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21. The Bible's Big Story

25 lesson plans for children, young people and their teachers.

Lesson 21 Jesus’ death and resurrection Bible reference – Matthew 26-28; Luke 22 verse47 to 24 verse 53. The last days of Jesus on earth were spent in Jerusalem. He arrived riding on a donkey. Many people welcomed Him – see the picture in the Good News Bible, by Matthew

21 verses 1-11. Two prophecies were fulfilled by these events.

Have four students read these verses:

  • Zechariah 9 verse 9

  • Matthew 21 verses 4-5

  • Psalm 118 verse 26

  • Matthew 21 verse 9

The people were shouting “Hosanna” – like African women ululate (sing) joyfully welcoming an important visitor. In Hebrew “Hosanna” is a cry for help, “save”. It became a word used in praise and pleasure. Many times Jesus is called “David’s Son” or “Son of David” in Matthew, from 1 verse 1 onwards. This name shows He is descended from the right family to be the Messiah.

Ask students who can ululate to do so, as if a King came into the class. The crowd were still expecting Jesus to be a strong military hero. They needed to look more closely. Jesus was not dressed in army uniform or riding on a wonderful horse. He was in simple – not royal – clothes, and riding on a small donkey. Jesus was still teaching that His Kingdom turns the standards in the world upside down. (or more truly downside up!) Divide the students into five groups. Have each group look up one text to read to the class. All of them show that Jesus knew He was going to be arrested, killed as a criminal, and buried in Jerusalem, before He rose again from the dead.

  • Matthew 16 verse 21 – a student reads

  • Matthew 17 verses 22-23 – a student reads

  • Matthew 20 verses 17-19 – a student reads

  • Matthew 20 verse 28 – a student reads

  • Matthew 26 verses 1-2 – a student reads

Ask the students in their five groups to make one sentence they can say to the whole class. It must tell what the large crowds were expecting “King” Jesus to do, and what He really was going to do. Give them time to think and plan it, perhaps to write it out.

Have each group share with everyone. It was Passover time in Jerusalem. Ask, can anyone remind the class what happened at the very first Passover – where the name came from – back when God’s special people were being saved from slavery in Egypt?


Make sure students understand Passover was when Jews remember the night their ancestors painted the blood from a young lamb on the door frames of their homes. God killed the firstborn son in every home that was not saved by this sign of blood. This terrible event persuaded Pharaoh to let God’s people leave Egypt, (Exodus 11 and 12). Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover together with many Jews in Jerusalem. They were in a room they borrowed from a friend.

Have the class, in their five groups, sit or recline (see note 22 below) around five tables (or pretend tables). They are going to act out the end of this Passover celebration. Appoint one in each group to act Jesus. You need five pieces of bread (or kisera, injerrah, etc.), large enough for the students to have a piece each to eat. You also need five cups of water (or karkadeh) large enough for every student in the group to sip from. And you need a short song everyone can sing well. The event is described in Matthew 26 verses 17-30 and Luke 22 verses 7-23.

Groups act as you speak. Remember this is only ACTING the celebration.

  • Jesus and His disciples met for the Passover meal.

  • They washed their hands.

  • They sat or reclined around the food table.

  • They ate roasted meat, bread made without yeast and bitter herbs.

  • They also drank wine.

  • They passed the food and drink to one another.

1. At the end of the meal Jesus spoke. (Perhaps the ‘Jesus’ actors can repeat these

words after you, phrase by phrase, to their own group). Jesus said, “This is my last

Passover with you / before I suffer and die. / We will not eat and drink like this

again / until we are together in the Kingdom of God”. 2. Jesus gave some bread to all of them. (Act). As they broke off a piece and ate it

He said, (‘Jesus’ actors say after you), “This is My body, / which is given for you. / Do this in memory of Me”. (Each student breaks a piece of bread and eats it). 3. Then Jesus passed a cup of wine around. (Act). As they each drank a little from it

He said, (Jesus actors say after you), “This cup is God’s new covenant / sealed

with My blood, / which is poured out for you”. (Each student drinks a little from

the cup as it is passed around). 4. Jesus wanted His disciples to think about Him often, in this way, after He had

been taken from them. This was the way King Jesus wanted to be remembered. 5. Everyone sang a hymn before they went out. Sing altogether a short song of praise the students know. Have the class come all together, no longer in groups. 22 “to lie or lean in a comfortable position, with your back supported”, Macmillan School Dictionary, 2004.


Tell this story very carefully. Believe God will use it to draw listeners to Himself. Jesus was soon arrested by the temple guards sent by the chief priests and elders. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, had told them of a quiet time and place. The disciples ran away, although some hid and watched from a safe distance. Jesus was put on trial in front of different councils. The Jews and the Romans had their own ways of doing things. The Jews accused Jesus of claiming to be the Son of God, (Matthew 26 verses 63-65; Luke 22 verses 70-71). They did not believe He was God the Son. To them His claim meant He was guilty of an insulting crime against God. He deserved only to die. This was just what Jesus had told His disciples would happen. As the ruling power, the Romans could execute Jesus. The Roman governor, Pilate, seemed to try and release Jesus. But the crowd that had come together shouted for Jesus to be crucified.

