VIDEO Story of Holy Week for Kids as Told by Two Children

By Megan Briggs -March 27, 2021

story of holy week for kids

Between all the hustle and bustle of Holy Week services, we are in danger of losing sight of the essence of Christ’s death and resurrection. While we should be worshipping in simple wonder, we can make things complicated with all the planning and details that go into services.

It’s right and good that we spend extra effort during this time making sure guests feel welcome and the service is just right, but take some time this week to slow down and reflect on the message of Easter.

We found this gem of a video on YouTube and can’t stop watching it. From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection, two children tell the story of Holy Week in a way only children can.

Even though their video is only 3 minutes long, these two kids manage to articulate the message of the Gospel in a clear and winsome way.

“He died because he wanted to forgive our sins,” the children explain.

After Jesus rose from the dead, the children explain he told his disciples “While I’m gone, tell everyone about me.”

Although there are a few anachronistic gaffs in the video (the disciples start telling people about Jesus via cell phone after his resurrection from the dead), the kids do an excellent job of conveying the spirit and the simplicity of Jesus’s message of forgiveness.

Everyone in your church (and especially outside your church) needs to see this beautifully illustrated version of the Holy Week events. After all, Jesus himself told us to receive the kingdom like little children.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-3)

Just try not smiling as you watch it…just you try.

Story of Holy Week for Kids

8 Things Most Christians Don’t Understand about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry

  • Dr. Roger Barrier 24 March 2021
  • Preach It, Teach It
jesus triumphal entry

God never missed an opportunity to use powerful symbols throughout Scripture. The triumphal entry – Jesus’ famous ride on this lowly animal reveals much about Christ’s character and purpose. 

Prior to entering Jerusalem, Christ instructed his disciples to acquire for him a donkey Matthew 21:1-5. (In Matthew’s Gospel a donkey and a colt, two poetic Hebrew parallel phrases.)

Why did Jesus ride a donkey? 

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Boonyachoat1. Christ is claiming His rightful place as the prophesied Messiah.

1. Christ is claiming His rightful place as the prophesied Messiah.

Zechariah wrote: “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9) KJV. 

Every Jew would know Zechariah’s messianic prophecy. That’s why the crowds hailed Jesus as their king shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). Jesus is the true Davidic Messiah and king.

2. Jesus rode a donkey to symbolize peace.

Why didn’t Jesus ride a warhorse, as He did in Revelation? Mark Boda explains:

In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but donkeys if they came in peace. First Kings 1:33 mentions Solomon riding a donkey on the day he was recognized as the new king of Israel. Other instances of leaders riding donkeys are Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; and 2 Samuel 16:2.

The mention of a donkey in Zechariah 9:9-10 fits the description of a king who would be righteous and having salvation, gentle.” Rather than riding to conquer, this king would enter in peace. 

Zechariah 9:10 highlights this peace: “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Note the many details symbolic of peace in this prophecy:

  • “Take away the chariots”: an end to the main vehicle of war.
  • “Take away… the war-horses”: no need for horses used in war.
  • “The battle bow will be broken”: no need for bows or arrows for fighting.
  • “He will proclaim peace to the nations”: His message will be one of reconciliation.
  • “His rule shall be from sea to sea”: the King will control extended territory with no enemies of concern.

Jesus fulfills this prediction of Zechariah. Worldwide peace proclaimed by this humble King will be a fulfillment of the angels’ song in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (NKJV). 

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/sedmak3. Christ's journey on a donkey harkened back to the foreshadowing of a father sacrificing his own only son.

3. Christ’s journey on a donkey harkened back to the foreshadowing of a father sacrificing his own only son.

Isaac, a type of Christ, rides a donkey to be slain by his father Abraham on the altar (Genesis 49:10-12).

4. Jesus’ triumphal entry on a donkey symbolized God’s blessing to His people.

Jacob’s divine blessing over his son Judah includes a reference to a donkey and a donkey’s foal (Genesis 49:10-12): 

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”

Jesus is born of the tribe of Judah, eternally enthroned. Jacob’s prophecy describes a king who washes with wine (His blood) and has white teeth (purity). Incidentally, read verses 14-16 about Isaachar, the rawboned donkey, who bows in submission!

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/airspa5. Jesus' triumphal journey teaches us that after all of the sacrifices offered for sin, we can enter the rest of faith because of His final sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12).

