Ethos Education

The Hunger Games: What is the significance of Jesus’ death?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of what Christians believe about the identity of Jesus.
  • Consider key moments in the ministry of Jesus.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the difficulty of assessing relative values of things.
  • Analyse the reasons behind an act of sacrifice by a character in a clip from the film The Hunger Games.
  • Analyse Bible passages to identify similarities and differences between Jesus, Peter and characters from the film.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a newspaper article about Jesus’ attitude towards his death.

STARTER:

Put the students into groups of six, and give each group a pack of cards from the Swap or Stick worksheet. You will need to have cut the cards out in advance of the lesson, and you will have to give them to the students face down. Ask the students to each take one card and to make sure that no one else in their group of six sees their card.

Explain that the aim of the game is to finish up with one of the two most valuable possessions. The only problem is that you don’t know what the six possessions are, so you can’t be sure if yours is one of the more or less valuable objects.

Decide for each group who is player 1 (tell them that it’s the one whose surname comes first alphabetically, or some other arbitrary way of deciding). Play moves clockwise around the group, and each player has the choice to stick with their card, or to steal the card of the next player, swapping it with their own. Once everyone has had a go, each player has the opportunity to lock down the card they are now holding before a second and final round takes place. In the first round, there is nothing you can do to protect your card; if you choose to lock down, then nobody can take your card from you. Any player sitting to the right of someone who has chosen to lock down is also stuck with whatever card they are holding as they have no one to steal from.

After two complete rounds of swapping and sticking, ask the students to reveal their cards and find out which two players were the winners.

Here are the items on the cards:

  • A replica football shirt: £50
  • A large pepperoni pizza: £15
  • A DVD: £10
  • A pack of playing cards: £2
  • A pint of milk: 50p
  • A beautiful sunset: priceless (and, in this game, of no value)

At the end of the game, ask the students if anyone made any swaps that they were particularly pleased with. Ask if anyone made a swap that they regretted afterwards. Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about exchanging things of value, and in particular thinking about how the concept of giving up something precious helps us to understand what Christians believe about Jesus’ death.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the film The Hunger Games (Lionsgate, 2012, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the film is set in an imagined future world several years after a civil war. As the clip explains (if you use the full version suggested below) one of the ways that the governing authority maintains its control over the outer districts is by making two young people from each district take part in a brutal fight to the death with the other districts’ champions each year. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what happens when the champions are chosen and to the emotions felt by the main characters in the scene.

  • Start time:       0.09.41 (beginning of chapter 3 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.16.09
  • Clip length:      6 minutes and 28 seconds

The clip starts with children and young people walking slowly into the town square. The first line is Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) comforting her sister Primrose (Willow Shields), saying, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay.’ The last line is Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) saying, ‘…and now for the boys.’ If you prefer a shorter clip, start at 0.13.22 (when Effie says, ‘I just love that’ after the propaganda film). This shorter clip will mean that there is no explanation of what everyone is doing, so you will have to explain it to the students beforehand.

Ask the students why they think Katniss volunteered to represent District 12. Did she want to take part in the Games? What was her motivation for putting herself forward? How do they imagine that Primrose felt about Katniss’ actions? Draw out Katniss’ love for Primrose as the most likely motivating factor, and the mixed feelings that Primrose seems to experience: relief at not having to face near-certain death, and fear that her sister will now be exposed to the fate that was meant for her.

Now ask the students to read one or more of the following Bible passages: Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-9:1. Please note that these are parallel passages, both describing the same event.

Working in pairs or small groups, ask them to identify significant parallels between Jesus’ understanding of his forthcoming death, and Katniss’ actions in the film clip. Ask them to also identify any significant differences between the two.

Draw out that while neither Jesus nor Katniss actively wanted to die, both of them were willing to lay down their lives as the only way of saving others. The main difference is that Jesus knew that he was going to be killed and was willingly going to his death, whereas Katniss was willingly putting herself in a situation where she would almost – the key word – certainly be killed, and would continue to do everything she could to stay alive. The other main differences are that Katniss acts impulsively, whereas Jesus speaks of something that he has presumably known he will do for some time; and that Jesus knew that after his death, he would be raised to life.

Ask the students to look back at the Bible passage and think about Peter’s reaction to what Jesus says about facing death in Jerusalem. In what ways do their earlier discussions about Primrose’s reaction to Katniss’ actions help them to understand Peter’s response here? Why does Peter try to talk Jesus out of his plan, and why does Jesus rebuke him so strongly for doing so? Draw out that Peter was focusing only on Jesus’ death and missing the bigger picture of what Jesus’ death was going to achieve. Whereas Katniss’ sacrifice was to save one life, Jesus’ sacrifice was the central part of God’s plan to save and restore the whole world.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write a newspaper article telling the story of Jesus’ decision to go to his death. The article should focus on his awareness of what he was doing and his personal reaction to it. Students should refer to Bible passages used in the lesson as source material, and they can choose whether to set their account after Jesus’ crucifixion, after his resurrection, or before his trial and crucifixion. Regardless of when they choose to set their account, it should reflect their understanding of the respective significance of both Jesus’ death and his resurrection for Christians.

YOU WILL NEED:

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