Activity: Build an Empty Tomb

“Noli me tangere” by Fra Angelico, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

An Easter activity for your class or for families to do together

By Michael J. John and Bridget Olson

Easter is the greatest feast the church celebrates. The rich traditions of this paschal season say a lot about why we call ourselves “Easter” people. Help those you teach see the true meaning of Easter by breaking open the word and sharing the Scriptures with them in a creative way as they build an empty tomb.


Large brown paper
grocery bags
Masking tape/duct tape
White cloth
Artificial plants or real plants


Cut the bags into rectangles


  • Show a picture of the kind of tomb that was used in the time of Jesus.
  • Demonstrate how to crumple the bags to give the appearance of rocks.
  • Staple the bags together to form a large mass of rock in the shape of an arch. Attach the “rock formation” in a corner of the room or around a door frame, using strong masking tape or duct tape.
  • Leave space for an opening to the tomb.
  • Place some artificial or real plants around the base of the tomb or artificial moss in various spots on the tomb.
  • Place a white cloth on the ground just inside the tomb.


Gather the students in front of the tomb. Read the resurrection account from the Gospel of John. Break it up in three parts if possible.

PART 1: JOHN 20:1-10

Questions for Part 1

  • Have you ever seen something but found it hard to believe? What made you believe it?
  • How would you feel if you went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty? Who would you run to tell? What might you do?

PART 2: JOHN 20:11-18

Questions for Part 2

  • How do you think Mary of Magdala felt? Why did she not recognize Jesus?
  • Do you think Jesus had changed? How?
  • What made Mary of Magdala recognize him finally?

PART 3: JOHN 20:19-31

Questions for Part 3

  • Why were the doors locked to the room where the disciples were gathered?
  • How did the disciples come to know it was Jesus?
  • Who was missing from the gathered disciples?


Oh Risen Lord, you conquered death and rose from the dead. You are alive forever more. Help us to remember that you are with us always. Risen Lord, help us to open our hearts to you this Easter. We pray you find us waiting eagerly for you. Amen.

Quick Facts About Easter

  • ‘Paschal mystery’ refers to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
  • The word ‘paschal’ comes from the Jewish word for Passover, pesach.
  • Passover celebrates Moses’ leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
  • Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, saved Christians from the ‘slavery’ of sin and continues to lead Christians to this day to the ‘freedom’ of God’s love.
  • Easter focuses on the themes of new beginnings, freedom, and enlightenment. Symbols that represent these themes include:
    Water — holy water used to sprinkle the congregation at Easter and baptisms
    Light — fire, lighting the new Easter candle
    Oil of Catechumens (anointing during Baptism)
    Oil of Chrism (anointing during Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination)
    Oil of the Sick (Anointing of the Sick)
  • The date for Easter will vary each year. The date is based on lunar and solar cycles that usher in springtime. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (this happens either on March 19, 20, or 21 every year).
Excerpted from 30 Creative Classroom Crafts, Lessons, and Prayers, by Michael J. John and Bridget Olson. Copyright 2018. Published by Twenty-Third Publications and available through Used with permission. All rights reserved.

All content copyright © Today’s Catholic Teacher/ All rights reserved. May be reproduced for classroom/parish use with full attribution as long as the content is unaltered from its original form. To request permission to reprint online, email