by Marian O’Brien, MTh
You can use this Complete-A-Project Bible Search activity with learners across a broad age range. This Bible Search is based on Matthew 21:1-11, the Gospel at the blessing of the palms on Palm Sunday in Year A.
* Palm Sunday signals the beginning of Holy Week—the most significant week of the year in the Catholic Church. It is called Palm Sunday because it reminds us of the jubilant reception Jesus received from the people when he entered the city of Jerusalem with his disciples. The people cut branches from the trees and laid them in the road before them.
* Two Gospels are read on Palm Sunday. This reading takes place at the beginning of Mass. The priest stands at the entrance to the church, reads the Gospel, and blesses the palms that will be distributed. The other reading that will take place during Mass will be from Matthew as well. It provides the account of the Last Supper and Jesus’ trial, death, and burial. We commonly refer to this as “the reading of the Passion.”
* The Gospel for this lesson is full of prophetic fulfillment. For example, verse 5 refers to the Old Testament verse from Zechariah 9:9 in which the coming of the Messiah is foretold. This was the first time Jesus openly identified himself as the Messiah. He did this by riding into Jerusalem on an ass—a symbol Jews would have understood because they would have known about the prophecy from Zechariah.
* This Old Testament reference is about a king who would restore God’s peace to his people—not a conqueror who would vanquish oppressors. This king would be a humble leader who would practice God’s saving mercy. Yet, this was not the kind of Messiah the people were expecting, and this is indicated by what they shouted as Jesus entered Jerusalem: “Hosanna to the Son of David” (v. 9; hosanna means “Lord, grant us your salvation”). They expected a Davidic Messiah to be a conquering hero. After more than five centuries of oppression—by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and then the Romans—the Jewish people were looking for someone to use military might, as David had.
* Despite all that the disciples witnessed Jesus do, and all that Jesus tried to teach them, they were caught up in the hope that Jesus would lead a revolt against the Romans—despite Jesus’ recent prediction about his own death (see Matthew 20:17-19).
* At the same time, the leaders of the Jewish people were concerned that Jesus would incite the people to revolt. They knew the Romans would easily crush any revolt and punish the Jewish people. Because of this, they would be looking for a way to get rid of Jesus. In less than five days, they would arrange to turn Jesus over to the Romans to be put to death.
—Guide and activity sheet by Marian O’Brien, MTh.
Copies of the activity sheet [CLICK HERE]
Bibles (The Search is based on the New American Bible.)
Pencils or pens
1. Share Background information with your students. Some of the questions on the activity sheet are based on this material.
2. Have students open their Bibles to Matthew 21:1-11 and ask a student to read the passage aloud.
3. Emphasize that the Hebrew word hosanna means, “Lord, grant us your salvation.” Ask students to come up with definitions for salvation based on what Jesus’ taught. (Possible response: Jesus taught us about salvation from sinful behavior.) How is this different from what the people of Jerusalem were expecting salvation to mean? (Possible response: The people were expecting that salvation meant freedom from the Romans). Explain that one is spiritual freedom and one is physical freedom.
4. Have a student read the left-hand panel on the activity sheet and then conduct a discussion based on these questions: Why did remembering what she did to her friend Mary help Julie understand what happened to Jesus? Julie made a poor choice simply because she wanted to be popular. Can you remember a time in your life when something like this happened to you? Did you act more like Julie or Mary? How can thinking about things we have done in the past help us make better choices in the future? (Possible response: It can help us think about what Jesus truly wants of us, see where we have gone wrong, and try not to make the same mistakes in the future.)
5. Have students answer the questions on the activity sheet and check their answers.
6. Have a student read the right-hand panel of the activity sheet and close the lesson with the Our Father.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, August 2014.
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