Object Lessons for Each Sunday of Lent
Sights and Sounds of Lent
First Sunday in Lent
Object: A bag of "silver" coins
Scriptures: Luke 22:1–6, Matthew 26:47–50, 27:1–10
[Have someone in the back clink coins together and toss out onto a table.]
Listen! Someone is counting out coins. Big coins, coins that are probably worth lots of money. From the way they ring, they sound like silver coins….Maybe even real silver, solid silver.
Listen! They’re talking about how many coins there should be. Hmm, I wonder what they could be buying that’s worth so many coins?
[Hidden voice: "How much will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?"]
Oh, oh, is that the voice of Judas I hear? You mean, it’s Jesus they are bargaining about?
[Hidden voice: "Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty. I count thirty pieces of silver here. Okay then, it’s a deal. I will find a way to hand him over to you."]
Oh, come on! Thirty pieces of silver? Certainly Jesus is worth far more than that? Then again, why would anyone want to betray Jesus?
[Put pouch of coins on display in front of the cross.]
Second Sunday in Lent
Object: A torn robe
Scriptures: Matthew 26:57–68
[Hold up a colorful piece of cloth, then tear it.]
Now that sure is a strange sound. Why would anyone tear his clothes like that? Especially a high priest, who has such elegant robes! He must be very angry! I wonder why?
[Hidden voice: "He’s angry because Jesus told him the truth!"]
You mean to tell me the high priest is upset with Jesus?
[Hidden voice: "I heard what happened. The high priest asked Jesus if he was really the Son of God, and Jesus said, ‘Yes, it’s as you say.’ Jesus spoke the truth, and now the high priest is angry."]
I guess people get upset sometimes when they hear the truth. And I suppose that means that sometimes people lie so that other folks won’t get angry with them. But that’s not right. Jesus told the truth, and so should you and I.
The high priest should have known better.
[Put cloth on display in front of the cross, next to the pouch of coins.]
Third Sunday in Lent
Object: A basin of water
Scriptures: John 18:28–19:16; Matthew 27: 24–25
[Hold the basin in one hand and use the other hand to cup the water and let it fall back into the basin.]
I hear water splashing again. Only this time it’s not at somebody’s baptism, and it’s not water being turned into wine. Those were times when people were happy to have Jesus in their lives.
No, this time I hear Pontius Pilate washing his hands. He says this means he will have nothing to do with Jesus’ death. But that’s not true. Who is he trying to fool? He’s just trying to save his own neck.
Doesn’t Pilate know that you can’t fool God? Doesn’t he realize that you can’t hide from the truth just by washing your hands?
Sometimes you and I act like Pilate did. We pretend something isn’t our fault when it really is. But we can’t fool God. God knows every time we do something wrong, every time we "mess up."
But you know something wonderful? God doesn’t wash his hands of you and me. He keeps forgiving us—even when we hide from the truth like Pilate did. We belong to him, and he will never let go of us.
[Place basin of water on display next to the cloth.]
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Object: A whip
Scriptures: John 18:28–19:16
[Take the whip and smack it against a brick wall or some other hard surface to produce a loud sound. Be careful!]
Oh, it sounds so harsh! The whip…beating Jesus over and over and over again. Every blow of the whip must hurt so terribly! Why are they doing it?
Why don’t they stop? Don’t they realize they are making a big mistake? Why would they set free a criminal like Barabbas and have you beaten and crucified?
Why don’t you stop them, Jesus? They are the ones who deserve to be whipped, not you. They are the ones who are doing what is wrong. Lord, it hurts to see you abused like this. Why don’t you give them a whipping? [pause]
Wait a second. Now I understand. You aren’t going to whip them because then you would have to give us a whipping, too, wouldn’t you? We’re no better than they are; we’re sinners too.
It isn’t easy, Lord, but we’re listening…to hear how much you suffered in our place, what you endured for us.
[Place whip in the display area with the other items.]
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Object: Hammer and nails
Scriptures: Luke 23:26–34
[Take a short piece of wood and hammer three large nails partway into the wood.]
This is a sound that pierces our hearts and souls; it’s the sound of the hammer striking the nails that were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet. The sound of this hammer is loud and cruel. It echoes in our ears…and in our heads…and through our bodies. Every time we imagine hearing another hammer blow, we shudder. This is a sound we’d rather not hear. And every time we imagine the nails entering his flesh, we wince. This is a sight we’d rather not see.
But these are the sights and sounds that Jesus was waiting for. A long time ago, he had told his disciples that he would be "lifted up from the earth."
That time had now come.
Lord, we want to turn away from these thoughts. But we can’t and we mustn’t. You said that when you were lifted up, you would draw all people to yourself. Well, it’s working, Lord. Like a magnet you hung to that cross…and, in spite of ourselves, in spite of our sorrow and shame, by your Word and Spirit we are being drawn to you…as tightly as if nails were fastening and holding us to you.
[Put the wood with nails driven into it in the display area with the other object]
Sixth Sunday of Lent
Object: Palm branches
Scriptures: Matthew 21:1–11
[Snap some of the branches in half, waving others to make a swishing sound.]
Listen to the snap as people break off palm branches. Listen to the swish as they wave them about like so many flags at a parade. Listen to the swoosh as they put some of them on the ground. And listen to the clip-clop as the donkey walks over them. I wish I had something to wave.
Wait a minute. I do have something to wave! [Wave your hand to the congregation and encourage them to wave back to you.]
I have my hand. When something needs to be done—especially something Jesus might approve of—I can wave my hand and volunteer.
[Place palm branches in the display area with the other object.]
Scriptures: Matthew 27:32–44, John 19:23–24
[Use large dice (visible to whole congregation) and drop them gently a few times and announce the numbers that come up.]
They took away everything you had, didn’t they, Jesus? Only five days earlier, on the Sunday before your crucifixion, the people welcomed you into Jerusalem, shouting, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Many spread palm branches before you, treating you like a triumphant warrior. Others took their own robes and spread them out in front of you, a gesture of honor and praise.
But now, here they are hurling insults. They are taking away everything you have, even your dignity. You once said that, unlike the birds that have nests and animals that have dens, you didn’t really have a place to lay your head. But you did have the clothes on your back. And now those are being taken away too, as the soldiers throw dice and gamble for your garments.
And so you gave up everything—everything you owned—to be our Savior. I wonder what we’re willing to give up for you….
[Put the dice in the display area.]