Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

April 1, 2010

Easter/Resurrection Lesson Plan: Compare and Contrast the Gospel Accounts of the Resurrection

The following lesson is taken, in part, from the Teacher’s Wraparound Edition of the forthcoming Jesus Christ: Source of Our Salvation, the third book in the Jesus Christ series that is in accordance with the first three courses of the USCCB Curriculum Framework for high school age students.


1. Divide the class into four groups (or eight groups) and assign each group one of the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection/empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). Have the students read the Gospel account of the Resurrection together. Then, have them work together to create summaries of the events as they are portrayed in their Gospel to present to the class. Students may consider creating PowerPoint Presentations, poster boards, timelines, or short plays.

2. Invite each group to present their summaries to the class. While the groups are presenting have the students in the audience list the differences they notice between their Gospel and the Gospels of the other presentations.

3. Before looking at each Gospel account in detail, discuss the presentations and the major differences they noticed. Create a list with the class of the things that were in all of the accounts. Then, create a list including the parts of the accounts that are not found in all of the Gospels.

4. Distribute copies of all three accounts to each student (see http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/index.shtml). Have them lay out the readings side-by-side on their desks. Invite them to underline the similarities in all of the texts. Then, have them circle the differences in each of the Gospel accounts.

5. Based on their findings, edit the lists of similarities and differences created in response to the group activities.

6. In closing, discuss the following:
  • What can we know about Jesus’ resurrection based on the Gospel similarities? (responses may include: it occurred on the first day of the week [Sunday], Mary Magdalene and other women were some of the first to witness the empty tomb and the Risen Jesus, Jesus would appear to the disciples and others after the Resurrection)
  • What do the differences indicate about what we can know about the Resurrection? (Jesus either appeared to the disciples in Galilee or Jerusalem)
  • What historical evidence would the early Christians have had that the Resurrection actually occurred based on the accounts? (eye witnesses and the empty tomb)
  • Why would the disciples have seen this as a truly significant event? (responses may include: it confirmed Jesus’ teachings, fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament, and promised their own resurrection)
  • If there is time, place the major differences in the context of each of the Evangelists’ Gospels. Matthew hoped to show the historical accuracy of the event against the rumor that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body. Mark intended for the reader/audience to hear and act on the message of the Risen Christ while the witnesses to the empty tomb were too fearful to act. Luke, who also wrote Acts, wished to show that the missionary Church began in Jerusalem and spread to the whole world. And in John, wished to place higher significance on Peter and the Beloved Disciple in the Resurrection account.
Taken, in part, from: 


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