He entered on a donkey — Weekly Christian ed lesson

In this lesson, children will explore Mark 11:1-11 noticing how Jesus redefines power.

Photo by TS Sergey on Unsplash

Lesson background

It’s the Sunday before Easter and many of us are starting to think through all of the details of that special day. What are we going to make for our family Easter dinner? Do the kids’ nice Easter Sunday outfits from last year still fit? Where did we store the good baskets for the Easter Bunny to fill with candy? We go above and beyond to make this day special through fancy outfits and special foods. But Palm Sunday is about the ordinary: Jesus on a colt and people creating a pathway with leaves cut off nearby trees and their cloaks. Yet in that very ordinary scene, an extraordinary thing begins. In this lesson, children will explore Mark 11:1-11 noticing how Jesus redefines power.

What you will need

  • A Bible
  • A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, “Children’s Pageant Gone Hilariously Awry” video
  • Palm Sunday today: Chart paper and markers (optional)
  • Power in Simplicity: blank 8 ½”x11” paper, papers, magazines, newspapers pulled from the recycling bin, glue sticks, and pencils (optional)
  • Waving our native bouquets: small, downed tree branches, leaves, greenery (select items that are common to your area), twine, and hot glue guns (optional)

Starting out

Greet the children as they arrive.

Tell the children that you will be showing them a video of a Christmas pageant, a reenactment of the story of Jesus’ birth by a group of children. Show the “Children’s Pageant Gone Hilariously Awry.”

After watching the video, ask:

  • What happened in the video that was different than the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible?
  • How did you react when the girls began fighting over where the baby Jesus should be?

Note that the pageant certainly wasn’t supposed to involve a sheep taking baby Jesus out of the manger so she could hold him, but the moment was sweet. The child playing the sheep really wanted to hold Jesus and looked quite pleased with herself when she was able to carry him around. Sometimes the unexpected helps us see things in a different light.

Hearing and exploring the story

Prepare to read aloud Mark 11:1-11.

Provide the children with context for the reading:

  • This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of Mark.
  • Jesus and his disciples arrive at the city of Jerusalem. They are there in the holy city to celebrate Passover, the Jewish holiday remembering when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Many people would have traveled to the city to worship in the Temple and celebrate this important holiday.
  • The city of Jerusalem was under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Romans had conquered many lands and placed their officials in leadership in these places. Jerusalem was one of these places. It was also the holy city for the Jewish people. Their Temple was there and it was in the Temple where they made offerings to God and felt the closest to God. Judaism was not the religion of Rome, but the Temple was allowed to continue operation as long as it did not cause problems for the Roman government.
  • When a Roman ruler would enter a city under Roman rule, he would often arrive with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. He would ride in on a chariot led by strong horses. People were expected to stand along the streets celebrating his arrival. This was especially true for the emperor, who was the “king” of the Roman Empire.
  • In the story, people will call out to Jesus as he arrives in Jerusalem. They use the word hosanna. This word means “save, we pray.” It is both a cry for help and a cry of celebration as many believed Jesus was there to save the people.

Read aloud Mark 11:1-11.

After reading the story ask,

  • How was Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem different from that of a Roman ruler?
  • How did people react to Jesus’ arrival?
  • Why do you think Jesus chose to come into the city in an ordinary way?
  • Why do you think people were gathered to greet Jesus as he came into the city? Why do you think they called “Hosanna…” to him?
  • How do you think people in power (the Roman rulers and the temple leaders) felt when they saw the reaction to Jesus’ arrival?
  • What do you think Jesus thought about the people’s reactions?

Connecting the story to our lives

To help the children connect the story to their own lives and experiences, invite them to engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • Palm Sunday today — Gather the supplies you’ll need for this activity: Chart paper and markers. Re-read Mark 11:1-11 asking the children to imagine the story happening today. After reading, plan a modern retelling of the story. Ask the following questions and write the children’s responses on chart paper. Encourage them to brainstorm freely and then go back and select the best answers for each question:
    • Where would the story take place? Where are people suffering and in need of help?
    • What ordinary “vehicle” would Jesus ride on/in as he came into the area?
    • Who would be gathered to greet Jesus?
    • What would they lay down on the ground to create a pathway?
    • What would the people shout as Jesus arrived?

If time allows, have the children act out their modern retelling of the Palm Sunday story.

  • Power in simplicity — Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: blank 8 ½-inch x 11-inch paper, papers, magazines, newspapers pulled from the recycling bin, glue sticks, and pencils. Remind the children that the people gathered to greet Jesus used ordinary materials (palm leaves and their cloaks) to create a pathway. They were honoring him using what was at their disposal. Hand each child a sheet of blank paper and a pencil. Ask them to write “hosanna” on the paper so that the word fills the sheet. Then, provide them with recycled paper. Have them tear the recycled paper into small pieces that they will glue on the letters so that they are covered with recycled paper. Discuss how the word comes to life on the page when it is covered with ordinary, discarded paper.
  • Waving our native bouquets — Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: small downed tree branches, leaves, greenery (select items that are common to your area), twine, and hot glue guns. Remind the children that the palm leaves people waved and placed on the road as Jesus arrived were native to that area. People likely would have cut them from nearby trees. Have the children create “bouquets” of local, native sticks, leaves, and other greenery. Wrap the stems with pieces of twine and hot glue the twine to keep it in place, if necessary. Re-read verses 9-10 of the story while children wave their bouquets.

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