Jesus came to Jerusalem to die on the Cross for our sins.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25
Today we are starting to look ahead to a special holiday called Easter. What do we celebrate at Easter? Easter is about remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Resurrection is rising from the dead! That is an amazing event! It can be easy to forget about this in all the excitement of getting together with family, eating chocolate, or hunting for Easter eggs. But what Jesus did when he came to earth about 2,000 years ago was very important to every single person—including you and me!
Why did Jesus come to earth? It has to do with a problem we all have. Our problem is sin. We are born with it and continue to sin by breaking God’s laws. God is holy and cannot sin. Because we are sinners, we are separated from God and deserve punishment. But God promised to send a Savior, the Messiah, and that was Jesus. We celebrate his birth at Christmas. At Easter, we remember his death and resurrection. Today, we’ll take a closer look at his death and why we should remember it.
When Jesus was about 30 years old, he began to travel from place to place, teaching people about the kingdom of God, healing people, and training his disciples. Many people were excited about Jesus and the miracles he did. They wondered if he could be the promised Messiah. Jesus and his disciples began the journey to Jerusalem, where the temple was. Jerusalem was the center of worship for the Israelites.
If we knew someone important were coming to our city, what are some things we might do to welcome him or her? We might have a parade and all come out to cheer and wave. We may put on a special program with speeches and music. Some famous people, like actors and celebrities, even walk down a red carpet while photographers jostle to get pictures of them.
But how would the people in Jerusalem welcome Jesus when he came? Let’s go to our Bibles to find out!
Read Matthew 21:1–11. Matthew is the first book in the New Testament, and the first of the four Gospels.
What did Jesus tell two disciples to do when they got close to Jerusalem? He told them to go into the village, find a donkey and a colt, and bring them to him. If anyone asked what they were doing when they took the animals, the disciples were to say, “The Lord needs them.”
And things happened just as Jesus said they would! The disciples found the animals and brought them to Jesus. Mark’s account of this event tells us that Jesus rode on the colt, which was the young donkey.
Why did Jesus choose to ride a donkey into Jerusalem? Verse four says Jesus fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet. This prophet was Zechariah, who wrote many years earlier that Israel’s king would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. This king would be righteous and humble, and he would bring salvation.
People spread their cloaks and tree branches on the road when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem (verse 8). Back in Jesus’ day, spreading clothing on the road was used to honor someone of royalty, like a king!
The people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means “save now,” so the people were hoping that Jesus was their Savior, or Messiah. They called him the Son of David, which was the family line God promised the Messiah would come from.
Even though the crowds greeted Jesus as a king, what did some people say about who he was at the end of verse 11? Did they say he was their Messiah, or Savior? No. They said he was a prophet.
Jesus’ coming stirred up the whole city. He entered the temple and cleared out all the merchants and money changers, saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.”
Why do you think Jesus was upset to see people buying and selling in the temple? The temple was a special house built for worshipping God. But the people at the temple weren’t respecting God. They were cheating people and turning the temple into a business place.
After Jesus entered the city as a king and cleaned out the temple, people wondered who he was, and everyone was talking about him. They knew about his teaching and his miracles. They hoped he was their Savior, but they didn’t understand what that meant.
You see, the Jewish people during the time of Jesus were oppressed people. The Romans had conquered them and now ruled over them and made the laws. Anyone who disobeyed faced severe punishments and death. Many Jews who read the prophecies in the Old Testament, like the one from Zechariah, thought that their coming king would gather an army and defeat the Romans and make them a free people again. But that is not what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to save us from our sins.
Refer to the map of Jerusalem (you can download it below and print it). It is a map of Jerusalem during Jesus’ day.
Let’s follow where Jesus has gone so far. See where it says Road to Jerusalem on the bottom right side? If you printed out a copy of the map, write a #1 in the circle next to that since that’s where we’ll start Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Now find the Temple and write #2 in the circle beside it. Then trace the dotted line from the Road to Jerusalem to the Temple. If you did not print out the map, then just look at the map and find these locations.
