Scripture Reference: Matthew 21:1-11
Suggested Emphasis: Praise Jesus and God.
Memory Verse: “So I will praise you, Lord, among the nations. I will sing praises to your name. ” Psalm 18:49 ICB
Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time in a most unusual way. He entered in the way that the Old Testament said a peaceful king enters a city – riding on a donkey. A great crowd waved palm branches at Jesus and cried out, “Hosanna!” in praise of him.
Everyone loves a parade. This story is exciting to children when they think about crowds of people cheering and waving leaves and branches.
This event takes place on a Sunday and marks the beginning of what is often referred to as the “Passion Week”. By the following Sunday, Jesus will have been crucified, buried and risen. Some children may be familiar with the fact that some religious groups celebrate “Palm Sunday” as the beginning of Easter Week.
There were many people gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. Probably many had heard of Jesus and his miracles.
Jesus was staying in the nearby town of Bethany and seemed to return at least near there Sunday through Thursday evenings during the Passover celebrations (Mark 11:11, 19 and 14:13; Matthew 21:17). Perhaps he stayed with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Luke 21:37 mentions that he spent each night on the Mount of Olives. Bethany was next to the Mount of Olives.
As they approached the city from the Mount of Olives, Jesus and the disciples would have had a good view of Jerusalem and especially the temple. Jesus sent two disciples on ahead.
To fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, Jesus would enter the city on a donkey. War heroes rode horses, but Jesus rode a donkey, which symbolised a king. The young donkey that Jesus told the two disciples to get had never been ridden. Unused animals were regarded as especially suitable for religious purposes. An example would be the cattle that pulled the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 6:7).
Spreading the cloaks on the ground was also something done for kings. This was done for King Jehu (2 Kings 9:13).
The gospel writers mention branches cut from the trees. These would have been abundant around the city. John specifically mentions palm branches. Leaves of date palms grew very large. Palm branches were more likely to have come from Jericho. People might have gathered them and brought them into Jerusalem when they came for the Passover. Palm leaves symbolised triumph and victory. John saw a multitude of palm branches in his vision (Revelation 7:9).
Jesus allowed this homage even though the Pharisees wanted him to stop it (Luke 19:39). As he looked at all the cheering people, he must have felt sad. In a few days, the people would be nowhere to be found and died on the cross practically alone. But now he wept as he looked at the city (Luke 19:41).
Other Bible Verses About Jesus Being the King
- Isaiah 9:6–7
- John 18:36
- Ephesians 1:20–21
- 1 Timothy 6:13–15
- Hebrews 1:3–4
- Revelation 1:5–6
- Revelation 17:14
Way to Introduce the Story:
Before class, think of specific ways you can sincerely praise each of the students in your class. Don’t praise the outward things or what they have no control over (pretty curly hair, height, new dress, etc.) but instead, praise them for good deeds and attitudes that they exhibit. Children recognize and appreciate a sincere compliment just like adults do! “Before our story today there is one thing that I would like to do. Praise is a word that means ‘to say something good about something or someone’. I would like to praise each of you children.” One by one, say a good thing about each of the children in your class. Visitors can be praised for coming to class, being on time, sitting and listening nicely, etc. If appropriate, ask the children if they would like to praise anyone in the class. Make sure no one gets left out. “In today’s story people wanted to praise Jesus. They did it in a very special way. Let’s listen.”
Jesus and his disciples travelled to the city of Jerusalem. As they travelled, they saw lots and lots of people. It seemed like everyone wanted to go to Jerusalem. All of the Jews wanted to go there for the special Passover celebrations.
When Jesus and his friends came to a village just outside of Jerusalem, Jesus stopped to talk to them. He asked two of the disciples to do a special job.
“Go into the village,” Jesus instructed, “and you will see a donkey and its colt.” (A colt is a young donkey). “Bring them to me. If anyone says anything or tries to stop you then just say: ‘the Lord needs it’. When you say that no one will try to stop you.”
The two disciples went into the village, and guess what they saw? There were a donkey and its colt, just as Jesus said. They untied the donkeys and began to walk away. Some people were standing nearby, and they called out, “Hey, what are you doing with that colt?”
The disciples said just what Jesus said to say, “The Lord needs them.” When they said that, the people let them go. It was just like Jesus said it would be.
