Jesus’ Death on the Cross: Easter Sunday School Lesson

In this Sunday School lesson, we delve into the pivotal moments just before Jesus’ crucifixion. Acting out the events from Matthew 21, picture yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples sent to fetch a donkey and its colt, a seemingly peculiar request that underscores trust in God’s plans. Witness the crowd’s joyful welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna!” However, we’ll also explore the swift shift in circumstances as Jesus faces betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, reminding us of His enduring love and sacrifice for our sins, offering cleansing and eternal life.

Group Worship

Risen

In this song, kids celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, showing His power over death and reminding us that His strong power is also with us.

 

Lyric & Motions Video

Hosanna Rock!

In this upbeat song, kids celebrate and praise the Lord using catchy “Hosanna” chants and are invited to join in with enthusiastic clapping, waving, and musical instruments.

 

Lyric Video  |  Motions Video

Song 5
Song 2

Group Worship

Risen

In this song, kids celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, showing His power over death and reminding us that His strong power is also with us.

 

Lyric & Motions Video

Song 5

Hosanna Rock!

In this upbeat song, kids celebrate and praise the Lord using catchy “Hosanna” chants and are invited to join in with enthusiastic clapping, waving, and musical instruments.

 

Lyric Video  |  Motions Video

Song 2

Opening Activity | Palm Fronds

He is Alive 1 - Opening Activity

Objects Needed: Green construction paper, green pipe cleaners, scissors

Before class, fold each piece of construction paper in half, and cut a half-egg shape out of it (so that when you unfold it, you have a full egg).

Give each child a green pipe cleaner, and have them tape it inside the green construction paper, where the crease is. They should tape it so that half the pipe cleaner hangs out the bottom like a stem.

Then, have the students cut strips out of the open side of the paper, somewhat like they would make a snowflake. Then, have them open the paper to see the palm frond they created.

He is Alive 1 - Opening Activity

Object Lesson | Jesus, sin for us

Objects Needed: 3 clear glass cups, labels for the cups (clear tape with a permanent marker works well), water, iodine, bleach

Label one glass US, one glass SIN, and one glass JESUS. Fill the SIN and JESUS cup about halfway full of water. Put a few drops of iodine in the SIN cup to turn it black and put some bleach in the JESUS cup.

At the end of this week’s story is a short description of why Jesus died on the cross (for our sins). This object lesson works perfectly with that portion of the lesson script. So if you’d like to see a script for this object lesson see the end of this week’s lesson script.

How to incorporate the Object Lesson:

Talk about all the bad things that we do and how we are all full of sin. Pour the iodine mixture in the SIN cup into the cup labeled US.

As you talk about Jesus taking our sin pour the iodine mixture from the US glass and pour it into the bleach solution in the JESUS glass. The water will turn clear again!

Describe how Jesus, took our sin to the cross and paid the penalty for it so that we could have a relationship with Jesus Christ and one day go to heaven.

Lesson Script

MATTHEW 21, 26, 27

Objects Needed: Palm fronds from the opening activity

 

Today’s story begins in Matthew 21. In fact, what we are talking about today comes just a few days before Jesus death… so it’s kind of a big deal. Oh, and one other thing… we’re going to try to act this out. So make sure you listen carefully so you know what you need to do.

Matthew 21:1-3

“As they all approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage. It was on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent out two disciples. He said to them, “Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey tied up. Her colt will be with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them. The owner will send them right away.” (NCV)

 

Okay, so Jesus is on the Mount of Olives, which wasn’t like a mountain made out of black olives or anything… it was just the name of the place they were at. Jesus sends two disciples out and tells them to go ahead to a village and find a donkey that’s tied up… which is kind of a weird request, right? Can you imagine if your Mom came home and said, “Bobby, I need you to go to the neighbor’s and grab a tied-up turtle, thanks!”

(lead kids in walking in place)

Except it was a way bigger deal than you might think. Back in this time, donkeys were important ways to carry things from place to place. Water, goods… even people. They were kind of like cargo trucks before there were trucks, which means… Jesus was basically asking his disciples to go to the next town over and take a car. A super smelly car, but a car!

(lead kids in pretending to carry really heavy things—or trying to carry each other)

So Jesus tells them to go grab this tied-up donkey and bring it to Him. And not only the actual donkey but the baby donkey, too. He wants both donkeys. Now, most of us, if we were told to go take a car from someone’s driveway would be a little skeptical, right? You’d probably want to know what to do if someone caught you, right? Well, Jesus tells them not to worry about it, to tell them God needs them, and all will be well.