All the attention Jesus was getting made the Jewish religious leaders jealous and angry; they wanted the people to listen to them, not Jesus. But Jesus kept teaching the people, pointing out sins, and healing, even on the Sabbath Day when the leaders said he wasn’t allowed to! This made them even angrier.
The High Priest, named Caiaphas, and all the chief priests and elders gathered together and made a plan to kill Jesus. But they needed to be sneaky and arrest him when other people weren’t around because the people loved Jesus.
Jesus knew what they were planning because he is God, and he didn’t run away from the city to save himself. He knew what he had come to do. He told his disciples that at a holiday called the Passover, he would be crucified.
Even though Jesus told his disciples the reason he came to Jerusalem, they didn’t understand. Jesus wanted to have one final special meal with his friends. This meal was part of the Passover celebration. Jesus and his 12 disciples gathered in an upper room at a home in Jerusalem.
Let’s read what Jesus said at the last supper. Read Matthew 26:26–29.
What did Jesus say about the bread? What did he say about the drink, which was wine? Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant.” Why would Jesus compare his body to bread and his blood to wine? Why did Jesus say his blood would be poured out? The answer is at the end of verse 28. For the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus was telling his disciples, using bread and wine as a picture, that his body would be broken, or killed, and his blood spilled to save us from our sins.
This is so important to understand about Jesus’ death. Only Jesus could die in our place and take our punishment for sin because only he is perfect and without sin. No sinful human could die for the forgiveness of sins. It had to be the perfect Son of God. And Jesus loved us so much, he was willing to offer himself so we could be saved. We remember this sacrifice Jesus made when we have Communion or the Lord’s Supper at church.
Let’s go back to the map of Jerusalem. Find the Upper Room House and write #3 next to it (if you printed it out). Jesus went to the upper room with his disciples about five days after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, so many other events happened during those days. But on our maps, we’ll trace the line from the Temple to the Upper Room.
After the meal, Jesus and the disciples, except Judas, went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Find Garden of Gethsemane and write #4 next to it. Then trace the line from the Upper Room House to the garden.
In the garden, Jesus spent time in prayer with God the Father, but the disciples fell asleep. While they were there, one of Jesus’ disciples, named Judas Iscariot, had gone to the religious leaders and told them he’d lead them to where Jesus was so they could arrest him. Judas was given 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. Judas led a mob of people to the garden and pointed out Jesus as the one to arrest. The disciples woke up and wanted to fight to protect Jesus and themselves, but Jesus said no. The disciples panicked and fled, leaving Jesus alone.
Look at the map of Jerusalem. Jesus was brought to the High Priest’s house before the leaders to be put on trial. But Jesus had done nothing wrong! No witnesses could agree on anything Jesus had done that was worthy of death.
Find the High Priest’s House on the map and write #5 next to it. Trace the line from the Garden of Gethsemane to the High Priest’s House.
Read Matthew 26:63–68. What did the High Priest, Caiaphas, finally ask Jesus in verse 63? He asked Jesus if he was the Christ, the Son of God. Caiaphas wanted Jesus to admit that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. Did he ask this because he believed in Jesus or because he wanted to trap him? It was because Caiaphas wanted to trap him. Jesus answered that he was the Christ. What judgment did the leaders give Jesus? Death.
They said he deserved death because they thought he was just a man claiming to be God. Then they mocked him and struck him. But the Roman laws wouldn’t allow the Jews to put someone to death, so they had to take Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
Look at the map of Jerusalem. Jesus was taken to Pilate, who sent him to King Herod at the Palace of Herod Antipas. Find the Palace of Herod Antipas on the map. Jesus refused to speak or defend himself before Herod, so Herod sent him back to Pilate. The Bible doesn’t give the exact location for Jesus’ trial before Pilate, but it was either at the Palace of Herod the Great or the Antonia Fortress. Find these locations on the map.
