Ethos Education

Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife: Who do Christians believe Jesus is?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of what Christians believe about the identity of Jesus.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon how we establish someone’s identity.
  • Reflect on the way that unexpected or unusual behaviour can lead to a reassessment of another person.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine what Jesus’ first followers thought about him.
  • Analyse Bible passages to compare Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah with episodes from Jesus’ life.
  • Synthesise learning by writing fictitious diary entries for one of Jesus’ disciples.

STARTER:

Tell the students that you want them to guess the identity of someone famous that you are thinking of. They are only allowed to ask questions that can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Each time they ask a question that gets a ‘no’ answer, they lose a life and a new student takes over the questioning. If a question gets a ‘yes’ answer, the student who asked it carries on. Students can choose to pass rather than asking further questions. Either give the class a total of twenty lives with which to discover the celebrity, or give them one life for each student (so that everyone can have a turn).

Choose one (or more, if you want to play more than one round) of the following celebrities. You may find it helpful to check up on their biographies beforehand, so that you know the answers to any questions asked. We have provided links to the relevant Wikipedia pages:

You could, of course, choose any celebrity who you are already knowledgeable about, and who you would be more confident in fielding questions about. Try to pick someone who is likely to be well known to the students, not just to you.

Ask the students what made the game easy or difficult. Point out that it may be easy trying to work out who an unknown person is, but it can be more difficult trying to discover something about someone’s real identity – not just their name, but who they really are. Explain that in this lesson you are going to be thinking about what Christians believe about who Jesus is, and how his first disciples might have felt as they began to draw conclusions about his identity.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the Doctor Who episode the Doctor’s Wife, which is available on disc 1 of the DVD set Doctor Who Series 6: part 1 (BBC DVD, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the Doctor has answered a distress call from another Time Lord, only to find that his Tardis mysteriously powered down once he had landed. This clip takes place shortly after he discovers that the distress call was a trick. The Doctor goes to see a strange woman who correctly predicted that ‘the boxes will make you angry’. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the contrast between the woman’s physical body and her true nature.

  • Start time:       0.15.41 (beginning of chapter 6 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.18.49
  • Clip length:     3 minutes and 8 seconds

The clip starts with the Doctor asking, ‘How did you know about the boxes? You said they’d make me angry, how did you know?’ It ends with the Doctor shouting into his mobile phone, saying, ‘Amy! Amy, Rory – get the hell out of there!’

Make sure that the students all understand what was going on in the episode: somehow the ‘soul of the Tardis’ was removed and placed in the body of an unfortunate woman called Idris. Despite having a frail human body – which, in the course of the episode, proves inadequate for the task, and begins to fail and die – the woman also demonstrates a far-from human consciousness. She constantly refers to things that haven’t yet happened and shows a lack of understanding of many human concerns. Ask the students to list the arguments they could use to prove that Idris was human, then ask them to list the arguments they could use to prove that she wasn’t. Ask them whether Idris/Tardis should or shouldn’t be considered human.

Explain that there is a case for saying that Idris/Tardis is both human and Tardis at the same time. Physically, she is entirely human, but the consciousness inside her body is very different. Explain that this has similarities with a key Christian belief about Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus was fully God, but that when he was born he also became fully human. This doesn’t mean that he gave up his divine nature when he was born, rather he was simultaneously fully God and fully human.

Read through Matthew 16:13-16 with the students (alternatively, you could use one of the parallel passages: Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-21). Whichever account you use, ask the students why they think that Peter was so confident in his reply to Jesus’ second question. Draw out that Peter and the other disciples had by this time been following Jesus for (probably) a couple of years by this point. They had ample opportunity to get to know him, to listen to his teaching and to witness his miracles. Do the students think that Peter’s answer is a surprising one? How well qualified do they think he was to make such a judgement?

It may be worth pointing out that this incident is a vital moment in the gospel accounts. Structurally, this is a hinge moment or turning point. It marks the end of material which the authors use to establish Jesus’ divinity and the beginning of material intended to emphasise his mission – to be killed on a cross and to rise from the dead.

Give out sets of the Jesus cards to the students. Explain that each set of cards contains some Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah as well as some New Testament passages about Jesus. Working in pairs or small groups, the students have to decide which New Testament passages could be seen to fulfil the Old Testament prophecies. Where a New Testament passage does not appear to have an Old Testament counterpart, the students should summarise why the incident described might make Peter and the disciples come to the conclusion that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

There are five pairs of prophecy / fulfilment passages, plus five accounts of Jesus’ miracles:

  • Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:19-20
  • Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7; Matthew 4:12-17
  • Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:15-21
  • Isaiah 53:4-6; Colossians 1:19-22
  • Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21
  • Luke 8:22-25 (Jesus calms the storm, showing his mastery over nature)
  • Matthew 9:1-8 (Jesus heals a paralytic and forgives him his sins)
  • Mark 1:21-27 (Jesus drives out an evil spirit)
  • John 6:35-40 (Jesus claims to be the bread of life)
  • John 14:1-6 (Jesus claims to be the way, the truth and the life) 

Give the students enough time to complete the task (or as much time as you have available) before bringing them back together to share their answers with the whole class.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write a number of diary entries on behalf of one of Jesus’ disciples (Peter would be an obvious choice, but it doesn’t have to be him. In fact, it doesn’t have to be one of the main twelve disciples – particularly if female students would prefer to write from a feminine perspective). With reference to the passage(s) from gospel accounts already used in the lesson, plus any other appropriate extracts from the gospels that students want to use, they should write diary entries that describe things that Jesus said and did, and the conclusions that the disciples might have drawn from them about Jesus’ identity. You might want to remind them of the Doctor’s question from the film clip:

But why? Why pull the living soul from a Tardis and pop it in a tiny human head? What does it want you for?

Ask the students to make sure that the diary entries address the question of why God might choose to be born as a human.

YOU WILL NEED:

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