 

Can you imagine if you went into someone’s yard, tried to steal their car…

 

Can you imagine if you went into someone’s yard, tried to steal their car, and they asked what you were doing, and you said “Oh, God needs them!” and they were like, “Oh, okay, carry on! Hey, you want a bottled water?”

(“bust” the kids trying to steal the donkey, and see what excuses they come up with!)

The disciples went and did what Jesus told them to do. They brought Him the donkey and the colt.

(tell kids you want some of them to be donkeys, and the others should “lead” the donkeys around)

They placed their coats on the animals. Then Jesus sat on the coats. A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

(have the kids who aren’t the donkeys sit on the ones that are)

Notice, that we are talking about a donkey’s colt! We aren’t talking about an adult donkey, who is super strong! We’re talking about a baby donkey! When you were a baby, you couldn’t even walk… yet this baby is about to carry the King of the World on his back… That’s a lot of pressure for a baby donkey, isn’t it?

 

So the disciples do it.

 

They go to the next town over, they grab the donkey and the colt. They put their coats on them… and a crowd gathered. And all of the crowd had palm branches in their hands. Hey, you guys all have branches in your hands… Why don’t you gather around? I’ll be Jesus on the donkey, and you be the crowd.

(lead kids in waving their palm branches)

Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted,

MATTHEW 21:9b

“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (NKJV)

 

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, “Who is this?”
The crowd answered, “This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

So Jesus rides through the crowd, and everyone starts cheering for Him and waving their palm branches. They’re so excited to see Him!

(lead kids in waving their palm branches)

This is how Jesus is greeted in town on Sunday. With people cheering for him, crowds gathering, everyone praising him for being the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior. These people all hoped that Jesus was going to save them… they just didn’t realize the high price that would cost.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Life can change on a dime”? It means that life can change as fast as a coin toss. Which is pretty fast, you know? Well, this is what happens with Jesus. His coin is on heads, as in heads above everyone else. People are happy with him, they love him… And in just a few days, it suddenly flips to tails.

Jesus gathers up his disciples for a special Passover meal. While they were sitting at dinner, Jesus started talking about stuff that probably sounded a little crazy to everyone… He started saying that one of his friends was going to betray him and that eventually they were going to eat His body and drink His blood.

That very night, one of those people at dinner betrayed Jesus. The important people in the city wanted to arrest Jesus for claiming to be God. And Judas, one of Jesus’s friends…well, he decided to make a deal. If the city officials gave him enough money, he’d give them Jesus.

So that night, Jesus was in the garden, and Judas handed Him over… for thirty pieces of silver.

 

The men arrest Jesus in the middle of the night, and the next morning, they take him to the Governor, a guy named Pontius Pilate. Pilate questions him and then decides he doesn’t want to get involved in this decision, so he lets the people decide what he should do to Jesus. He said that he would let one of two men in his custody go, and the other one, he would crucify.

(bring one volunteer up and have him stand with his arms outstretched like a cross. He will stay up in front of the class the entire time)

The other choice the people had was a guy named Barrabas, who was a murderer… a really, really famous murderer. Which kind of boded well for Jesus, right? I mean between the guy known for killing people (Barabbas) and the guy known for…well, healing people (Jesus) surely, this is going to end well for Jesus, right?

Wrong.

The people choose to let Barabbas go, and they yell to crucify Jesus. (lead kids in yelling “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!”)

The soldiers assigned to Jesus make it even worse. They made fun of him, mocked him, and beat Him. But Jesus endured it all, do you know why?

Because He loves you. He knew that you have sin, and that sin rots you from the inside out. Jesus also knew He had the cure for sin, and it would cost him everything. (ask the kid in the front row how his arms are feeling)

When Jesus was led outside and given the cross to carry, He did it. When they whipped him and hurt him and made him bleed, He took it. They nailed him to a cross and let him hang there, hurting. They mocked him, they yelled at him, as he suffered extreme pain. But He endured it because He loved you.

Right before he was about to die, Jesus was in so much pain he screamed out. Listen to what he said:

Jesus called out with a loud voice,

MATTHEW 27:46b

““Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (NKJV)

 

Jesus was in so much pain, it was as if God had forsaken him. He was crying out, He was hurting so much. It wasn’t but a few moments later that He died. (ask the kid if his arms hurt)

When He was on that cross, it was your sin that was hurting Him. Your sin made Him feel so far apart from God that He felt forsaken and abandoned… but He took it on willingly. Jesus had the power to get off the cross… but He chose not to. Why?