5. Jesus’ triumphal journey teaches us that after all of the sacrifices offered for sin, we can enter the rest of faith because of His final sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12).

Exodus 23:12 states God’s clear command:

 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.” 

6. Emissaries sent donkeys overloaded with gifts to appease the wrath of an enemy, preventing bloodshed.

Jacob sent donkeys packed with treasures to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau (Genesis 33:8). Abigail brought donkeys packed with food to keep David from killing her family. Nabal, her husband, had angered the king-to-be. The wise woman knelt before David and said in 1 Samuel 25:26:

“And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal.” 

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/RomoloTavaniDonkey on the mountain

7. God used a donkey to speak His judgment!

Yes, Balaam’s donkey actually warns the prophet of His disobedience. In Numbers 22, Moses writes:

“… Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’ Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.’ The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?’ ‘No,’ he said. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. The angel of the Lord asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.’”

Samson defeated the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. (Judges 15:15). 

God sent a lion to devour a false prophet in 1 Kings 13:27-31, while his donkey safely stood and watched. The lion did not eat the donkey. The donkey carried the slain prophet back home at God’s behest.

King Jehu rode a donkey into Samaria, a kind of false Jerusalem, in order to destroy the temple of the false god Baal (2 Kings 9:11-10:28). 

Christ entered Jerusalem’s temple and pronounced judgment as He overturned the money-changer’s tables in Matthew 21:12

“My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” 

8. Jesus demonstrated that he was the burden-bearer who came to save us.

Baby Jesus was born in humility. Remember, a donkey carried a poor, pregnant mother named Mary all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:4-7). This gentle beast of burden carried the Savior of the World. Jesus used the image of Mary’s donkey to connect with the common people. He came for them. 

Jesus embraced the poor, weak and oppressed during his time here on earth. Christ’s sweet, simple story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:33-34 is a perfect symbol of his love and compassion: 

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.”

The Bible is rich in symbolism. Enjoy the triumphal entry in a deeper way this year.


A Second Look at Palm Sunday

by Greg Laurie on Mar 26, 2021

We’ve all been angry at one time or another and said things that we regretted. When the adrenaline wore off, we realized how foolish it was to make such a statement or to do such a thing.

As a result, we perceive anger as a negative thing in most cases. But I would suggest that anger can be a good thing, even for a Christian. There was a time when Jesus Christ Himself was angry, and He’s someone we want to emulate in every way.

Personally, I’m interested in knowing what angers God. I’m also interested in knowing what saddens Him, because I don’t want to cause either anger or sadness in the heart of God.

This weekend we’re celebrating Palm Sunday. It’s a day we generally associate with excitement, celebration, joy, and happiness as we remember how palm branches were laid down before the Messiah as He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

But it also was a day when Jesus expressed both anger and sorrow, because things were not as they should have been.

There was a sense among the multitudes (and even among the disciples to some degree) that Jesus would give the call, the charge, and He would establish the kingdom of God then and there.

As a result, excitement began to build as the people heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem. The city teemed with pilgrims who were visiting for Passover, and the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips. His popularity has swelled to its highest point yet.

And as He made His way into the city on a donkey, the celebration began.

His hour had come

Now, riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was definitely an attention-getter, because it had great symbolic meaning to both the Romans and the Jews. When the Romans returned from a battle, the general would ride into the city in a triumphal procession, declaring himself as the conqueror. In the Romans’ minds, this is what Christ was doing.

But the Jews who were conversant with Scripture would have recognized this as a fulfillment of messianic prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NKJV).

For the most part, Jesus had been lying low. Sure, He had opened His heart to His disciples. When the multitudes wanted to make Him king, He resisted their advances. And He would often say that His hour had not yet come. He was talking about the hour of his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.

But now His hour had come. And He deliberately was doing something to force the authorities’ hands. He wanted to do something dramatic, something that would get the attention of the people, something that would say, “All right, let’s go! I’m ready!”

You see, Jesus was in complete control of the circumstances around him. He wasn’t going to the cross as a victim but as a victor. It isn’t that everything was going well on Palm Sunday and then suddenly fell apart. Everything was going according to plan—divine plan.

And Jesus, much to the shock of everyone who observed it, was weeping. Being God, He knew the future. He knew that Jerusalem would face utter destruction in 40 years. In A.D. 70, Titus and the Roman legions would march into Jerusalem and slaughter more than 600,000 Jews. Their beloved temple would be burned to the ground and dismantled stone by stone, exactly fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that day (see Luke 19:42–44).

