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Were You There in Jerusalem When He Rode into Town? - Luke 19, John 12 (Palm Sunday)

A Palm Sunday service plan celebrating Christ's triumphal entry, with attention to the somber truth that many who waved palm branches at his parade were calling for his crucifixion by the end of the week. Part of a Lenten series following specific events that led up to Christ's death and resurrection.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

The general series theme for the season of Lent is "Were You There?" We focus on major events in the passion of Christ and ask hearers to step into the events and experience the drama. This is now the sixth of these services; it is designed with Passion or Palm Sunday in mind.

The events surrounding Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem are complex, so this service will have multiple themes running through it. With care and forethought these themes can be woven together meaningfully. The first theme is that of welcoming Christ as the Son of David who has finally entered the city of Jerusalem as God's anointed. The crowds welcomed him with their hosannas. However, the second theme is quite different. The crowd that welcomed him as he entered was a very mixed group, and before the week was out some were calling for his crucifixion. And woven through both of those themes is the need for worshipers to be preparing themselves for their journey through Holy Week and their arrival at the Table of the Lord on either Thursday or Friday (depending on what your practice may be).


Prelude: "All Glory, Laud and Honor" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Song: "All Glory, Laud and Honor" (st. 1-3) PH 88, PsH 375, RL 279, SFL 161, TH 235, TWC 204, UMH 280

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen .

The Children Sing Their Praises

The Children's Moment

Anthem [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Song: "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna" (st. 1-3) PH 89, PsH 378, RL 282, TWC 203, UMH 278
(During the singing our offerings will be received.)


The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Luke 19:29-44; John 12:16-19
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

*Song: "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty" PH 91, PsH 382, RL 280, TH 237, TWC 205 [sung to tune DEO GRACIAS / AGINCOURT HYMN (PH83, PsH364, RL342, TH155, UMH267)-see <href="#music" >music notes]

Sermon: "Were You There in Jerusalem When He Rode into Town?"
(Were You There - #6)

Response: "Were You There?" PH 102, PsH 377, SFL 167, TH 260, TWC 218
1. "Were you there when they welcomed him as King?"
2. "Were you there when he wept at unbelief?"
3. "Are you willing to honor him as King?"


Looking to the Lord's Supper

The Call to Confession

The Scriptures tell us that God desires to forgive his people. We have sinned and Jesus has
come to pay the price for it. The prophet Isaiah says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"

(Isaiah 53:6). Therefore, trusting the grace and mercy of God, let us confess our sins to God
and to one another.

Sung Prayer of Confession: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" PsH 257, RN 216, SFL 44
or "Kyrie" RN 86, SNC 52, 53, UMH 483
or "Lamb of God" SNC 253

*The Assurance of God's Pardon
Please rise for the Gospel reading. [pause]
Hear the reading of the Holy Gospel in which we are told the story of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for our pardon and salvation.
John 19:28-30
This is the Gospel of Christ: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his
wounds we are healed"
(Isaiah 53:5b).

*The Passing of the Peace
Leader: The peace of Christ be with you.
All: And also with you.
(The worshipers greet each other saying, "The peace of Christ be with you.")

*Our Sung Response: "What Wondrous Love" (st. 1, 3) PH 85, PsH 379, RN 277, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212, UMH 292
or "I Love the Lord" SNC 227


*Words of Sending: Luke 9:23

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "There Is a Redeemer" RN 232, SNC 145

Postlude: "Were You There " or "There Is a Redeemer" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

  1. The story of Palm Sunday is a familiar one to most worshipers. The preacher need not go into great detail to retell it; however, we must be sure that the perception of that event is accurate. Therefore, though retelling may not be important, explanation is. It all took place in an emotionally charged atmosphere. Reactions to Jesus and his claims were divided, and this division was charged even more by the resurrection of Lazarus just a few days before. We added the reading from John 12 to the reading of Luke 19 because John points out that the reaction to Lazarus's resurrection is an ingredient that seriously shapes the happenings surrounding the triumphal entry.
  2. The crowd on Palm Sunday was a mixture of four groups. It will be helpful to turn the camera on each of these groups and wonder aloud in which group we might have been. First, the disciples were there, eager yet puzzled about many of these events. Second, there were many pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Passover. They had heard Jesus' recent claims and saw some of his miracles, and it seems they were quite ready to welcome him as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Third, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were there, not as eager spectators, but as those who were angrily determined to carry out their plan to get rid of Jesus. And, finally, the long-time residents of Jerusalem were there, usually under the strong influence of the Pharisees and religious leaders. If the pilgrims were shouting "Hosanna!" these were the folks who would be shouting "Crucify him!" shortly. We should probingly ask ourselves in which group we would likely be found.
  3. Another ingredient of the scene involves the reaction (and emotions) of Jesus. In the record of this event we get two glimpses into the emotional reactions of Jesus. In Luke 19:37-40 we hear about his stern, and perhaps exasperated, response to the request of the Pharisees that he quiet his disciples. In vv. 41-44 we find him "bursting out in wails and sobs" about the unbelief in the city, and he speaks about the coming judgment.
  4. We gain more insight into this event when we follow the sequel of the story. After the entry to Jerusalem Jesus went to the temple and drove out the sellers. The next day he engaged in a stern denunciation of the religious leaders with words that are known as the "sermon of seven woes" (Matthew 23). The point of no return had been reached. The journey to Calvary had begun!

