Serving the Leper Colony
- One Who Can Heal
- No Greater Love
- "Never Fear the Winter" montage and song
- Jesus Teaches Mary and Martha
- Lazarus Falls Ill
- The Sign of Jonah
- The Death of Lazarus
- Jesus Explains His Death and Resurrection
- The Resurrection and the Life
- Lazarus, Come Forth
- Closing Credits
You can read the full outline of the video at Nest's website:
See the "adaptation" notes below for where to start the DVD if you're short on time.
*No, we do not hear or see Jesus "weep" (v35) in the video. It seems like a glaring omission. Jesus is pretty calm and consoling in this animated version. Ask the children if they thought he should have cried. I mean, does Jesus cry about us?
Five Questions for use after viewing the video:
Techniques: You can save these to ask students after the video, or write them on slips of paper and hand them to students in advance of the video so they can look for the answer in the video. If you have more than five students, hand out duplicates of each question to have more than one student per question.
(1) At about the 5-minute mark we learn of the death of a leper whom Mary and Lazarus were bringing food to. Mary asks, "Why her? ...it's so final, I'm scared." Then we hear Mary say "She is gone forever."
Questions: How does God feel about death? –including the death of children? Does Jesus weep for them too? What is Jesus' answer to suffering?
(2) At about the 6-minute mark, Lazarus learns that Jesus has the power to heal. He says, "I know Jesus can heal Simon."
Question: Where are YOU discovering that Jesus is the One who has the power to heal and give life? How do you know it is true?
(3) At about the 10-minute mark, Lazarus carries Simon the Leper to Jesus and says, "Jesus, heal my friend." Jesus replies with a famous verse, "A man can have no greater love than this, you have valued your friend's life more than your own."
Questions: What does it mean to "value" someone's life over your own? What are some ways you show your friends and family members that you value their life?
(4) At about the 14-minute mark Jesus says to Mary and Martha: "I have power over man's greatest fears, even death, ...if you believe, you shall see the glory of God." And Mary responds, "The glory of God? What does this mean?" What does the "glory of God" mean?
Question: How is God glorified by resurrecting the dead to eternal life?
"Glory" – The resurrection that Jesus promises us shows how much God loves us. We do not earn it or deserve it, i.e. it is not based on our own glory or worthiness/righteousness. In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were teaching that a person was resurrected based on their righteous and sinless life. Jesus taught that no one is truly righteous, and all need God's forgiveness. The death and resurrection of Jesus and our own resurrection are the logical proofs of that love to those who believe them –and in him.
(5) By teaching us that we will be resurrected to live with God, Jesus is answering two of life's most difficult questions:
- What happens when we die?
- What is God's answer to suffering?
Question: Based on what you've learned today, what are the answers to those two questions?
A Theological Comment:
At about the 2:45 minute mark, we hear and see Jesus talking about the resurrection to a crowd. The video has Jesus quoting John 5:29 using the King James version, and thus, we hear the words,"resurrection to damnation." But in fact, the correct translation is "judgment" or "condemnation" –which do not imply a lack of mercy but a scene of judgment prior to mercy for those who have done evil. No Gospel refers to the resurrection more than John, but within the whole of scripture there are many nuances and hopes surrounding this belief. With children, at least, we should emphasize Jesus' promise to forgive and save sinners, and Paul's hopeful vision that one day, "every knee shall bow and tongue confess." (Philippians 2:11) You cannot cover such an important scripture in a children's video without the need at some point for interpretation and explanation. Consult your pastor if you have questions about how your tradition wishes to interpret such things. ~(Rev) Neil MacQueen, for the Writing Team.
A Minty Guided Reflection
Ahead of time, place a sharing quantity of mint and cinnamon candies inside your decorated gift box. The following is a "demonstration" with teacher patter. While you will be teasing a bit, everyone should end up with candy.
Bring out the box of candies but don't say what's in the box. Tell them that you are going to bring the box to each of them, ask them a question, and if they say "yes" you will let them peek into the box. the only rule is this: you may NOT say what's in the box!!! Make them promise not to say what they see.
How to Pass the Box:
The teacher holds the box and walks up to a student saying, "do you think there's something good inside this box?" If they say "yes" then the teacher lets the student open the lid just a little bit to look inside without saying anything.
However, if a student says "No" (or when the teacher randomly picks someone to say "no, I don't think there's anything good in there"), then the lid is NOT opened and the teacher moves on to the next student. Do this until everyone has said Yes or No. (Let the "no" people sweat a little bit.)
Make the Point
Ask: What was in the box? Candies!
Pull out a candy and say: I want you to imagine that there's a candy in here that is Jesus' promise of resurrection to eternal life to you. It tastes fresh and chases away the smell of death—remember that part of the story when they said: "Lazarus' body will smell"? Well Jesus' gift is the ultimate breath mint, sweet. Nothing stinky about eternal life!
Would that be a cool gift? Is that a gift you would want? (Yes!) Who would refuse such a gift? (People who don't think it is real.)
What did Jesus say you had to do to GET that gift? ("believe" v26)
Now... pass around the box and invite everyone to take out an eternal life candy and munch on it. Invite them to say, "I believe in Jesus and in the resurrection."
Finally, tell one student or helper to "play along with you." Keep offering them the gift box of eternal life candies, and keep having them REFUSE the gift. Keep offering, and ask, "When will Jesus give up on you?" (Never). "How long does Jesus have to keep asking you? (a really long time!—even after you die according to some scriptures). The point is: Jesus is generous, forgiving, and UNWILLING TO GIVE UP on anyone—even in the face of a million "no's" to finally get that one amazing and heartfelt "yes, I believe." (Now ask the person to say they believe, and let them have the candy.)
Let's offer a prayer of thanks for eternal candies and Jesus never giving up on us. Amen!
For Younger Students and those short on time: If you have 'young' 1st graders or a short class time and need to shorten the video viewing time. you can skip the first three chapters and start at about the 9-minute mark, just when Lazarus tells Simon that he has found someone to heal him. Provide some introductory comments about "where we're dropping into the story." If you need to cut more out of the video, start it at the end of chapter 6, the song montage that takes you into Jesus visiting Mary, Martha, and Lazarus' house.
More Video Options
An Alternate and Shorter Animated Option
The "Superbook" animated "Lazarus Lives!" video is worthy of note. Its four pertinent Lazarus clips can be viewed online for free at Superbook's site. All totaled, they are about 7 minutes long. We didn't choose this video because it is rather short for a Video Workshop lesson, and the longer Nest video is a little better at telling a more compelling story.
[To find the Superbook videos on their site, look at the web address we have typed on this graphic here on the right (click it). When you get to their page, click "all clips" link and scroll down to find the Lazarus clips.]
Two Short "Live Actor" Choices
Both of these are short but well-done. Gospel of John uses the Good News translation and looks more "you are there," whereas Jesus of Nazareth uses the KJV.
Gospel of John (Visual Bible). Good drama. Easy to understand Good News Translation. The DVD has many other good scenes suitable for other stories. For grades 2 and up we have a built-in bias for "live actor" or animated retellings. Gospel of John is also word-for-word without any "imagined" scenes or dialog. See the end of this lesson for more video notes.
"Jesus of Nazareth" While preparing this lesson, we had the opportunity to get reacquainted with this venerable film which also has a good retelling of the Lazarus story. It's dramatic, but also in the KJV and the portrayal of Jesus is more sullen. A preview of the movie and scene can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/D0M7vvX6__M.
Written by the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2018, Rotation.org Inc.