Skip to main content

I "Palm" Sunday -- the parade, the joy, the waving of palms, the palm crafts. But check this out: "palms" were not the symbol Jesus chose to ride in on. Palms are what "the crowd" chose. Jesus chose a donkey which is an important biblical symbol about just what kind of messiah/savior Jesus is. (More about that in a moment.)

THE DONKEY is a great teaching point when we want to focus on WHO and WHY we are cheering, so maybe we should also be looking at donkey-related lesson ideas and activities to help teach these points.  Palms --i.e. what we are saying/waving BACK to Jesus, is another topic.

In subsequent posts in this topic, let's share our "donkey" ideas for Palm Sunday   But first, I like to draw lesson and activity inspiration from the scripture itself, so I'm sharing this closer look at the symbol of the donkey and passages from Zech and Isaiah to help my understanding and reveal some teaching ideas to me., then I'll share some donkey ideas for Palm Sunday and hope you will too.

<>< Neil

To begin, here's an excerpt from the excellent article at titled:

This Palm Sunday, Ponder Donkeys, Not Branches

John writes, “They took palm branches and went out to meet him” (John 12:13). Why did the crowd choose palm branches? It could simply have been that palms were nearby. But history tells us there might have been a deeper reason: Those (palm) plants were symbolically linked to military victories and Messiahship.

A generation before Jesus, when Simon Maccabee drove Israel’s enemies out of Jerusalem, people celebrated by waving palm branches:

On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. (1 Mac. 13:51, NRSV)

As Russell Moore writes, “Jesus is right in saying this sort of hatred and violence never leads where we think it will—to a vanquishing of all of our enemies and to a victory for ‘us,’ whoever ‘us’ is.”

Jesus picked a symbol that emphasized humility and lowliness instead of military strength.


What's "the donkey" all about?
...and how we can turn this knowledge into lesson ideas!

Of course, there's that passage in Zechariah 9:9 about The Messiah who comes "lowly and riding on a donkey." Throughout his ministry, Jesus understood the importance of symbolism, and telling his disciples to get him a donkey is a great example of that.

But to REALLY UNDERSTAND Zechariah and Jesus' Donkey, you have to read more than just Zech 9:9. YOU ALSO NEED TO READ Zech 9:10 (which few do in church).

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

In other words, the donkey is not a "war horse," it is a symbol of peace.


The ears were a dead giveaway

So often we teach that the donkey was a symbol of "humility," when more specifically, the donkey shows that the Messiah comes in peace, instead of with condemnation, judgment, and punishment. Jesus' peace is not just for the Jews, it's for the Gentiles too, even your enemies. It's for nations and communities, families and between individuals. And it's even for that part of you that needs to be healed.  In that respect, "peace" and peacemaking are the very definition of "what it means to be humble."

This image of the Messiah as a "peacemaker" is very reminiscent of Isaiah 2:4 -- which is another familiar description of the Messiah that Jesus would have been well-acquainted with:

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Palm Sunday's peacemaker parade and Jesus' quip in Luke 19:40 that "even the rocks would cry out." are also very reminiscent of Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

(Teaching Idea: So maybe we should be depicting mountains and hills BURSTING FORTH
and trees clapping their hands.)

Clearly, a humble peacemaker was not the kind of messiah that the Maccabeans or Pharisees wanted or expected. And because Jesus did not fit their expectations, they tried to silence him. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief singing stone!

From a Sunday School lesson activity point of view, both Zechariah 9:9-10 and Isaiah 2:4 and Isaiah 55:12 are full of objects and actions that can be depicted, acted out, and even turned into games (stop the chariot, break the bow).  Donkeys, bursting (blooming?) mountains, trees clapping their hands.

Okay...enough Bible musing, I'm going to post a few ideas and encourage others to do the same.


Images (2)
  • Donkey-Horse-Jesus
  • Why-Jesus-Rode-Donkey
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Here are two age-adaptable games that play on the tail of a popular party game to teach the tale of Palm Sunday

Pin the Tale Tails on the Donkey

This funny version of the ol' party game has your kids "pinning" paper donkey tails in the correct story order.

  • Each tail has a verse(s) from the Palm Sunday scripture written on them.
  • Draw or attach a "donkey drawing" on the wall or on a large piece of paper laid on the table. (Having the donkey image on which to order the tails will help reinforce the meaning of the donkey.)
  • Read the "tale" of Palm Sunday (the verses written on the tails), then scramble them and see how fast students can reassemble them in the correct story order.
  • As a follow-up, have students turn their backs to the tails they've put in the correct order while YOU remove one of the tails (verses from the story). Have them turn around and decide "which tail is missing" (which verse from the scripture you took away).  You can play this together or in teams and keep score.
  • Adjust how much of the story your include on the tails depending on your age group. For early-readers or non readers, draw or print a picture of each part of the story and put them on cut-out tails, then have them put the images in the correct order.

To make the tails, copy the appropriate scripture passage text to a word processing document, print it, and cut it into strips. Then paste these strips on a "donkey tail" cut out from construction paper. Kids can help make these as part of their "tale" learning process. Here's a link to the Matthew 21:1-11 version of Palm Sunday story at from which you can copy the text and change the translation if you prefer another.

Click to enlarge and save

Pin the Tail on the Peace Donkey or War Horse

In another version of the ol' party game, students help create two sets of paper donkey tails and then take turns being blindfolded and trying to 'pin' their tale on the correct donkey or war-horse drawing.

There are two types of tails they create/write on: (1) Things that make for peace and (2) Things that make for trouble/conflict/war in our personal life, families, among friends, between communities/nations. The kids help you create these two lists and write them on the tales (about 6 to 8 for each type).

