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The Passion (Passion and Resurrection 2)

July 29, 2010

This lesson is designed for use on Palm/Passion Sunday. Operating under the assumption that, if your church observes Palm Sunday, the children will have participated in the procession, the lesson focuses on the Passion. As I discussed in the previous post, I do not end the story with the crucifixion as I am uncomfortable about leaving children at such a difficult point. That said, I encourage you to find ways to make your Holy Week services accessible to children. Intergenerational liturgy is a more appropriate context to let children experience the story in “real time”.

Things to know about this lesson:

  • The story is long. And I ask you to read it twice. I would discourage you from editing it, though, as it really is the core of the lesson and there should not be too much discussion. It’s also broken up and made interactive so the children should be able to handle it.
  • You need to buy paper plates for making masks.

The Passion


  • paper plates
  • crayons/markers/pencil crayons

Open with prayer. (see tip sheet)

Introduce the Story

Today has a special name. In fact, it has two special names. Does anyone know one of them?

It is called Palm Sunday because many churches remember the day that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the last time before his death and resurrection. A crowd of people was waiting for him and waved palm leaves and were very happy to see him. (Describe your church’s tradition of a procession, if you have one.) It’s hard to imagine that, just a short time after that wonderful welcome, Jesus would be killed.

This day is also called Passion Sunday because many churches (including ours?) tell the whole story about Jesus’ suffering and death as a way to get ready for Holy Week. Holy Week is the week before Easter when we have special services for thinking about all that Jesus went through before his resurrection. On Thursday, we will have a service about the Last Supper. On Friday, we will have a service about Jesus’ crucifixion. And, finally, late on Saturday night and/or on Sunday morning, we will have a big celebration about Jesus’ resurrection.

We are not going to have a Palm Sunday lesson today but we are going to have a Passion Sunday lesson. The word passion comes from an old Greek word that means to have strong feelings. We’re going to read the passion story slowly and talk about the strong feelings that we can see in it.

Read the Story I

Jesus knew that the leaders of the temple and the city did not like what he was teaching people. They were worried that so many people would follow him that they would not be able to stay in charge of Jerusalem. Jesus knew that they wanted to kill him so that he would not be able to keep teaching and he knew that one of his disciples, Judas, had helped them figure out how to do it. After he ate Passover supper with his disciples, he went to a garden in a place called Gethsemane to pray. He told God that he didn’t want to be arrested. He didn’t want to suffer and die. But he also told God that he would do whatever God wanted him to do because he trusted God to know what was best.

Discussion I

How did Jesus feel? (scared, sad, angry, determined, trusting)

Read the Story II

After he finished praying, Judas brought a crowd of people with swords and clubs into the garden. Jesus wouldn’t let his disciples fight and they all ran away when the crowd arrested him because they were scared about what would happen to them. Even his close friend Peter told people that he didn’t know Jesus.

Discussion II

How did Jesus feel? (scared, sad, angry, betrayed, hurt) How did his disciples feel? (sad, ashamed, scared)

Read the Story III

Now Jesus was all alone with the people who arrested him. They took him to house of the high priest, the person in charge of the temple. All the other temple leaders were there, with a whole crowd of people, and they created a lie. They said that Jesus had blasphemed and that the right punishment for his crime was to be killed. In the morning, they took him to Pilate, the governor, who was in charge of the city, and had the power to sentence Jesus to death.

Pilate realized that the leaders of the temple were jealous of Jesus and scared by his teaching but he did not really see why Jesus should be killed. There was a custom that, at the Passover festival, the governor released one prisoner to the people, and Pilate hoped that he would be able to release Jesus. The crowd that had come wanted a different prisoner released instead and told Pilate that the government should kill Jesus. Pilate gave in to the crowd and sent Jesus away with the soldiers.

The soldiers beat Jesus up very badly. Then they took him to a hill, called Golgotha, where they crucified him along with two criminals. Crucifixion is a terrible way of killing people that was used by the Roman government in those days to kill criminals and rebels. They did it on a hill so that everyone could see what the government could do to people it did not like. The people who saw Jesus made fun of him – even one of the criminals being crucified beside him made fun of him. None of his disciples were there except for some of the women who watched from a little distance away.

Discussion III

How did Jesus feel? How did his disciples feel? How did the women who were watching feel?

Read the Story IV

At noon, an amazing thing happened. The sky got dark and stayed that way until about three o’clock. Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you left me?” Then Jesus died. At that moment, there was an earthquake and the curtain in the temple split in two. The soldiers who were guarding Jesus were very scared and said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

That evening, a rich man who had followed Jesus came and got Jesus’ body from the soldiers. He wrapped it in a clean cloth and put it in a tomb – a room that was carved into rock. A big stone was rolled in front of the tomb to close it and soldiers were sent to guard it and make sure that no one stole Jesus’ body.

All the people who loved Jesus were very sad and very scared – they did not know what might happen to Jesus’ disciples.

As soon as they were able, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who also followed Jesus, went back to see the tomb. There was an earthquake and an angel came and rolled away the stone in front of the tomb. The guards were terrified and fainted. But the angel said to the two women, “Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here anymore – he has been raised from the dead and is alive. Go quickly and tell the other disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee – there you will see him.” Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran off, full of joy. Suddenly, Jesus himself was in front of them. They rushed to him and knelt before him, holding his legs and worshipping him. Then Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. Go give my message to the others. I will see them in Galilee.”

Discussion IV

Now how did Jesus feel? How did the two Marys feel? How are his disciples going to feel?

Can you remember all the feelings we identified?

Can you think of times when you felt those different feelings? (yes or no) Are there any you have not felt at all before?

I hope that you have never felt as scared or worried as Jesus did, although I’m sure that you have felt at least a little scared and worried sometimes. There are people in the world who probably have felt like Jesus, though, people who are in great danger. Jesus understands those people and is with them in their trouble. He doesn’t want them to be in so much danger, any more than he wanted to be killed himself. He wants them to feel the great joy he and his disciples felt after his resurrection – and he wants other people to help them.

Introduce the Activity

We are going to make masks that show the different feelings of Jesus and his friends. When we’re done, we’ll read the story again and use the masks at the rights times.

Make the Masks

Distribute paper plates and crayons/markers/pencil crayons. Everyone should make a happy face mask on one side of their plate and one of the other emotions identified on the other side of their plate.

Story with Masks

Read the story again, without the breaks for discussing the feelings, and have the students hold up the appropriate masks. Cue as necessary. When you reach the end, rejoice with the happy masks for a few moments – you had to wait quite a while to use them.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for being with people when they are sad and scared and angry as well as when they are happy. Help us to do everything we can to make the world a place of joy and safety for all your children. Amen.

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