Yes, Jesus was sad. But He also was angry. Luke’s Gospel tells us, “Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, “My Temple will be a house of prayer,” but you have turned it into a den of thieves’” (19:45–46 NKJV).

I love this image of Jesus, because so often in religious art, He’s portrayed as anemic and wimpy. He doesn’t look like He could turn over a stick, much less a table. But the Jesus of the Bible knew indignation, even anger, when something wasn’t right. And the problem was that people were being kept away from the Temple.

A hospital for sinners

They were being ripped off. When they arrived with their sacrificial animals, something would be conveniently wrong with them. Then they had to buy an “approved” animal at an inflated price to be able to approach God.

Not only that, but when non-Jews came to the Temple to worship God, they were kept at arm’s length.

So Jesus did something dramatic. He turned over their tables and drove them out. Jesus cleaned house because things were a mess. He essentially was saying, “Don’t turn people away when they’re coming to find God.”

The church today is a place to worship, to learn, and to use our gifts. But let’s also remember that it’s a place for people to find God. It isn’t a museum for saints; it’s a hospital for sinners. People need to feel welcomed and loved.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, the crowds misunderstood why He had come. Basically they wanted Jesus on their own terms. They wanted a deliverer and a Messiah who conformed to their plans. They wanted Jesus to destroy Rome but not their cherished sins or their hypocritical, superficial religion.

The same can be true of us. We can celebrate Palm Sunday along with Easter, but does it really impact us? We can celebrate Jesus’ resurrection yet live as though He were still dead. We can sing the praises of a Jesus who will bring us success, prosperity, and personal happiness, but then recoil from the one who requires obedience, commitment, and sacrifice.

Jesus will not be Lord on our terms; He will be Lord on His. He will not be what we expect Him to be; He will be what He is. Therefore, we need to adapt and adjust to His plan and purpose for our lives.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

This article was originally published at

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AUDIO Triumph And Tragedy

By Rev Bill Woods

Who’d believe it had been 3 years since Jesus began His public ministry!

 – 3 years since John the Baptist had pointed Jesus out to the multitudes saying,Behold, the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus’ fame had spread quickly.

    – People knew Him as a “great teacher,” the “miracle worker,” some even dared call Him the “Messiah.”

Huge crowds thronged Him everywhere He went to hear and see Him — to be fed and healed.

Not everyone held Him in such high esteem.

    – The Governing body of the Jews, the Sanhedrin, composed of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes most of who hated Jesus. (70 men plus the High Priest = 71),

      – Their hatred grew in direct proportion of His fame.

      – They were jealous of Him.  He was drawing people away from them!

During the time of the Roman governors like Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction only over the province of Judea.

The Sanhedrin had its own police force which could arrest people, as they did Christ in Gethsemane.

While the Sanhedrin heard both civil and criminal cases and could find a person guilty and impose the death sentence but couldn’t carry it out.  In New Testament times it didn’t have the authority to execute convicted criminals. – That power was reserved to the Romans, which explains why Jesus was crucified — a Roman punishment — rather than stoned, according to Mosaic law.

The Sanhedrin had to stop Him!  They had to convince the Roman Governor, Pilate to execute Him — He was destroying their Religious Empire!

    – They plotted His death — it couldn’t come too quickly!

On Palm Sunday, Jesus began His last week of public ministry.

    – His guarded secret that He was the Messiah was about to be revealed.

      – He’d cautioned His disciples after the Transfiguration to tell no one what they’d seen.

      – It was probably a miracle that Peter held it in and didn’t blab it!

Now it was time to proclaim who He was — He let the people proclaim Him King.

 – That day the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 was being fulfilled. 

Zechariah 9:9 (NKJV)
9  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

  1. Jesus rode into Jerusalem as The King in triumph.


After eating breakfast with His friends, Jesus, and His disciples, left Bethany to go to Jerusalem.

    – The roads were crowded pilgrims were making their annual trek to the Passover.

      – Every Jew tried to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.

      – Jerusalem’s population swelled from 35,000 to 350,000 during that week.

Jesus prepared to ride into Jerusalem in the style of a king — Luke 19:29-34

And it came to pass, when He came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples,
30  saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here.
31  And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’ “
32  So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them.
33  But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?”
34  And they said, “The Lord has need of him.”

    – A conqueror would ride into the city on a White Stallion flaunting his power and control.

      – A King, coming in peace, would come on a donkey.