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

1. Resources for the prelude and alternative harmonizations for organ based on "All Glory, Laud and Honor" can be found in the following:


  • Bach, J.S. Organ Works, vol. 3.Schirmer 867 (M-D).
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Partita on All Glory, Laud and Honor. Morningstar MSM-10-306 [1990] (M).
  • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234 [1978] (E, can be adapted to piano).
  • Leupold, A.W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M).
  • Linker, Janet. Suite for Holy Week. Beckenhorst OC5 [1989] (E-M).
  • McCollin, Frances. Two Chorale Preludes for Organ (All Glory, Laud and Honor). Ricordi [1950] (E-M).
  • McKinley, Carl. Ten Hymn Fantasies. H.W. Grey GB274 (POP) [1933] (E-M).


  • Dobrinski, Cynthia. Processional on “All Glory, Laud and Honor." Agape 1230 [1986] (3-5 octaves with organ and optional trumpet and voices, M).

Alternative Harmonizations for Organ:

  • Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000].
  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 5.Ludwig O-14 [1992].
  • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H.W. Grey GB 644 [1978].
  • Vogel, William. Free Organ Accompaniments to Hymns, vol. 3. Augsburg 11-9189 [1966].
  • Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968].

2. Anthem suggestions for this service are given in two categories-children's anthems and adult choir anthems.
Children's anthem ideas:

  • "The King of Glory Comes" PsH 370, RN 267, SFL 156, TH 240, TWC 134
  • "Make Way" RN 60, SNC 98
  • "Mantos y palmas/Filled with Excitement" SNC 133
  • "Prepare the Way of the Lord" RN 92, SNC 105, SFL 124, UMH 207
  • "Trotting, Trotting Through Jerusalem" SFL 159

SATB anthem ideas:

  • Gregor/Hal H. Hopson. Hosanna! Flammer A6628 [1990] (E-M).
  • Kauffmann, Ronald. Hosanna in Excelsis Deo! Beckenhorst BP1327 [1989] (E-M).
  • Larson, Lloyd. Jesus, the King. Beckenhorst BP1234 [1984] (SAB, E-M).

3. While we suggest congregational singing during the offering in this service we also provide instrumental suggestions on "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna" [ELLACOMBE].

  • Burkhardt, Michael. Five Lenten Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-309 [1990].
  • Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 9. AMSI SP-106 [1992].
  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975].
  • Kerr, J. Wayne (1998). Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000].
  • Stoldt, Frank. Five Hymn Settings. Morningstar MSM-10-931 [1988].


  • Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (M).

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975].

4. The text of "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty" serves as a good bridge from the praise of the opening part of the service to the more reflective preparation for Holy Week. There are a variety of tunes to which this text can be sung.

5. Because spirituals were passed on through aural/oral tradition, we have taken the liberty to craft verses on "Were You There" that tie in with the theme and sermon. An alternative harmonization for this spiritual can be found in Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, vol. 3, arranged by John Ferguson and published by Ludwig O-10 [1986]. An alternative harmonization for piano by Michael Hassell can be found in Let It Rip! At the Piano, published by Augsburg Fortress 11-11045 [2000].

6. You may wish to consider using different settings of "Were You There" for the postlude throughout Lent. You will find many suggestions here.

WERE YOU THERE PH 102, PsH 377, SFL 167, TH 260, TWC 218, UMH 288

  • Callahan, Charles. A Lenten Suite. Morningstar MSM-10-312 [1991] (E-M).
  • Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Lent-Easter. Summa SP-112 [1998] (E-M).
  • Diemer, Emma Lou (1975). Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M).
  • Diemer, Emma Lou. Celebration. Augsburg 11-9097 [1975] (E-M).
  • Page, Anna Laura. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Boardman 4570-46 [1981] (E).
  • Purvis, Richard. Eleven Pieces for the Church Organ. MCA Music 03257-068 [1957] (M).
  • Stearns, Peter Pindar. Eight Hymn Preludes for Lent. Flammer HF-5133 [1985] (E-M).
  • Wood, Dale. Wood Works. SMP KK357 [1986] (E-M).
  • Young, Gordon. Hymn Preludes for the Church Service. Flammer 4188 [1964] (E).


  • Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (M).
  • Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M).
  • Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns . . . Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (E-M).


  • McChesney, Kevin. Were You There. Lorenz HB-363 [1991] (3-5 octaves, E-M).

The alternative suggestion, based on "There Is a Redeemer," can be found in Ellen Banks Elwell's collectionPiano Praise published by Hope 237 [1993] (E).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. The Palm Sunday event should characterize the words and songs of this service from the beginning. Use the Call to Worship as an invitation to this celebration. We suggest including the children of the congregation early in the service. Your local custom will determine the manner in which you include the children. Providing palms, and using the children's moment to explain the event to them is helpful. We've included an item called "The Children Sing Their Praises," and you may want a children's group or choir prepared to sing praise songs for Palm Sunday.
  2. We have combined receiving the offering with the singing of a hymn for this service, or you may chose to include an offertory.
  3. We have chosen to relocate the Service of Renewal to the closing part of this service so that our confession of sin is a response to the sermon and at the same time preparation for our observance of Holy Week and coming to the Lord's Table on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.
  4. The Scripture passages for this service contain a great deal of drama. It is meaningful, therefore, to include multiple Scripture readers. Let different voices speak differing parts of the story. These two passages can include a narrator, the voice of Jesus, a person or group who speaks for the crowd, and a Pharisee. Because of the drama in this event, those who read should be encouraged to rehearse their readings so they can communicate the full impact of it.