Ethos Education

Thor: Why do Christians believe Jesus died and was raised from the dead?

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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 Thor.
  • Analyse Bible passages to identify similarities and differences between Jesus and the film character.
  • Reflect upon the significance of someone proving their worthiness in a clip from Thor.
  • Reflect upon the concept of Jesus being a worthy sacrifice.
  • 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 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 Thor (Paramount, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the son and heir to Odin (Anthony Hopkins), chief of the Norse gods, has shown himself unworthy of his privileged position. As a result, his father has stripped him of his power and sent him to Earth as a normal, mortal human. Meanwhile, Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – whose scheming got Thor in trouble in the first place – has taken over as ruler of Asgard, the domain for the Norse gods. In this scene, Thor and his friends face a lethal robot called the Destroyer, which Loki has sent to Earth. Ask the students to pay particular attention to Thor’s attitude towards the people around him.

  • Start time:       1.18.00 (beginning of chapter 12 of the DVD)
  • End time:         1.23.40
  • Clip length:      5 minutes and 40 seconds

The clip starts with one of the suited government agents seeing the Destroyer and asking, ‘Is that one of Stark’s?’ It ends with Thor dead, the Destroyer walking away and Jane (Natalie Portman) crying over Thor. You can stop the clip anywhere from the time given above to 1.23.58 – make sure you stop it before Odin appears on screen. Please note that the next clip in the lesson begins precisely where this one finishes, so you might prefer to pause the clip here rather than stop it altogether. If you prefer a shorter clip, you could start at 1.21.07, with Thor telling his Asgardian friends, ‘You must return to Asgard. You have to stop Loki.’

Ask the students how they would describe Thor’s attitude towards the people around him. Draw out that he wanted to save the humans, and once it was apparent that his Asgardian friends were unable to defeat the Destroyer, he wanted them to return safely to Asgard. He was willing to be killed in order to turn the Destroyer’s path away from others.

Now ask the students to read one or more of the following Bible passages: Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:21-27. Please note that these are parallel passages, all describing the same event.

Working in pairs or small groups, ask them to identify significant parallels between Jesus’ understanding of his forthcoming death, and Thor’s actions in the film clip.

Draw out that while neither Jesus nor Thor actively wanted to die, both of them were willing to lay down their lives as the only way of saving others. You might also direct the students to Romans 5:6-8, which offers a significant difference between the actions of Jesus and Thor: Thor states in the clip that the people of Earth were innocent; Romans 5 points out that Jesus died despite humanity’s lack of innocence. Explain that Christians believe Jesus’ sacrifice was made in spite of humanity’s failure to deserve rescue, not because of any merit on the part of human beings.

Introduce the second clip from Thor. Explain that this follows immediately after the clip the students saw earlier in the lesson. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the reason for what happens next.

  • Start time:       1.23.40 (or anywhere up to 1.23.58, depending on where you paused the previous clip)
  • End time:         1.26.13
  • Clip length:      2 minutes and 33 seconds

The clip starts with Thor lying dead and the destroyer walking away as Jane cries. The first line is Odin saying, ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy…’ It ends with Jane telling Thor, ‘It’s a good look.’ Please note that this clip includes Jane saying, ‘Oh… my… god!’ which you may feel is inappropriate for some groups.

Ask the students what happened to turn Thor from a dead human to a living god. If need be, remind them of Odin’s words at the start of the clip and draw out that by sacrificing himself for innocent people, Thor proved his worth and had his deity restored to him.

Ask the students to reflect on both parts of the film clip, and the Bible passages they have looked at in this lesson and to summarise the similarities and differences between Thor’s situation and what Christians believe about Jesus.

Similarities:

  • Both died and were then raised to life.
  • Both died for the sake of others who were powerless to help themselves.
  • Both were raised to life, thereafter demonstrating powers beyond the scope of human beings.

Differences:

  • Jesus never surrendered his powers before his death – he remained fully divine even when fully human.
  • Jesus’ sacrifice was for people who had done nothing to deserve mercy and were not innocent.
  • Thor’s return to life was because he had changed and proved himself worthy, at last, of his powers; Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated his worthiness to pay the price for humanity, but he was never previously considered unworthy by God.
  • Jesus didn’t fight with a massive war hammer.

Take feedback from the students and draw out the similarities and differences as above. Explain that Christians believe that while Jesus’ death paid the penalty for human rebellion against God, his resurrection demonstrates that his sacrifice was sufficient to restore humans to friendship with God. Unlike Thor’s situation, there is no suggestion that God sent Jesus to Earth as a punishment, or that he was considered unworthy at any point. The resurrection is the proof of Jesus’ sufficiency to pay the price for humanity, but that proof is for humans’ benefit, to give confidence that faith in Jesus will bring salvation.

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:

  • A set of cards (cut out in advance) from the Swap or Stick worksheets for each group of six students.
  • A copy of Thor on DVD and the means to play it.
  • Bibles.

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