In high school my husband was part of a theater production bringing to life Jesus’ last days on earth. Later, while in college, he and I returned to his home town and I experienced the play for the first time.
There are many scenes that I remember to this day. Of course the trial and crucifixion were powerful. The resurrection was glorious. But the play didn’t begin there. The play began with Jesus riding a donkey while palm branches were waved in the air and the crowd shouted “Hosanna”, as they were convinced that this man would save them. While they were absolutely correct, He didn’t save them in the way they thought.
In telling this story to children, it is easy to get caught up in the cute green construction-paper palm branches and little voices shouting “Hosanna.” But I think there is more to this story for our children to learn. Here are a few ideas about how to talk to your kids about Palm Sunday.
1. Jesus Cares about the Details
I love these verses from Mark 11:2-3. “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.” The next verse shows the disciples’ obedience and how they found everything just as Jesus said…even down to someone questioning them. Our children need to know that we love a Savior who is intimately involved in the details of our lives.
2. The Events of Palm Sunday Were Prophesied in the Old Testament
The people in the crowd were so excited to see Jesus riding toward them on a donkey. Finally their King had come to save them. But in all reality, they shouldn’t have been surprised because 500 years prior, the Old Testament prophet Zechariah told the Jewish people that their king would ride on a donkey. We don’t know what will happen five minutes from now. But, God does. And He loves us so much that He made a rescue plan clear back in the Old Testament for Jesus to be born in a manger, die, be buried, and rise again.
3. Jesus is Worthy of Our Worship
Surrounded by palm trees, the branches were a symbol of victory and joy. They were used to cheer for important people who rode down the streets. The Jewish people believed Jesus was their king, and they responded by waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna” – but they did not worship Him as their Savior. As parents, we can help our children see that Jesus is our King and Savior, and that He is worthy of our worship! We can point out the blessings in our lives and the characteristics of the God we serve. Admire creation and praise God for its beauty. Listen to praise music and worship together as a family.
4. Worshiping Jesus Can Look Different
Scriptures say that some in the crowd threw their cloaks over the donkey while many laid them on the road. Others spread branches on the road, while those ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” No matter which avenue they chose, they all were worshipping Jesus. Two-thousand years later, our worship is still varied. Some sing while others dance. Some choose to paint while others worship in the beauty of nature. When our hearts are focused on Him, all of it is worship.
5. Jesus Doesn’t Always Do the Expected
As noted above, Jesus didn’t save the people like they expected. The crowd desired an earthly king but they received a servant of all. The crowd wanted a ruler who resided on a throne to change their world. Instead, God sent His son who could transform their hearts. The crowd expected a leader who would save their lives. They were given Jesus who died in their place.
Each Palm Sunday it fills my heart with joy to see little ones waving palm branches and showering the church classrooms with glitter as they shout “Hosanna.” But this Palm Sunday, let’s help our precious children understand that Jesus cares deeply for us, is worthy of our praise, and desires to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Heidi Franz is stay-at-home, Jesus-seekin’ momma of four, striving to help her children see Jesus’ hand in everyday circumstances. She is the creator of the popular online Preschool Bible Curriculum website ABC Jesus Loves Me and blogs at Our Out-of-Sync Life.