Jesus sent 2 disciples to find a donkey to ride.

– Jesus was well known.

  – Everyone coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover knew about Him.

  – That day, the popular mood was favorable toward Him.

“The Lord needs it” was all the disciples had to say, and the owners gladly turned their little donkey over to them.

      – Here’s a lesson — we should make our possessions available to the Lord…….. Hang on loosely to all you have…..

Luke 19:35: Then they brought him (the donkey) to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.

Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered at Jerusalem to announce His true identity.   

    – Huge crowds could see Him, and understanding His proclamation was unmistakable.

– The people were ecstatic — They were sure their liberation was at hand.

As Jesus sat on the little donkey, the crowd went wild — their Messiah had finally arrived!

    – Kings rode donkeys………..

Describe the scene:

Psalm 24:7-10 (NKJV)
7  Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.
8  Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.
9  Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.
10  Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

Caught up in the emotion, people spread their garments along the path; others placed palm branches in the path.

Luke 19:36-38: 
36  And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
37  Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen,
38  saying: “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Soon they reached the summit of the Mount of Olives (describe Jerusalem)

The Pharisees complained to Jesus that the crowd was breaking a noise ordinance.                                   

 Luke 19:39-40

39  And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke

Your disciples.”

 40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

The little donkey jogged on toward the Kidron Valley.

    – The crowd grew larger — so did the excitement.

      – The whole valley echoed with cries of “HOSANNA!”

The excited crowd got so noisy the Pharisees again demanded Jesus quiet them.

    – Jesus said if the people held their voices the stones would cry out — lots of rocks!

The Pharisees concluded —

John 12:19–The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

  • It must’ve seemed that way that day!

This was the King’s Triumphal entry into Jerusalem — nearly everyone was shouting, “Hosanna.”

    – Nearly everyone was happy — in a holiday mood!

      – Everyone, that is, except the grumpy Pharisees, and — JESUS?

2.  TRAGEDYLuke 19:41-44
41  Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
42  saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
43  For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,
44  and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Right in the midst of all the celebrating and hilarious shouting, Jesus began weeping.

    – The wild demonstration of affection by the fickle multitude caused Jesus to weep!

Listen as His heart breaks for His people — Matthew 23:37
37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

    – Here’s the agony of the Savior over a lost city.

His Phrase, “how often,” sums up the tenderest love story ever told.

    – Describe how God had tried to love Israel………

Now their days of grace were over — they still refused God’s Love.

    – Jesus sobs, “I wanted to gather you together and you wouldn’t let me!”- He knew the consequences they would face for rejecting Him.

What Jesus said to Israel that first Palm Sunday, He’s saying to us today………

    – How often He’d bless us, but we refuse………… He knows the consequences people face today  for rejecting God’s Plan of Salvation — Eternity in Hell…………….

      – He won’t send you there for rejecting Him, but He will let  you go there if you choose!……

God loves us so much, but we’re obstinate and rebellious and we won’t respond……

Israel lost Her Great Opportunity — Luke 19:42
42  saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  

    – The opportunity was offered, refused and lost forever…(God’s Mercy will one day run out)

Israel had her times of visitation.

    – God sent Moses and the prophets — David stretched the Kingdom from Dan to Beersheba — again, when they returned from Babylon to rebuild the City, the Walls, and the Temple —

    — Now, they were rejecting Jesus, their Messiah.

They’d killed the prophets and stoned those sent to deliver them — soon they’d crucify God’s Son, Himself!


Jesus wept for what Israel might’ve been if she’d only obeyed God.

    – Israel missed her chance!

This sad story still happens in too many lives.

    – God has a purpose for your life — He wants the best for you!

Jesus came as King, but the people misunderstood His Kingdom.

    – They thought in terms of an earthly kingdom that would eventually pass away.


Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was coming as King over sickness and disease.

    – Lame man, blind man, etc.

Jesus Christ was coming as King over demons and darkness.

    – Legion in tombs — boy possessed by demon — Mary Magdalene.

      – Our demonic problems are just beginning and will get worse — we need Jesus!

Jesus was coming as King victorious over discouragement and defeat — Nicodemus.

Jesus was coming as conquering King over pain and broken-heartedness.

    – Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb.

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was coming as King over sin, death, and the grave.

    – Zacchaeus had been forgiven!

      – Widow from Nain’s son was restored to his mother.

        – Lazarus was Alive!.