Because Jesus came to earth to die…for your sin. And by dying he took the punishment for your sin from you and exchanged it for His cleanliness.

He did this so you could be with God, clean and pure, and full of life. Jesus was crucified not because He did something wrong, but because of all the things you have done wrong. Jesus chose to come to this earth to die on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him could have a way to heaven.

If you haven’t ever accepted Jesus into your heart and would like to ask more questions or make the decision to ask Him into your heart today, talk to any of the leaders and they would be glad to help.

What does it mean to FOLLOW Jesus?
Free 6-week curriculum:

Play games, laugh together and teach your elementary class what it means to be a "disciple" - to follow Jesus with their whole heart.

Followers-Series

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He is Alive 1 - Group Game

Group Game | Human Checkers

He is Alive 1 - Group Game

Objects Needed: Carpet squares

Set out the carpet squares in a checkerboard pattern on the floor, leaving enough room for someone to sit between them. Depending on how many people you have, you will want to make your board that big. You’ll need 32 squares to make an 8×8 board, but you might be able to make do with a 6×6 board, which would be 18 squares. You can also use tape and poster board to make a checkerboard.

Divide the students into two teams. Put a black trash bag over the students in one team (cut the head and arms out) to distinguish the team.

Pick two checker players to be the person who calls the shots (one from each team). They will alternate telling each player what move to make. When a player needs to “jump” another, have them jump over that person. If they reach the other side, “king” them by placing a crown on their head.

Memory Verse

Today we learned of Jesus death, for us, on the cross. While it is a very sad story the reason He died is so that we could live! Because of Jesus death on the cross we have the opportunity to ask Jesus to save us from our sins and take us to be with Him in Heaven one day!

Our memory verse is all about Jesus conquering death and what that means for us – everlasting life!

John 11:25

"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who believes in Me will never die. "

Small Group Questions

What did Jesus tell his disciples to get him?
A donkey and a colt

Tough question…why did Jesus need the donkey?
To fulfill an ancient prophecy

What happened when Jesus rode the donkey into town?
The people praised him and cheered for him.

What happened at the Passover?
Jesus said that people would betray him

Who betrayed Jesus, and for how much?
Judas, for thirty pieces of silver

What was Pontius Pilate’s role in the story?
He let the people vote on who to kill and who to release, and they released Barrabas.

What happened to Jesus after they voted for him?
He was mocked and beaten

Why did Jesus die?
For our sins

How do you feel knowing Jesus died for you?
Answers will vary

What does John 11:25 say?
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

Where in your life do you need to remind yourself of John 11:25?
Answers will vary

Small Group Activity | Pin the palm on the donkey

He is Alive donkey

Objects Needed: Donkey printout included with materials (or click here), Green Post-it notes, blindfold.

This is the classic “pin the tail on the donkey” game with a little twist.

Since the people were laying their coats on the ground in honor of Jesus and waving palm branches, let’s take our own palm branches (the green post-it notes) and get them as close to the donkey as possible, without touching it!

Blindfold each kid, spin them around, and them allow them to wander blindly up to the donkey and see how close they can get their palm branch to it.

He is Alive donkey

Words For This Week

This is included with every lesson I create, and is designed as a printout for you to give to parents after class.

 

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 21, 26, 27

Memory Verse: “I am the resurrection and the life; He who believes in Me will live if he dies and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” John 11:25

——————

Today, we learned about two different parts of Jesus’s life… and how different they were! The first was when Jesus told his disciples to go to the next town over and find a donkey and a colt for him. Which, of course, they did. Only a little bit later, Jesus rode that baby donkey into the next town, and the people gathered around him cheering and clapping for him. They called him the Son of God, the Messiah! They cheered Hosanna! about him, calling him the King! It was kind of like a ticker tape parade—everyone was cheering and loving Jesus!

 But then, things changed. One of Jesus own disciples betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver, and before long, Jesus was standing in front of the people, on trial. It was either him or Barabbas, a long-time criminal. One was going to get out alive, and the other was going to his death. The people voted to let Barabbas go free and to send Jesus to his death.

Jesus put up with a lot of pain and suffering during that day. He was beaten. He was nailed to a piece of wood. He was mocked and berated. The people yelled at him. They were awful to him. Jesus felt far away from God—but he felt far away for a reason. At that moment, Jesus was taking all of the sins of the world on his own back, and He felt far away from God as a result. As far as Jesus felt from God at that moment, that’s how far we would be from God—if Jesus hadn’t stepped in and saved us.

Key Thought:

Jesus is Life!

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