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Bible passage: Luke 19:28-44
Background: Palm Sunday is like the opening act of Holy Week, and in a way it is a strange introduction, given the following events. Jesus is welcomed with great excitement and praise just days before the crowds turn on him and call for his execution. This day is a high moment, where the crowds recognise Jesus as a Messiah, but it is loaded with great expectation. Jesus disappoints them when he doesn’t turn out to be the Messiah they wanted, dying on a cross rather than overturning the Romans. His triumph is not what they had been hoping for or expecting.
As the group gathers, welcome them with refreshments and ask everyone how their week has been. If you would like to begin exploring the session topic during this time, begin by asking: “Have you ever seen or met a famous person?” Ask them to share their stories. Or you could ask: “Which famous person would you most want to meet? Which people might be worth queuing up and waiting for?”
You will need: a ‘Beatlemania’ video clip (see below) and the means to play it
Before the session, find a video on YouTube to show the group on ‘Beatlemania’ (the one I would recommend is ‘The Beatles Welcome Home to England (1964) – British Pathé’).
Explain to the group that ‘Beatlemania’ was the word used to describe the phenomenon of Beatles superfans in the 1960s. This video gives a sense of the excitement, anticipation and sheer volume of crowds awaiting the arrival of the Beatles. Show the video, then ask the group if there is anyone they could see or meet who would elicit that kind of reaction from them.
You will need: Bibles; pens and paper
In today’s passage we are looking at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where the crowds go wild! This day is one we now remember as Palm Sunday because of the crowds throwing down palm leaves (and their coats) before Jesus as he rode in on a donkey. We have palm crosses to remember this day, but why does it mean so much?
Split the group into smaller segments and encourage them to read the passage together. Then ask them to come up with a modern-day retelling that will help us understand what it might look like if Jesus was visiting today. Why would people get so excited, and how would they show it? What has been going on before this? How do the crowds think this person is going to change things? Think of Beatlemania or controversial events such as President Trump visiting the UK.
Ask them to write out their modern-day retellings and then share them with the rest of the group. If you think they would be happier acting them out, offer this option.
Use the following questions to explore the passage and ideas around it:
- Why do you think the crowd went so wild when Jesus entered Jerusalem? What were they expecting? Who did they think he was?
- What reactions do you think the people in your community would have today if they knew that Jesus was going to visit?
- What did Jesus mean about the rocks crying out?
- What did Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem on a donkey say about who he was?
- It was a big gesture to lay down palm leaves and coats on the ground for a Messiah on a donkey to walk in on. What would be an equivalent act of welcome and worship for us today?
You will need: card; felt-tip pens; scissors
Spend more time thinking about what the equivalent act of worship might be to throwing a palm tree or a coat down.
Give out the pens and card. Ask the group to think about what they would throw down for Jesus to walk on. What would be their act of worship and honour? What would show Jesus that he is the most important thing? Would it be their favourite top? Or their phone? Maybe it wouldn’t be an object at all. It could be their time or their life plans.
Ask the group members to draw what their thing might be, and then to cut it out and lay it down in a pile together. You could ask them to share what they have drawn and why if they would like to.
You will need: a large sheet of paper; felt-tip pens; a worship song and the means to play it
Jesus said that even if the crowds stopped praising him the rocks would cry out. The idea that even rocks would respond to the goodness of Jesus and recognise him as God tells us that he is worthy of our worship!
Place the large piece of paper in the middle of your group and explain that you are going to play a worship song. While the song is playing, ask the group to write down different ways of praising Jesus. They might want to write sentences of thanks, or words that praise different characteristics of Jesus, like ‘Loving’ or ‘Saviour’.
Play a worship song, something like ‘Almighty God’ by Tim Hughes, that features lyrics about rocks crying out.
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