Listen to what Christ said was His purpose for coming — Luke 4:18-19
18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

The people in Jerusalem didn’t understand — before that week was over they even thought Christ’s Kingdom was destroyed.

    – Jesus had to die on the Cross in order to establish His Spiritual Kingdom for all time and Eternity —

Isaiah 53:5-6
5  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Satan thought he’d won a victory over God — he’d soon know he’d suffered the worst defeat he could experience — “Satan often shoots himself in the foot!”.

    – He’s now a defeated enemy forever………….

Jesus had to go to prepare a place for us who love Him.

    – He’s promised He’ll come again to get us……….John 14:2-6  
2  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4  And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5  Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Sunday, we’ll celebrate His first coming as King to Jerusalem.

    – Soon we’ll meet Him in the air — Rapture.

      – 7 years later we’ll see His 2nd Coming as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!

Then there’ll be no misunderstanding Who He really is!

Have you confessed Him as your Lord today?

    – YOU WILL ON THAT GREAT AND TERRIBLE DAY! —                                                 Philippians 2:10-11
10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
11  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

How terrifying it will be to stand before our ALMIGHTY GOD unprepared!………………….  You don’t have to be unprepared!  He’s provided a way for you!

The King came to Jerusalem the first time.



Palm Sunday and the Gift of Disillusionment

How the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry—and my chronic pain diagnosis—helped me trade in false hopes for a truer picture of God.


Palm Sunday and the Gift of Disillusionment
Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Illustrations by Gustave Doré

The December sky was low and gray on the morning I woke up and could not feel my hands. I wrung out my arms, hoping the sensation would return. I shook them violently to no avail. Rushing to the bathroom, I held them under hot water. Then frigid water. Neither helped.

Within days, prickly tingles crept up my arm and spread to my shoulders. The numbness turned into pain that burned, ached, and stabbed. Even my fingernails throbbed. A neurologist performed tests using electrified needles inserted into my muscles and shock pads placed on the skin. Nothing appeared abnormal.

Next came a series of scans and a litany of tests for minor problems like vitamin deficiencies, major illnesses like Lupus, and life-threatening conditions like multiple myeloma. Each brought excruciating waiting and worry. I was, after all, a writer whose livelihood depended on having control of his hands. All returned negative.

My symptom list grew with each passing month. First came nerve twitches in my legs, arms, back, and face. Then a paradox of sapping fatigue and insomnia. Severe panic attacks struck without warning, and I broke out in excruciating shingles from the overwhelming stress. The slightest stressor—a large crowd or a long line, common in New York City, where I live—left me bedridden.

The revolving door of physicians left me without a diagnosis and drowning in an ocean of medications: anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, nerve pills, pain killers, antiepileptic drugs, sleeping pills, and a healthy dose of Lexapro and Xanax to keep me from a full-on mental break. I grasped for anyone who would help, scheduling appointments with cardiologists and chiropractors, naturopaths and nutritionists, holistic doctors and Hasidic Jewish healers.

My life blurred. My ability to work was reduced to a meager three hours a day. My social life disintegrated, leaving me in depths of loneliness I’d never known before. Everything familiar looked strange. Pain tormented me at every moment. I awoke to pain, worked with pain, dined with pain, and fought for sleep despite pain’s presence.

I was helpless like Job, brought low before God out of sheer desperation. When he was faced with his own pain, he could only bow before the Divine and listen to the wind. The difference between us is that once Job submitted, God restored him. I had no such luck. I was incarcerated in the prison of my own body.

And just like that, I joined the more than 25 million Americans who struggle with chronic pain disorders, many of them idiopathic in nature. As a Christian, I believed that God was sovereign, which made my chronic pain journey also a voyage of divine disappointment.

Come on, God. You know my story. You were there when my neighbor abused me as a child. You know how awkward and alienated I felt throughout adolescence. You know how I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire adult life. I’m starting to see sunlight, to get a little relief, and then this happens? Really?

This is the edited version, actually. I spoke words to God that the MPAA would bar from a PG-13 movie.

The Dopamine Roller Coaster

On November 9, 2016, New Yorkmagazine published an article on the science of disappointment. The article opened by stating the obvious, which is that “the feeling of being let down is actually one of life’s toughest emotional experiences.”

Of course, most people don’t need a magazine article to know that this is true, that disappointment hurts. A spouse or partner, that person who made butterflies dance inside you, cheated on you, and then hid it. Your colleague smeared you in a meeting to steal the promotion you earned. The child you prayed over since birth stormed out of the house, swearing to never return. A forgotten birthday, a withheld apology, a bucketful of lies from someone you’d die for.

