Palm Sunday begins Holy Week in the life of the Church. It’s the week that we remember the events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion. The week begins with Palm Sunday, a celebratory time when we have children assist in the retelling of the story.
This is how the story goes (courtesy of David W. Pendergrass, Ph.D):
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. . .”Hosanna to the Son of David!” (8-9). In addition to their cloaks, here (and in Mark), we learn they laid down branches (in John, it says they were palm branches). They were not waving the branches. They laid the branches down like putting out the red carpet. Branches were associated with national identity, as is seen on Jewish coins of the era (like the American flag). Most importantly, Jews had celebrated the purifying of the Temple under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus around 165 B.C. with palm branches (1 Macc 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7; celebrated in Hanukkah, The Dedication Festival, cf. Jn 10:22). “Hosanna” is a Greek way of saying the Hebrew terms for, “Oh, help!” or “Oh, save us!” (see the royal Psalm 118:25). It is clear from the crowd’s foment that they perceived of Jesus as another Jewish royal figure, who like Judas Maccabeus before him, would liberate the Temple from foreign pollutants. However, instead of driving out the Romans, Jesus condemns the religious establishment.
So, in church on this Palm Sunday, children often use palm branches to reenact Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem. They often make palm-shaped crafts and sing “Hosanna!” They may even get to participate in the worship service, laying palm branches in the aisle as a song welcomes them into the worship center.
Around this time few years ago, I heard our daughter, singing a song called Hosanna. I asked if she knew what Hosanna meant. She did not, so I used a teachable moment to explain Jesus’s Triumphal Entry and explained that the people shouted “Hosanna” to say that they thought Jesus was the one to save them.
For the next few weeks, we talked about Hosanna and shared the story a few times. We talked about the palm branches used to greet Jesus and even pointed out palm trees we saw in our community. Julia even “taught” me the story a few times!
One day I was trimming bushes and had branches lying in the grass. Our daughter grabbed some branches and laid them on the sidewalk in front of our home. Then she began to wave her pretend palm branch and act out the story! Check out the video at the link below:
So, we begin Holy Week. It starts out with excitement, yet the story will quickly take a turn for the worst. Soon, Jesus will face emotional and physical pain, and the people who welcomed him into Jerusalem will do their best to be rid of him.
How will you observe Holy Week? This week involves much more than pastel-colored candy, fuzzy bunnies, shopping for the perfect outfit, and dying eggs. As a parent, it’s our responsibility to teach our children about these important biblical events. So, walk with me through this week. I will give you tools to make this Holy Week one of the most memorable for you and your family.