Jesus - was he for real?
A "tricky" believer
Two Apostles "lay on"(give) the Spirit
Simon's envious offer to buy
Peter's angry rejection
The b(v)anished magician??
Preparation: You must know the story well enough to tell it in your own words without notes. Practice it aloud, in front of a mirror.
You will need a couple of "magic tricks". Try a "magic or joke" shop or look in the library for a book on magic tricks. These need not be elaborate, just be sure to practice them so you can do them smoothly. While you are preparing think about Simon, a masterful and powerful illusionist, and his skill at manipulation of people, sleight of hand and deception. What kind of frame of mind would this trickster have towards the Apostles and what they were doing? What kind of envy would he have towards those who could do the "real thing?
A Suggested Introduction: Arrange the Children around you in a circle. Pull out a Magician's Hat and tell the children "it's magic". Put it on and proceed to attempt a couple of "magic" tricks. The children will either want to know how it it done, or having figured it out will want everyone else to know they "know." Don't be flustered if you blow a trick. then putting the tricks away out of sight, proceed with the story in your own words. Tell it dramatically using the skills of a storyteller.
Transition: "There are some really great illusionists and perhaps you have seen some of their tricks on TV. The Great Blackstone and David Copperfield for instance. Today I want to tell you the story of a very great magician named Simon. He was much better at magic tricks than me, and many people thought he could really do magic.
"Long ago in Bible times, Simon was a Magician in the land of Samaria, which was between Judea and Galilee. The people there were very superstitious and Simon knew some really clever tricks.
"He loved the amazement and applause of the crowds when he did one of his tricks. And he had many tricks too. He had learned his tricks from some very good magician and paid others to tell him their secrets. He would do some of his magic tricks and people would pay him gold to do magic for them. It was so easy to make people think he could heal people, or change pot metal to gold. It was so easy for him to make people think he could really curse someone for them, or remove a hex that had been placed by another. It was so easy to make them think he was telling them their fortune.
"Simon got very rich doing his tricks. He dressed in bright and expensive silk and Satin robes, in which he concealed his trickery. He was very proud of himself. He knew that In all the land of Samaria there was not a greater or more clever Sorceror than he.
"But one day a man came to Samaria who didn't look like a wizard at all. He didn't even call himself a magician. But he was getting more attention than Simon. Crowds would gather to hear him speak about someone named Jesus who had even raised himself from the dead, a trick Simon hadn't dared to try.
"And this man Philip, for that was his name, was doing some mighty powerful magic. He was casting out demons and healing the sick, and doing wonderous things all in the name of Jesus.
"Now Simon had always been curious about other magicians. And he was no longer the center of attention in Samaria, which really bothered him. Who would hire him to do magic, if there was a more powerful magician around? Simon even thought perhaps he could expose this magician Philip as a fraud. A master of tricks, Simon was sure he would know how this magic was being done.
"Simon put on some ordinary clothing so Philip would not know that Simon was spying on him and as the crowd gathered around Philip, Simon slipped into their midst.
"Philip was telling about this man Jesus. He said he was God's Son. He told about the wonderful things Jesus had done. He had cast out Satan's demons, and healed people who were incurable. He had made blind men see and lame men walk. God had show him to be his son by these miracles. He had even raised a man called Lazarus from the dead, three days after he had been buried.
"Now Simon was impressed, this man Jesus must have done some mighty magic to have people believing this.
"But Philip was still talking. He told how the Jews in Jerusalem had insisted he be crucified because he refused to become their King and they were jealous of him. Simon thought sadly about how fickle an audience could be. Perhaps this Jesus wasn't so great a magician after all.
"Philip told about how the Roman Soldiers had nailed him to a cross and how Jesus forgave them for what they were doing. He told them how the sky turned black and the earth shook as he died. He said Jesus died for peoples' sins. Simon wasn't sure what to think about this. His whole life had been filled with decieving people and lies. Would Jesus die for his many sins?
"Philip told how the towb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. How even the disciples had forgotten how Jesus had fortold his death and resurrection. Then Philip excitedly told about how Peter and John had found the empty tomb. How Jesus had appeared and showed Thomas who doubted the nail marks in his hands. Simon was amazed. Never had he heard of such a trick? For a moment he began to think, perhaps this man was telling the truth, and Jesus really was God's son, had died for sinners and had rose from the dead. How could anyone fake so public a death. But just as quickly he shook his head. It's got to be a trick, he thought.
"And now cryed out Philip, "Repent and believe the good news. While we were still lost in our sins, God sent us His Son Jesus to save us. Jesus rose into heaven and is now Lord." Simon wanted to believe, but back in the corner of his mind he still doubted.
"Then Philip started praying with people in the crowd. Simon tried to spot a trick, but it all appeared very real. People were healed. Demons were cast out screaming. People were amazed and filled with wonder.
"Simon decided that "if you can't beat em, you better join them." He was envious of Philip, and the response of the crowds. He wanted to learn the secret to what Philip was doing. Maybe, just maybe, he could become a preacher too. So as many in the crowd believed in Jesus, he too "believed". And Simon stayed with Philip as he travelled around Samaria, preaching about Jesus. Simon travelled around with Philip and helped him. Time and time again Simon saw Philip do wonderful things in Jesus' name. And never once could he catch him playing a trick on the crowds.
"One day Philip made an important announcment. Peter and John, the Apostles, would be coming from Jerusalem. They wanted to meet with the new believers and hear them tell about their faith in Jesus. These men were the pastors of the church. Philip wanted them to meet the believers in Samaria.
"Simon was very excited. These men had been with Jesus. Maybe he could get them to tell him Jesus' secrets.
"When Peter and John arrived. They began to meet with the believers. And God did a wonderful thing. Just like the day of Pentacost, as Peter laid his hands on people and prayed for them, God poured out the Spirit. God wanted the Apostles to know for sure that Jesus was welcoming these Samaritans into the church. There was great rejoicing.
"Simon was excited too. But for a different reason. He thought he knew how Peter did it. It must be something in the way he laid his hands on people as they prayed. And once he knew the secret, he could do it too and people would once again think he was a great magician. He checked his pocket to make sure his bag of gold coins was still there. He walked up to Peter. Peter looked at him and asked him if he believed in Jesus. Simon said he did. Peter smiled.
"Then Simon said to Peter. "I have a special request." "What is your request?", said Peter. "I would like to be able to do what you do, and lay my hands on people and give them the Holy Spirit." Simon said. He fumbled his bag of gold out of his pocket. "I am willing to pay you for the secret."
"Peter looked at him with a angry look on his face. After all this man had claimed to be a believer. Now he wanted to buy the power to give the Holy Spirit like some magic trick from a magician's shop. Did he think that he could buy God's free gift with money. God wants repentence and faith.
"May your money die with you for thinking you can buy God's gift with money. You can have no part in this ministry. Your heart is not right with God. Repent and pray to God for forgiveness. I can see your heart is bitter and filled with sin."
"And Simon knew he was right. He had been jealous of Philip and the Apostles. He had tried to buy God's power. He was angry he couldn't be an Apostle too. Now he would have to leave the church. And he was afraid God would strike him down for what he had done.
"So he begged Peter to pray for him, that God might not strike him down. But he was too proud to ask God for forgiveness. Now just maybe, he did turn from his sin and believe. The Bible doesn't tell us what happened to him. But maybe since the Bible tells us no more about him, he continued in his magic, doing his tricks, claiming to have God's power. And if he did, we know that neither his money and his magic could save him from his sin."
Here is a tale full of atmosphere and charged with tension. There are a lot of dramatic elements that call for the skillful use of storytelling techniques.
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