Disappointment is an unavoidable part of being human, but as the New York magazine article noted, the experience is physiological, not just emotional. The feeling of disappointment is linked to your levels of dopamine: the brain’s “pleasure” chemical, released during positive life experiences. The dopamine systems in your brain don’t just react to what you experience; they attempt to predict what you want or need.

Here’s how it works: Your brain generates expectations about the future. Often these expectations are based on what you want. Something you perceive as good has happened in the past, so you begin to expect it will happen in the future. Before it even happens, your dopamine levels begin to rise in the rush of anticipation. Then, when that good thing actually occurs, you get a double shot of dopamine.

Here’s the rub: Life doesn’t always give us what we expect. People fail us. People hurt us. People lay us on the altars of their own selfishness. When you don’t get the desired result—researchers call this a “reward-prediction error”—not only do your dopamine levels fall; they plummet from the heightened level generated by your expectations.

Now, instead of receiving a double shot of dopamine, you receive none. You crash doubly hard: “Not only do you not get what you wanted,” the article states, “but you also feel the displeasure of having been wrong.” The point? “Losing hurts even worse … when it’s not what you were expecting.”

Rising Expectations

In the valley of my disappointment, I discovered a gospel story that’s a portrait of what it looks like when an entire community suffers a reward-prediction error. It’s known as the “triumphal entry,” and it is usually told on Palm Sunday in most churches.

Dust was swirling across the scorching desert as a rebel-Rabbi and his band of co-conspirators climbed up to Jerusalem. Rather than slip into the city unannounced, Jesus did something strange. He told a couple of his disciples to go to a particular place and retrieve a donkey for him to ride into the city.

Jesus turned his face toward a city that kills prophets, stones truth-tellers, and executes troublemakers. With a deep sigh, he steeled himself, mounted the humble beast, and clip-clopped toward the Kidron Valley. When the Jerusalemites saw Jesus approaching, they erupted in excitement. They began stripping off their cloaks and spreading them across the road. The crowd whacked branches off trees and laid them across Jesus’ path. As if this weren’t enough pomp and ceremony, the crowd broke into a Passover song.

All four Gospel writers include this narrative, each with their own twist. Matthew’s version says that the procession turns the whole city into “turmoil” (21:10, NRSV). The Greek word for turmoil is the root for the English word seismic. The city trembles as Jesus approaches.

The story begins with great expectations, which are easy to miss. Jesus has just been in Bethany, close to Jerusalem, where he resurrected his friend Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus’s eyes have barely adjusted to the sunlight, and his story has spread throughout the region. Hearing this story, the crowds react, their brains bathed in dopamine. They begin to predict how God will act in their lives based on the way that God acted before: He will intervene again. He will work a miracle. He will expel the occupiers and resurrect God’s people in God’s city.

The palm branches signaled the crowd’s high expectations, a symbol largely lost on those of us who are separated from the culture and chronology of the story. Jewish history told of a man named Judas Maccabeus, a freedom fighter who entered Jerusalem 200 years prior to Jesus. As he approached, people waved palm branches and sang hymns. When Judas finally arrived, he defeated the Syrian king, recaptured the Temple, expelled the pagans, and reigned for a century before the Romans took back the city.

God had saved his people from an occupier once before when an uncommon man trotted into town. With a new sheriff seemingly on the horizon, their dopamine systems kicked in, and they began predicting another takeover. Their song declared, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9).

This is a song that Jews sang at the beginning of Passover. It’s taken from Psalm 118, the most quoted psalm in the New Testament. It tells of an enemy swarming like bees, driving the psalmist to the brink of destruction. Then God sweeps in with a mighty hand and wipes out the enemy. The word Hosanna means “Lord, save now.” They are asking Jesus to drive out the enemy army and restore order.

Even the donkey plays a role in elevating expectations, as it harkens back to an image from Zechariah 9:9, a prophetic passage that many of these Jerusalemites would have heard before. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.”

That night, around dinner tables across Jerusalem, the Jews likely discussed the day in hushed voices. “Could this be the king we’ve been waiting for? He was riding a donkey after all.” By the time Jesus mounted that donkey and descended into town, their dopamine systems would have been in overdrive.