If you printed out the map, we’ll use the Antonia Fortress for Jesus’ final trial before Pilate. Find the fortress and write #6 next to it. Then trace the line from the High Priest’s House to the Antonia Fortress.
After talking to Jesus, Pilate realized that Jesus was innocent and that the religious leaders had brought him to be killed because they were jealous of him. But Pilate didn’t want to upset the crowds and start a riot, so he handed Jesus over to his soldiers to be beaten and then crucified.
The Roman soldiers whipped Jesus’ back and made a crown out of thorns and put it on his head. They put a robe on him and mocked him. They hit him and beat him and even spit on him. Then they forced Jesus to carry his own cross to the place where he would be crucified.
Crucifixion was a terrible punishment the Romans used to kill criminals and law breakers who were not Roman citizens. They would nail a person’s hands and feet to a wooden cross and let them hang there to die. After fighting for breath for hours—or even days—the person being crucified would die slowly and painfully.
Read Luke 23:32–38. Two criminals were crucified with Jesus. Where were Jesus and the two criminals crucified? It was a place was called Golgotha, which means “The Skull.” It may have been named that because so many people were killed there. Find Golgotha on your map of Jerusalem. Trace the dotted line from the Antonia Fortress to Golgotha and write a #7 there in the circle.
What did Jesus pray for the people who crucified him? He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The Roman soldiers were casting lots for Jesus’ clothing. That means they were betting, kind of like rolling dice, to see who got Jesus’ garments. The rulers and soldiers were scoffing and mocking him, saying he couldn’t save himself. Luke 23:38 says that they placed an inscription, or sign, over Jesus that said, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Those who mocked Jesus were saying that if he really were the Messiah, he would save himself. Remember that Jesus was the Son of God! At any time, he could’ve ended his suffering by calling thousands of angels to rescue him, by zapping his enemies, or by simply returning to heaven! But he didn’t. Instead, he asked God to forgive the sins of those who mocked him and sent him there to die. That is amazing love and forgiveness!
Read Luke 23:44–48. Jesus was placed on the Cross at 9:00 a.m., and he’d been hanging there for about three hours. Darkness came over the land at about the sixth hour, which is about noon. So from noon to 3:00 p.m. there was a supernatural darkness over the whole land.
What happened to the curtain in the temple? It was torn in two. This curtain separated the holy place from the most holy place, the room with the ark of the covenant where only the high priest was allowed to enter once a year. Matthew’s Gospel says that this curtain was torn from top to bottom. Why is that significant? It is because no man could do it. It was God who tore the curtain, and this meant that no longer would people need the high priests making animal sacrifices for sin. Because of Jesus’ death, we can all come directly to God for forgiveness of sin.
Read Luke 23:46. Before he died, Jesus called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Remember that Jesus is God. He was still in control even while he hung there on the Cross. Jesus gave up his life and took his last breath.
What did the Roman centurion say when he saw all these events and how Jesus died? In Luke 23:47, the centurion praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” This Roman centurion, who commanded 100 soldiers, believed that Jesus was the Son of God.
The people in the crowd felt sad when they returned home. Beating their chests was how people back then showed grief and sorrow. They thought this was the end; their hope of a Savior was gone. But it wasn’t! God had a plan that would surprise everyone, even Jesus’ family and disciples! We will see what happened in our next lesson, and it won’t be sad.
Nothing compares to the love that Jesus has for you and me! It’s sad that Jesus had to suffer so we could be saved, but he bore the punishment that you and I deserve.
Because of Jesus, we can pray directly to God and ask him to forgive our sins. When you put your trust in Jesus and what he did for you, God will forgive you and make you part of his family. You’ll become a child of God! Those who trust in Jesus will spend eternity with God when they die. Those who refuse to accept what Jesus did for them on the Cross will be punished forever in hell, a place of torment and separation from God. This Easter is a good time to think about what Jesus did for you. If you’re already a child of God, you can pray and thank him for sending Jesus to die for you.