Palm Sunday; Entering Jerusalem
Matthew 20:17 – 19 and Matt. 21:1 – 17
Preparation: Bring palm branches and colorful coats and robes to lay on the steps or in front of the altar where the children gather for the children’s sermon. You can also bring pictures or books showing a circus parade or trapeze artists flying through the air.
This is a very special Sunday isn’t it? Today is Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Easter. On this Sunday, we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem and a cheering crowd of people ran to meet him. They cut palm branches from trees and waved them, they even laid their coats down on the road in front of him so he would have a beautiful, soft road to travel on with no dust to get in his eyes. The children were especially excited and they yelled the loudest, “Praise God for the Son of David!” They yelled so loudly that some grumpy old grownups, who didn’t want to celebrate, told them to be quiet. But Jesus stuck up for them and said that was exactly what they were supposed to be doing. They were celebrating Jesus, the King.
This procession into Jerusalem must have looked a bit like a circus parade. When a circus would come to town, first there would be a big parade down Main Street to show everyone the wonderful animals and performers who would be at the circus. Everyone would line up along the sides of the streets and watch the big elephants walk by and the clowns run along and the acrobats doing cartwheels down the street. When they saw the parade, they knew that the circus was coming to town. Often, there would be a big sign advertising the dangerous tricks that the acrobats would perform. The sign would say, “Death-Defying Acts!” and there would be a picture of an acrobat flying through the air towards a pair of hands reaching out to catch them. If you went to the circus, and looked way up to the top of the tent, you would see people leaping through the air, jumping off of swings and being caught just in time before they fell. This is what we call a “death-defying act.” As you watch this dangerous act, you think that the person who just leaped off the platform is going to die. Then suddenly, they are saved! They don’t fall to their death. They make it to the other side and everyone is very relieved and they all clap and cheer.
Jesus’ procession down Jerusalem’s main street was so much more important than a circus parade, and a lot of things were, of course, different. No elephants, for example, just a donkey. No clowns either, although Jesus’ disciples walking along with him and sometimes they did and said silly things. But as Jesus entered Jerusalem, did you know that he was going right towards a death-defying act? Jesus was heading towards the cross. He knew where he was going. He told his disciples what would happen. He knew that he was going to be killed on the cross. For anyone else, a trip to the cross always ended in death. Jesus, however, was different. Jesus was going to defy death once and for all. He was going to die once and this death was for all people to bring them forgiveness and everlasting life.
So, did Jesus die on the cross? (Listen to the responses from the children.) Yes, he really did die. He was dead for three long, very sad days. But on the third day, on a Sunday, can you tell me what amazing thing happened? (Let children explain.) That’s right! Jesus rose from the dead. He beat death. It was the best death-defying act that the world has ever seen. Jesus took all of our sins with him to the cross and he made sure that those sins died right along with him. He buried those sins and rose up, alive again. And when Jesus came back, he was carrying eternal life for everyone in His arms. All we have to do is to accept it and gives thanks to God.
Thank you Lord Jesus, for going to Jerusalem and being brave enough and loving enough to face that last death-defying act. You died on the cross for us and you came back to life for us. Thank you for defeating death. Hosanna, Lord Jesus. Hosanna. Amen.