‘Resentments Under Construction’

The crowds that day aren’t much different from us. I’ve spent my whole life in churches—evangelical and mainline, small and mega, liturgical congregations and those with ear-splitting rock bands. I can’t think of one that hasn’t projected expectations onto God.

Maybe you picture God as a heavenly bellhop whose job is to satisfy your deepest desires. Or perhaps God is a holy matchmaker who will secure you a spouse. Maybe God is a cosmic bodyguard who protects you from harm. Or the world’s best nanny, making sure your children turn out right. Or a divine doctor, healing your every physical and mental ailment. Or a wonder-working accountant, solving all your financial problems—provided you drop off a portion in the church coffers, of course.

People tend to assume that God is the deity they want. All you have to do is snatch up a couple of verses that seem to support your preferred version. Then you spend a few years listening to a pastor reinforce them through selective storytelling. Before you know it, the cement of those assumptions dries, and you begin expecting God to work in particular ways in your life. Not unlike the people of Jerusalem.

This works pretty well, as long as God seems to do what we want him to do. But the moment he doesn’t conform to our expectations, our whole world rattles. A baby is born with a disability. A person you love abandons you for another. A friend dies before her time. The expectations you placed on God ferment into distrust, into disappointment. As author Anne Lamott says, “Expectations are resentments under construction.”

In September 2015, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote an article in the New York TimesSunday Review titled “Googling for God.” He wanted to show how Google search data can tell us a lot about the psychology of the modern age. When it comes to God, many people won’t share their struggles with their faith leaders or friends. Instead, they type them into Google, where they can ask with both impunity and anonymity.

Stephens-Davidowitz sifted through a decade worth of Google searches and found that the most Googled questions about God included these questions: Why does God allow suffering? Why does God need so much praise? Why does God hate me? Why did God make me ugly? Why did God make me gay? Why did God make me black?

A blind man can see the thread binding each of these questions together: disappointment with God.

Many of us—perhaps tens of millions—have a common experience when it comes to spirituality. We expect God to be something and then discover that he is not at all like that. Or we expect God to do something, only to realize that he seems to have his own priorities. In these moments, a tsunami of disappointment comes crashing down.

From Disappointment to Disillusionment

The Palm Sunday story displays the transition from expectation to disappointment in Technicolor. The triumph becomes a trial, and the trial becomes an execution. Jesus entered the city on a donkey, but we know he will leave in a body bag. This is not just a fun parade; Jesus is walking down death row.

Here we have a picture of what happens to a group of very religious people when they feel disappointed by God. At the start, the crowds embrace Jesus with dopamine levels soaring and shouts of “Save us now!” As soon as Jesus turns out to be something other than the savior they expect, their Hosannas morph into “Crucify him!”

Jesus is a king, but not the kind they wanted. He will serve rather than be served. He will die and not be killed. He enters unarmed, waging peace. This makes a larger point that God does not intend to meet our expectations. Instead, he meets our needs.

This type of God makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want vegetables when I’m craving candy. I want a God that satisfies my desires, whether or not those align with my needs. And so it is with all of us. We welcome God into our lives with anticipation, with expectation. We’re laying down cloaks and waving palm branches with all we’ve got. But when God turns out to be someone we don’t recognize, we scatter like smoke in the wind.

One of the most interesting features of this story is how much preparation Jesus does. He lines up everything, making sure to trigger the crowd’s expectations. It’s like Jesus has hired a PR agency, indicating that he knows exactly what he is stirring up.

But why? Is he trying to disappoint them? No. I think he is trying to disillusion them.

The word disillusion has gotten a bad rap in recent times, but it’s a gift God gives with abundance. Disillusionment is, well, the loss of an illusion. It is what happens when you take a lie—about the world, about yourself, about those you love, about God—and replace it with the truth. Disillusionment occurs when God shatters our fantasies, tears down our idols, and dismantles our cardboard cutouts. It occurs when we discover that God does not conform to our expectations but rather exists as a mystery beyond those expectations.

The definition offered by Episcopal preacher Barbara Brown Taylor in her book God in Pain may be the best I’ve seen. She describes disillusionment as the sacred experiences that cut us down to size and remind us of our smallness in this expansive universe. These experiences are often painful but never bad, because they make us shed the lies we’ve mistaken for truth: “Disillusioned,” she writes, “we find out what is not true and we are set free to seek what is—if we dare—to turn away from the God who was supposed to be in order to seek the God who is.”

