Intentional Recognition

As we near the end of the Lent journey, we celebrate Palm Sunday. Do you recognize this story? Do you recognize the Jesus in this story? Church tradition dictates in this celebration. Some of my favorite church hymns were sung on Palm Sunday. We have given palm branches to Vista kids for Palm Sunday before. To be honest, it often became nothing but a carnage of Palm branch sword fights. I don’t know if I ever understood why it was recognized as a celebration, but I loved it because it was one of those rare church traditions were children took a significant role.

How does our recognition change if we actually read about it from the Bible? Matthew 21:1-10, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-18 all give accounts of this Triumphal entry.

  • Who: These people were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They quoted from Psalm 118:25 so they knew the Jewish scriptures.
  • What: Jesus asked his disciples to make preparations for Passover in Jerusalem. He had been anointed by Mary as for burial just before this. A crowd gathered as he entered singing in Hebrew “save us” or translated into Greek “Hosanna”. The crowd rejoiced, the Jewish leaders were angry and Jesus cried when He saw the city.
  • Why: They had heard  that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem for Feast of Unleavened Bread referred to as Passover (Deuteronomy 16: 1-8). Their plan was to honor an amazing Jewish rabbi in great Jewish Tradition who might save them from trouble and Roman occupation. They laid their coats before him  (2 King 9:13) . They waved palm branches (Leviticus 23:40). Yet God’s plan was to fulfill prophecy in His way and point toward the cross (Zechariah 9:9 & Revelation 7:9).

So it seems like children may or may not have been involved. What is clear is that these people were recognizing this entry as a big deal. It made them join together and celebrate. Yet it is traditionally understood that Jesus was entering Jerusalem at or near the time when the Paschal lambs were being slaughtered for Passover (14th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar). His recognition of this event was different from theirs.

Events and feelings from Passion Week are hard for us to understand and even more difficult to help children understand –  so much suffering, brutality and hate. It is easier to focus on the fun Palm Sunday celebration to protect our children. Often times we desire to protect our children from their own suffering and the suffering of others. The recognition that God chooses to let events like passion week happen is too hard, too uncomfortable and too messy.

Questions families can discuss and think about regarding Palm Sunday & Passion Week:

  • Why was it easy for these people to celebrate?
  • Do you think they understood what was going on here?
  • Why was Jesus crying?
  • Why is it important to work, talk and think through the tough times of life?
  • What kind of savior do we recognize  – one that we want to see or one that He really is?
  • Do I want God to do things my way and in my timing or do I trust His way and his timing?
  • Do we trust that the Holy Spirit works in us through hard, scary or confusing Bible stories as well as the fun ones?
  • Are we quick to join popular bandwagons or do take time to think about what they really mean?
  • Are we faithful to the things, people, issues God has put on our hearts everyday or only when it’s easy?
  • How does faith become something deep and meaningful instead of something trite? Can it be simple without being easy?
  • Does our family embrace or ignore hard questions about life and faith? Why? Why not?
Passion Weeks activities:
  1. Family Lent Challenge: A Passover Haggadah Use this activity with family, life-group or with neighbors and adapt it to your needs or time frame.
  2. Stations of the cross: a traditional Roman Catholic Church tradition focusing on the journey of Christ to the cross. Some of the stations used are traditional in nature and not part of the text found in the Bible. Sometimes it is used to focus on our own actions not the grace and mercy of God, but we have found it to be a powerful discussion starter in our home. Stations-of-the-Cross-for-Teens is a PDF especially for Teens.
  3. A helpful video from youtube that maybe be helpful for understanding significance of Palm Sunday
  4. Music for Palm Sunday and Passion week: song 1, song 2, song 3