For example:

On the wall there are two drawings right next to each other, each about 1 foot x 1 foot in size. One is a drawing of a donkey, and the other is a drawing of a war-horse. (See attached for example.)

For example:

To play, players are blindfolded, given a tail which is then read to them, then they must say "out loud" whether it's a peace or war tail, and then try to "pin it" on the correct drawing. (Tip: Use masking tape to 'pin' the tail.)  To add some difficult, spin them once or twice.

Unlike the party game, you can decide to let other players help guide their friends to pin the tail on the right tale.  Getting the tail on the wrong drawing isn't a big deal, it's just a fun way to play with the ideas and give the teacher opportunities to interject, ask questions, and hear from the students about this important subject.  If they pin their tail on the wrong tale (horse or donkey), let them put it on the right one when their turn is over.


Images (3)
  • donkey-tails
  • PalmSunday-Scripture-Tail

Donkey Ear Turnovers

donkey-ear-cookiesAlso known as Szamárfül, these are Hungarian desert cookies or turnovers that are essentially pastries filled with jam.

The following recipe comes from https://kitcheninspirations.wo...cookies-szamar-fule/ and makes about 100-130 cookies.  A similar recipe can be found at

In the Workshop Rotation Model Cooking Workshop, we not only make foods that help us remember key teaching points, we talk about the story during the creation of the food and baking time and eating time. We also try to relate various ingredients to teaching points or parts of the story. For example, yeast is like the Holy Spirit helping us rise to follow Jesus; Jam is sweet like Jesus' salvation, like a God who has come to save not punish, cookies are to be shared like the good news/story, etc etc. What's sweet about a peacemaker? How do you bring people together with food? (Psalm 23 says to prepare a table in the presence of enemies. How do you do that?)  What do you need to "turn over" to Jesus in your life, give up, turn around, start sharing, make sweet, ask God to help you grow into, etc. What did Jesus "turn over" in terms of people's expectations about the Messiah? In terms of what people are expected to change in their lives/attitudes towards others?


1 tbsp quick rising yeast
1/2 cup warm water + 1 tsp sugar
600 g flour (3-4 cups)
240 g unsalted butter (1/2 lb)
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
Thick European jams that won't run in the oven.
1-2 cups confectioners sugar (for dusting)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar, proof for about 3-5 minutes.
  3. In an electric mixer with the scraper hook, mix butter and flour until crumbly. Change to dough hook.
  4. Add yeast and enough sour cream and knead with the mixer until a shiny dough forms.
  5. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1/2 to 1 hr (you may also do this step in the fridge overnight if you won’t be making the cookies the same day. Allow the dough to get up to room temperature before you begin to work it).
  6. Roll out the dough into 1 mm thickness (or #1 of the Kitchenaid Pasta Machine) and cut with a 5-6 cm round cookie cutter.
  7. Fill each round in the center with about 1/4 tsp of jam.
  8. Fold each circle in half and pinch edges really, really, really well (this dough tends to pop open like a clam!).
  9. Bake at 350° F for 10-12 minutes (dough will be slightly golden), jam may have oozed out.
  10. Immediately put cookies into a large bowl with icing sugar and dust generously. Or dip each side into a small bowl filled with icing sugar.
  11. Remove to a wire rack and cool.
  12. Enjoy and share.


Images (1)
  • donkey-ear-cookies
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Donkey Puppet for Pre-K through 1st Graders

I'm not a huge 'craft' fan, unless what we're making gets used AFTERWARD to teach the message. So of course, a donkey puppet is a great way to have kids get creative and act out the story and the peaceful attitude of a donkey.

I found this cute printable donkey puppet that gets attached to the venerable "brown lunch bag puppet." When you give "simplemom" site your email her site immediately emails you a link to the downloadable PDF.

You could find another or make your own, or come up with your own donkey puppet using a bag and some yarn, but you get the idea.

Here's her instructional video:

If I were doing this as a children's sermon or lesson 'demonstration,' I would bring in a horse puppet or toy horse --making the horse the "war horse attitude" about the Messiah/God and contrast that with the "lowly" donkey attitude. (I frequently bring in toys to act out biblical scenes and ideas, kids love it.)

P.S. All these dramatized "attitudes" are things we are called to imitate!  Be like Jesus' peacemaking donkey, not like a war-horse. The horse is all about force, the donkey is all about "don't be" like the horse!



Images (2)
  • horse

Live Donkeys on Palm Sunday!

Everybody loves a *live* donkey, especially the kids. They create warm memories and a great teaching opportunity.

Depending on where you live, donkeys may be surprisingly easy to find as they are often kept as pets on farms and by hobby farmers. As well, there are animal rescue organizations that may have them available or know who to ask (especially if you can help their mission). And in some cities, there are businesses and petting zoos that bring live animals to schools and churches for a small fee. 


I've brought live animals inside the church before, just check with the janitor ahead of time and make sure you have "accident" plan and clean-up supplies available. I may know that from personal experience.     Your animal-wrangler may also appreciate having a "pen" set up outside to rest the donkey, along with some snacks and water. Check with them.


A live donkey is a great photo-op. In some cases, small children can even sit on them, or they can lead your Palm Sunday parade. Create a sign that follows the donkey or sits in the photo to carry your message about Jesus' mission of peace and call for peacemakers to follow him.


Images (2)
  • donkey-at-church1
  • donkey-at-church2

Add Reply

Post a New Topic
Lesson or Resource Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author are referenced. Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. Get a free Registered Membership or become a Supporting Member for full access to all site resources. is rated 5 stars on Google based on 51 reviews. Serving a global community including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more!
Link copied to your clipboard.