The following is an Easter assembly for use in secondary schools that has a focus on the cross as a symbol of hope.
To explain that Easter is more than chocolate eggs, and to explore the idea that bad things (like a torture implement) can be used for good.
Introduce yourself and the theme of the assembly. Explain that Easter is just around the corner, so you are going to be looking at the symbols of the season!
Game: Match the egg
In advance, find out the favourite chocolate egg of three teachers in the school (make sure they are different ones). Buy two of each of those eggs and bring them to the assembly. Ask the three teachers to come up the front and allow students to guess which egg is the favourite of each teacher. When someone guesses correctly, they can have one of those eggs and the teacher may keep the other.
As the last teacher/egg will be very obvious, you may want to include an extra “red herring” egg to make the game more challenging!
Eggs, rabbits and even lambs are symbols of Easter because they represent new life. Christians use these symbols because it helps them to remember Jesus being raised from the dead and having New Life.Â However the most powerful symbol associated with Easter is actually a piece of torture equipment!
Briefly explain about the use of the cross as a public humiliation and torture for criminals. There is a good explanation on www.allaboutjesuschrist.org here. Take care to assess the level of your audience and not go into too much detail. The following is an edited version from the website:
Crucifixion sometimes began with a scourging or flogging of the victimâ€™s back. The Romans used a whip called a flagrum, which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands.Â After the flogging, the victim was often forced to carry his own crossbar, or patibulum, to the execution site.
Once the victim arrived at the execution site, the patibulum was put on the ground and the victim was forced to lie upon it and spikes about 7 inches long were driven into the wrists.Â The patibulum was then lifted on to the upright post, or stipes, and the victimâ€™s body was awkwardly turned on the seat so that the feet could be nailed to the stipes. Â The position of the nailed body held the victimâ€™s rib cage in a fixed position, which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath.
Ultimately, the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. To breathe, the victim was forced to push up on his feet to allow for inflation of the lungs. As the body weakened and pain in the feet and legs became unbearable, the victim was forced to trade breathing for pain and exhaustion. Eventually, the victim would succumb in this way, becoming utterly exhausted or lapsing into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the stipes and inflate his lungs.
You can read more about the various medical effects of Jesus’ crucifixion on Wikipedia.
Tell the audience that the cross is a symbol of pain, torture and death. Yet what should be a terrible and scary thing, now gives hope to millions! Something bad has become something good.
Change the atmosphere by telling the story of head teacher Philip Lawrence. Mr Lawrence was tragically stabbed outside his school in 1995 when going to the aid of a pupil who was being attacked. He later died in hospital. Â However, 2 years after his death, his family started the Philip Lawrence Awards in his memory to reward outstanding achievements in good citizenship by young people aged 11 to 20. Every year they recognise contributions to the community which bring out the best in young people, empower them to take the initiative and make a real difference to their lives and the lives of others â€“ building confidence, promoting safety and reducing crime.
You can read more about the Philip Lawrence Awards atÂ philiplawrenceawards.net.
Out of something bad, something good has happened!
In 66 books, hundreds of stories, poems and thoughts, the bible is one long theme of how something bad became something good. The cross is the main symbol of that hope.
Most historians agree that there was a man called Jesus who lived and was killed around 2000 years ago. Christians believe that Jesus was killed for everyone. He died and rose again bringing new life. He took on death and said that we can live because He died.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.Â But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Â Romans 5:7-8
Ask these questions as an end to the assembly. Challenge the young people to think about their own response to the symbol of the cross.
- Have you ever experienced something bad turn into something good?
- Do you think death can turn into life?
- What does the symbol of the cross mean to you?