Ultimately, the triumphal entry is not about donkeys and palm branches at all. It’s a reminder that placing expectations on God based on our wants is a recipe for resentment. But nurturing openness to divine mystery is a framework for faith.

Shedding Illusions

I’ve learned to manage my pain disorder, but it has persisted despite my best efforts. Yet I refuse to let disappointment sever my relationship with God. And over time, I’ve begun to uncover and shed illusions. I’m dismantling mirages I’ve constructed around productivity, identity, and self-worth. No longer can I work 12-to-14-hour days. Or pretend that who I am is enhanced by how much I produce. Or ground my sense of worth in accomplishments and accolades. Or pretend that God will keep me healthy or heal my every ache and pain.

I have traded these lies for a truth: that in times of difficulty, God offers us his presence, not a parachute. This exchange has transformed my disappointment into disillusionment. And disillusion turned out to be a horrible, wonderful gift.

What we experience as disappointment is an invitation to give up holding tight to what we hope is true. To stop trying to cast God in our image. To let God be who God is, not who we wish God would be.

The choice is ours. And who knows? If we decide to step off the dopamine roller coaster, maybe we’ll find ourselves at the foot of a cross, giving up all we have for the One who gave up everything for us.

Adapted from Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing—and How We Can Revive Them Copyright © 2018 by Jonathan Merritt. Published by Convergent Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and Christians Today

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we celebrate Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. It’s traditionally called the Triumphal Entry, but do you know why it is called ‘triumphal’ or what message that sends to Christians today?

The account of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem is found in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1-17Mark 11:1-11Luke 19:29-40 and John 12:12-19). For those who are not totally familiar with the entry narrative, before entering Jerusalem, Jesus sent 2 disciples ahead to bring him back the colt of a donkey, a colt that never been ridden. Then Jesus sat on the colt and rode it into Jerusalem. The people heard of his coming and believed that He was the promised king come to deliver them from the tyranny of their Roman rulers. Hailing Jesus as their king, the people lined the road and placed palm fronds down on the road in front of Jesus and the donkey colt, an honor only given to a king. This is why we celebrate the day – Palm Sunday.

Jesus entry into Jerusalem is referred to these days as the Triumphal Entry because the people hailed him as their promised king. Jesus didn’t correct the people, but He rode in not as their promised king but as their promised Messiah. The people thought He was there to save them from the Romans, but Jesus knew that He was there to save them from eternal damnation and that it would cost Him His life. He knew He was not going to sit on an earthly throne and rule the Jewish people, but that He was going to endure an excruciating and humiliating tortuous death on a cross.

Jesus’ mission was very different from what the people were expecting, but was the most important act for all of mankind, ever since Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden.

So, what message does the Triumphal Entry have for Christians today?

Knowing the consequences for doing the right thing and what His purpose was, Jesus didn’t stray from that purpose and He did the right thing. Knowing the cost of doing the right thing would lead to being beaten, whipped, spat upon, having a crown of thorns embedded on his head and then suffer the slow and agonizing death on the cross, Jesus still did the right thing, even though His human part asked God if at all possible, to remove that cup (duty) from Him. Jesus, however, knew that God would not remove the cup from Him and that He was definitely going to be brutally killed.

Today, Christians are facing a lot of persecution. Democrats are working hard to pass laws that make preaching some of the truths about sins a criminal act. They mock Christians and go out of their way to try to silence TRUE Christians.

I emphasize TRUE Christians because a great many people who claim to be Christians have compromised their faith by abandoning parts of what the Bible teaches. They have compromised to the sinful ways of the secular world, such as living together before or out of marriage and accepting homosexuality instead of condemning it as an abominable sin (Leviticus 18:2220:13). Many of today’s so-called Christians are afraid of being confronted for their faith or they find themselves embarrassed by their faith – kind of like Peter denying Christ 3 times.

Just as Jesus did not back away from the truth and doing what He knew was the right thing to do, even though it cost Him everything (from an earthly perspective), TRUE Christians should be prepared to do the same.

Standing up for Jesus and the truths of the Bible could cost you your relationships with family and friends as Jesus said would happen. It could cost you your job, your home, your finances and even your freedom.

Are you prepared or willing to lose everything in the name of Jesus? If not, then you need to question your faith. After all, Jesus warned about people like that when He said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’.” Matthew 7:21-23.

When I read or hear about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, I see it as an example to follow – to do what is right in the eyes of God, even knowing the consequences could be dire.

Original here