When the disciples arrived back to the place where Jesus was, they put their cloaks on top of the colt, and Jesus began to ride into Jerusalem. This was very important because many years ago, one of the prophets said that the king would come riding on a donkey.
Many people had heard about Jesus. They knew he had taught great things and that he had performed many miracles. He had made sick people well and made blind people see again. He even made a dead person come back to life.
The people began to do the things usually done when a king rides in a parade. They shouted praises to Jesus as he passed by. They said very good things about him and shouted out how good he was. They shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David!” and “Blessed is the King!”
Some people threw down their cloaks so that the feet of Jesus’ donkey didn’t even have to touch the dirty road. Some of the people picked up palm branches and waved them. They waved the branches and continued to shout praises. They treated Jesus like a king. People were shouting and smiling. It was like a big parade. Everyone was so happy.
What do you think you would have done if you had been there? Do you think you would wave the branches and shout good things to Jesus? What good things would you say about Jesus?
Psalm 106:1 is a good verse to help us remember to say good things to God and to Jesus.
“Praise the Lord! Thank the Lord because he is good. His love continues forever.”
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique, so only use the illustrations that best relate to how YOU tell the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing, so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- When Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week, what was he riding on? A donkey
- What did the people wave at Jesus when he entered Jerusalem for the last time? Palm branches
- Hey-Ho! There He Goes- Jesus on a Donkey Song
- Rejoice in the Lord Always Song
- If you have access to church hymnals, guide the children in looking up “Praise” in the index to find and sing songs about praise to God.
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Play the Praise Game. Use a marker to draw a circle on a large piece of paper. Divide the circle into four equal parts. Write “God or Jesus” in one part, “family member” in another, and “friends” and “people at church” in the final two parts. Form a “spinner” by using a pencil to hold a large paper clip in the centre of the circle. Use your finger to spin the paper clip around the stationary pencil. Each child should take turns spinning the clip. When the clip points to “God or Jesus”, they should say something in praise of God or Jesus. When the clip points to a “family member”, they should say something in praise of a member of their family. Let the children take turns until everyone has had at least one chance. Continue as long as there is time and interest. Instructions for making a spinner game at http://missionbibleclass.org/bright-ideas/games-to-play/spinner-game/.
- Write notes to people in the congregation or in the children’s families praising them for something good they have done.
- Discuss worship and what happens on Sundays or other times of worship.
- Talk about personal devotional times and how we can pray and read our Bibles and commune with God. Mention appreciating the world around us and praising God for His creation.
- Have the children (and teacher!) take turns saying good things about God.
- Stories about the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus
- Make “palm branches” from green paper or bring real ones to class and act out the story.
- Make a cross using a palm branch. Instructions here from equippinggodlywomen.com.
- This story is part of a bigger story about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. A simple way to tell the story is to open plastic Easter Eggs one at a time. Each egg reveals something about the story. If you tell stories about the death, burial and resurrection over a few weeks, you might try repeating this method weekly. The children will really know the story after this! Click here to learn how to do it.
Other Stories about the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus:
- Triumphal Entry
- The Last Supper
- A Night of Betrayal and Prayer
- The Trial of Jesus
- Jesus is Crucified
- Burial and the Resurrection
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page with text (Ministry Spark)
- Colouring page (Sermon 4 kids)
- Colouring page (Christian answers)
- Craft: Donkey and palm branches using paint, handprints and footprints (Catholic icing)
- Craft: Donkey puppet made from a paper bag (printable)(DLTK)
- Craft: Papercraft donkey (printable) (DLTK)
- Craft: Palm leaf to fold and cut (printable) (DLTK)
- Craft: Photographed instructions for paper palm branches (Michelle Paige)
- Printable,Wordsearch (Sermon 4 kids)
- Printable, Maze (Sermon 4 kids)
- Printable,Word jumble puzzle worksheet (Sermon 4 kids)
- Printable,Multiple choice worksheet (Sermon 4 kids)
- Activity: Make a donkey from cardboard boxes. (Bible class creations)
- Interactive group activities (Sermon 4 kids)
- Video: “Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry” by Messages of Christ. Youtube video is just under 6 minutes long. Explains the symbolism of the triumphal entry.