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Palm Sunday

What is Palm Sunday?  To understand this special and monumental day, we must also understand the history, symbolism, prophecies, and absolute meaning of this event.

The Foretold Event

Zech 9:9; Ps 118:24-26

Prophet Zechariah wrote around 520BC.  In his writings he states the King of Israel is coming humbly on a donkey.  A couple years prior to this event, Jesus' disciples and other followers believed Jesus to be the Christ and now, here he is coming into the east gate of Jerusalem in the middle of the Passover pilgrimage on a donkey. Given what Jesus has been teaching, what his followers have been proclaiming, the people of Jerusalem knew exactly what was happening because they also knew Zechariah's prophecy.

The Event

Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19

The residents and pilgrims recognize the importance of this event.  They gathered tree branches and used their own cloaks and placed them on the road leading up to the Temple.  They sung hymns proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  The Pharisees were quick to demand Jesus to rebuke his disciples for declaring him to be the Christ whom was prophesied about this very event.  Jesus actually turned and rebuked them, the religious leaders! (Matthew 21:15-16) And even stated that judgement is coming to Jerusalem (Luke 19:40) which came in 70AD.  

The crowed knew Jesus was the coming King and Messiah to save them.  What everyone failed to see was that their salvation in this event was spiritual and not political or from the grip of Roman rule.  Even though Jesus told them he will establish is earthly kingdom later, this salvation was of a greater importance (Luke 19:11-12).  Not a whole lot has changed in the minds of man.  Some carnal Christians still believe Jesus has brought salvation for superficial and monetary gain.

What were the crowds saying?

The crowd was singing Ps 118:24-26 (Matt 21:9) in acknowledgment of Jesus being the Chris and Messiah.  The crowds openly declared Jesus the Son of David, from God.  They cried out Hosanna which is a plea for deliverance and salvation.  Thus they declared that Jesus is coming from God to give them salvation.  But their understanding from salvation was of a worldly sense.  Salvation from the rule of Rome. By declaring Jesus to be the Son of David is acknowledging Jesus as who was foretold in 2 Samuel 7:12–16.  This is a Messianic title and more than just a genealogical statement.  Ironically, the crowds singing Hosanna a week later chanted 'crucify him' when they realized he was not physically freeing them from Roman rule (Matt 27:22-23). 

What does the Palm branches mean, and why place cloaks on the ground?

Palm branches were symbolic of being triumphant and victorious. To place them on the ground before the triumphant ruler is like showing respect and paying homage to someone honorable and worthy.  In the same sense with the Palm branches, cloaks showed homage to royalty dating back to 2 Kings 9:13.  

Words and Deeds

We see by the crowd's words and deeds, at this moment, understood Jesus as their triumphant king making his way into the hub of Israel and publicly acknowledging his royalty, coming from God as foretold by the prophets.  But Jesus already knew where their hearts were.  As he made is way to the city, he wept, knowing the judgement that was coming (Luke 19:41-44).

Where they got it wrong

All this excitement and joy came from a place of blindness and worldly thinking.  They were excited and ready to follow Jesus into a successful revolt against the Roman empire. He transcended the current political parties and they could tell there was something bigger about him.  They were ready to follow him into battle.  They failed to see the greater and deeper aspect of their need of salvation.  They felt there need only went as deep as their status and physical well being under Roman rule.  They were spiritually blind to their greatest need; spiritual salvation.  So, after realizing there would be no revolt and with the pressure of the religious leaders and Roman authority, they quickly turned on Jesus to maintain their safety and keep Rome from coming in and crushing them.  They had Jesus crucified a week later.


They went from being diehard supporters of Jesus in word and deed, to flat out denial and rejection of him in 7 days.  All because he did not fit their desires and their imposed expectations.  This happens in the church today.  People 'come to Jesus' expecting health, wealth, and happiness but only to find life is still hard.  They confuse their emotional high with deeper truth.  People then either invent their own version of Jesus or they just flat out reject him and move on.

The Glory of this event

Jesus fulfilled the prophecies perfectly.  He made his presence known; knowing that this level of spot light will compel the crowd, religious leaders, and the Roman authority to follow God's plan which is the absolute eternal salvation through his death on the cross; exactly how it was planned from before the creation of the world.  

Church History

Palm Sunday begins what is known as Passion Week.  The Palm Sunday celebrations begin in Jerusalem churches around the 3rd century.  When public celebrations become more safe in the Roman empire, the public remembrance and celebration spread to the eastern empire around the 4th century.  As the church become more culturally diverse, different ways of celebrating Palm Sunday emerged in the 6th and 7th century.  It become more defined and official by the western church in the 8th century and is currently celebrated world wide.
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