Church at Home Resources – 5th of April, 2020 – Palm Sunday

While we must stay apart during this pandemic we are still the church and we can still worship. We can still have special times of worship at home with reading, prayer and song. Today I have provided some additional videos and crafts that I hope will help you to worship from home.

Read

Today, Palm Sunday, we will be reading about Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem in John 12:12-19.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.’
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’

(John 12:12-19, NIV, Anglicised, 2011)

Children’s Crafts

To help children engage with this story you might enjoy creating their own paper palm leaves to celebrate our King Jesus. Click here for instructions and a template. For younger children, this simpler template might be easier.

Reflection

This is Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and being hailed by the people. It’s also the start of the week when Christians around the world focus on the passion of Jesus’ Christ, his suffering for our sake. Things are coming to a head. This is the peak of Jesus’ popularity and the peak of the opposition to him. This is the week when he will be hailed as king and crucified as a criminal.  

The movement following Jesus has grown, and crowds of people are flocking to him. They’ve heard his teaching with authority. They’ve seen his signs and wonders. He has even raised a man from the dead, his friend Lazarus. 

Meanwhile, his enemies, the chief priests and pharisees have increased their opposition to Jesus and decided that he must be done away with. They are plotting and looking for an opportunity to kill him. 

Jesus enters Jerusalem at festival time, in the days leading up to Passover, when pilgrims are gathering in the city. There’s a great sense of religious zeal as well as cultural and national pride. This land might be occupied by the pagan invaders from Rome, but it is still Jerusalem, the city of the temple of the living God, and we are still God’s people. 

And here he comes! This one they have heard so much about! He healed people, he taught with authority and great wisdom, he’s worked signs and wonders, he’s even raised a man from the dead. God must surely be with him! Could he be the Messiah, God’s chosen king that his people have waited so long for? They grab palm branches and go out to greet him and celebrate his arrival. Suddenly this is like a parade! 

But why palm branches? Palm branches would have been common and readily available to wave to greet Him and throw down on the road to cover it. But there’s more to it than that. 

About 200 years earlier Jerusalem was freed from pagan foreign invaders – not the Roman Empire that time, but the Seleucid Empire. A Jewish man named Judah Maccabee defeated the invaders, liberated Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple to the Lord.  

When Judah rode into Jerusalem in triumph his followers welcomed him by waving palm branches. The palm branch was a national emblem of the Jewish state and even appeared on coins. The palm branch stood for the nation of Israel, free from oppressors and invaders and independent once again. 

So, you can see the expectations that many of the people would have had. Maybe this is the one who will liberate us from the Romans, lead his people in battle against these pagan invaders and restore the glory of Israel. 

But Jesus isn’t riding into Jerusalem on a warhorse. He isn’t leading an army. He’s not riding in to take his place on a throne and wear a golden crown. Jesus rides on a humble donkey. He leads his disciples, ordinary folk called to be peacemakers and to love their enemies. He rides in knowing that this week he will be raised up, not on a throne, but on the cross. He will not wear a golden crown, but a crown of thorns forced on him by his torturers. Jesus knows that all this is in store for him and he willingly approaches. He knows that in a few days he will be betrayed and abandoned, arrested, beaten and killed and yet he rides on, closer and closer to the cross. Because that’s why he came. He came to save us by taking our punishment and dying in our place. 

As the crowds waved their palm branches and celebrated the true king they shouted  
‘Hosanna!’ 
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  
‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’ 
(v. 13) 

What does “hosanna” mean? Hosanah comes from two words in Hebrew meaning “save now!” or “please save!”. It’s an urgent cry for help, and it comes from Psalm 118. Verse 25 of Psalm 118 goes like this:  “O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.”

That cry for help is immediately followed by God’s answer to that cry. Verse 26 says:  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.”

You see there the other reference to this psalm in the crowd’s cheering. The urgent cry for help is immediately answered by God so this has turned from a cry for help into a cry of celebration to rejoice over the help that God has sent. 

How does a cry for salvation become a celebration? Because they people are so confident in the faithfulness of God. God will save his people. He will not abandon them. God is faithful and he loves you with a love that will not let you go. 

Many in that crowd that hailed Jesus as king and waved palm branches and shouted “hosanna” were surely disappointed when in a few days’ time they saw this king hanging on a Roman cross. It must have looked like failure. But the greater surprise is this: it was no failure at all. This was the victory of good over evil. This was the God’s chosen faithful king being faithful even to death. This was salvation, not just from some earthly powers but from the powers of darkness that have kept humanity enslaved for every generation since the beginning.  

Jesus has saved us by taking our place. We cry hosanna in celebration that our King, the king unlike any other, the true King has indeed saved us. If we put our trust in Jesus Christ, our debt is paid, our sins are forgiven and we are raised, along with him, to new life. Life to the fullest. Life that will never end. 

Shout your praises today – your hosannas – to the God who saves. Remember today and all days that our faithful King is indeed triumphant. He has the power to save, so call on him. 

Pray

Faithful God, we pray in these strange and anxious times for help. Help us to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and his victory over the darkness. Help us to trust not in our own performance or strength, but in Jesus and his sacrifice.

Protect us Lord and continue to help and provide for us, so that soon we will be together rejoicing again.

We pray today for those who grieve. May they be comforted by the knowledge, that you God do not stand apart from suffering. You are the God who draws close. You are the God who knows suffering. You are the God who comes to rescue us from the darkness.

We cry “hosanna” to you, knowing that you answer prayer. You are our Saviour God.

In Jesus’s name we pray.

Amen

Please remember that today, Palm Sunday, 5th of April, between 3 and 4 p.m., there will be a special hour of prayer throughout churches in Ireland. Click here for more information and for a guide for prayer.

Sing

I encourage you to sing your worship at home. You may find these videos useful to sing along to.

Benediction

The grace today is said by our lovely sister Christine. I encourage you to send in your own video.

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