Have three students speak the words of Pilate. From different corners of the class they can call out – one by one – after you (to the rest of the class, who are the pretend crowd): “What shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?”, (Matthew 27 verse22). Have the class shout back the crowd’s words:

“Crucify Jesus. Crucify Him”, (Luke 23 verse 21). Perhaps do this two or thee times. Then settle the class down. Tell the class that this is what Jesus told His disciples would happen. And so Jesus was given to the Roman soldiers, to be crucified.

First they whipped Him badly. Then they made fun of Him. They dressed Him up as a King. They put a crown made from thorns on His head.

They spat at Him. They hit Him. After this painful torture the soldiers led Jesus to a place just outside the city wall. Golgotha is the Aramaic name, Matthew 27 verse 33. It means “the place of the Skull”. The Romans used a few different ways to crucify. Most likely they hammered nails through Jesus’ hands on to the wooden cross bar He carried. Then they drove a long nail through His ankles or feet on to the tall piece. The cross was pulled to stand it up.

Jesus was left hanging. This is what Jesus had told His disciples would happen. Although it was during normal daytime, darkness covered the whole country for three hours from midday. Then Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why did You abandon Me”, (Matthew 27 verse 46). (Abandon means 'to leave someone'). Have the class cry out together: “My God, My God, why have You left Me alone?” Perhaps do this two or three times. Jesus was thinking of Psalm 22 where these words come from. He knew He was in the centre of His Father’s will. He was trusting Himself into His Father’s care as He died. Crowds of people witnessed it happen. There was no doubt about it. Later on


Pilate checked Jesus was dead before releasing the body to be buried. Jesus died, just as He told His disciples to expect. One very interesting thing happened when Jesus died. It tells us a big part of the meaning of Jesus’ death: Ask a good reader to read Matthew 27 verse 51. “Then the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split apart”…

1. Ask, Who did the Jews believe lived behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place of

Jerusalem’s Temple? (God Himself). 2. Ask, what do you think it means, this curtain being torn at the time of Jesus’

death? (The way into God’s presence is open. Jesus death – His blood shed –

marks the end of the Temple and all other sacrifices). So Jesus was dead and buried. Roman guards were ordered to keep the tomb safe from any thieves. Some people thought the disciples may try to move the body and pretend Jesus was alive again, Matthew27 verse 62-66. The disciples locked themselves away in a quiet room. They were afraid the Jewish religious leaders may try and kill them next. What did happen next is the greatest miracle that ever happened!

It has completely changed world history.

It changes the lives of hundreds and thousands of individual people every year.

Have every student stand up. They can all pretend to be one of the women in the rest of the story. (There is only one rule: they must not move their feet! Only pretend walking, moving the hands and body.) 1. Early on Sunday morning women from Jesus’ followers went to the tomb. 2. They hoped to find some way of anointing Jesus’ body with the spices they

carried. They wanted to keep it safe from decay. 3. Matthew writes there was a violent earthquake as they arrived. 4. Luke writes the women see angels (“men in bright shining clothes”). 5. The women notice the stone at the tomb entrance is rolled away. 6. Going into the tomb they saw it was empty! Jesus’ body was not there!

  • Ask, how do you think the women felt? (Shocked, surprised, worried, angry, sad). The students act their own response. 6 students stand in front of the class and read aloud the words the angel said. From Matthew 28 verses 5-6:

  • “ I know you are looking for Jesus, / Who was crucified. / He is not here; / He has been raised, just as He said. / Come here / and see the place where

  • He was lying”.

Have them read it several times until the class hear it read very well.


The women ran and told all of the disciples. All that day people told one another what they thought was going on. Some was true. Some was not.

Two men were walking home late in the day. On the 11 kilometre journey they talked about all these events. A stranger joined them. He did not seem to know what had been going on. They told him all about Jesus. They said “we had hoped this Jesus would be the One Who was going to set Israel free”. “Now He has been crucified”. “Women found His tomb empty”. “No-one knows where the body is”, Luke 24 verses 13-24.

The stranger talked to them about the Scriptures, which He seemed to know very well. He showed them that the Messiah was expected to suffer – not like most people believed. His Kingdom was not of this world, Luke 24 verses 25-28.

When they arrived at the men’s house the three sat down to enjoy a meal together.

They suddenly saw this stranger was in fact Jesus!

Jesus had risen from the dead!

They immediately hurried all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.

They soon discovered that other disciples had seen the risen Jesus too! And as they talked together Jesus Himself came into the room and stood there! He helped them to understand the Scriptures. And He told them He had a plan to use them for the rest of their lives, Luke 24 verses 33-49.

Once more 6 students stand in front of the class and read aloud the words the angel said at Jesus’ tomb. From Matthew 28 verses 5-6:

  • “I know you are looking for Jesus,/ Who was crucified. / He is not here;

  • / He has been raised, just as He said. / Come here / and see the place where He was lying”.

Have them read it several times.

This is exactly what Jesus had said would happen!


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