Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the week leading up Jesus’ death and resurrection and the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. We find references to Palm Sunday in the Bible in Matthew 21 and Luke 19 and it is essentially the day where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. The real question though is why is this day so significant? Let’s dig into this a bit further.
Why is Palm Sunday Significant?
Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was actually prophesied to happen in the New Testament.
Zachariah 9:9 says,
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Jesus had spent the last 3 years traveling throughout Israel preaching and teaching to the people. Over the course of the 3 years He had healed and performed many miracles and had many followers. On the day that is now know as “Palm Sunday”, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, a major Jewish festival celebrating the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.
As Jesus and the disciples came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples into the village to get a donkey and its colt. If anyone questioned what they were doing they were to say, “The Lord needs them” (Matthew 21:3). The disciples brought the donkey and colt to Jesus, threw their garments over the colt and Jesus sat on it (Matthew 21:6-7).
As Jesus entered Jerusalem a large crowd formed because the Israelites were beginning to understand that Jesus was the Messiah who had been prophesied to save them from their sins. The Israelites gave Jesus the royal treatment, by spreading their garments and cutting branches from the trees waving them in the air and spreading them on the road for Jesus to walk upon as He entered Jerusalem. The people around Him were shouting;
“Praise God for the son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in the highest heaven!”
Although Jesus had many followers, the Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel, did not like Him. They considered Jesus’ message blasphemy and shouted at Jesus, “Teacher rebuke your followers for saying things like that”. To which Jesus responded, “I tell you, if they keep quiet even the rock will cry out” (Luke 19:39-40). The Pharisees were furious, and soon plotted to have Jesus killed.
Why Do We Remember Palm Sunday?
Because of the crowd’s joyous actions and response to Jesus entering Jerusalem, churches refer to that day as “Palm Sunday”.
However, Palm Sunday is actually quite bittersweet. The very people who were praising Jesus for being the Messiah, only a few days later were demanding Him to be crucified.
The people’s expectations of what the Messiah would be, and what he would do, did not match reality. They thought the Messiah would free them politically because, at the time, Israel was controlled and occupied by Rome. The Israelites felt suppressed by Rome and were expecting the Messiah to free them from occupation. However, that was not what Jesus came to do. He came to free them and save them spiritually.
This is why on Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He actually began to weep. Jesus said, “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 20:41-42). He was saying this because He knew the Jewish leaders and people of Israel were going to reject their King.
In remembrance of Palm Sunday today, it is common for churches to celebrate by passing out palm branches during the service. Some even create crosses with the palm branches and have children walk in a palm parade.
How do you celebrate Palm Sunday? I would love to know below!
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