Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, marks the beginning of Holy Week. This is a time when Christian’s all over the world will commemorate events that took place in the last days of Jesus’ life on Earth.
The events of Palm Sunday fulfilled a prophecy spoken over 450 years earlier, found in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey.”
Matthew 21:7-9 records the fulfillment of that prophecy: “They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
That day, many had gathered in Jerusalem for the time of the Jewish feast of Passover. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, those who had gathered began to spread their outer garments and palm branches over the path which Jesus would ride. They did this to welcome and honor him. Such honors were often paid to great men. It was customary to cover the path of someone worthy of the highest honors. The crowds even waved palm branches as they followed Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem.
Joy and excitement was in the air. New hope was arising in the hearts of people. They greeted Jesus as though he were an earthly king. They were sure he would end the Roman occupation and Jerusalem would again be a Jewish city.
It is interesting to note that Jesus did not come riding into Jerusalem on a horse. A horse would have implied that he was a leader of an army. Instead, he came riding on a donkey. Donkeys were used by the judges of Israel and the chieftains on peaceful errands. A donkey was an animal which symbolized peace. Jesus was revealing his own nature and the nature of his kingdom. He was entering as the Prince of Peace not as a war waging king.
“Hosanna” in these scriptures translates “save us now”. Jesus had come to save.
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is an event mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew 21:1-17, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-46, John 12:12-50).
In the gospel of Mark, the branches that were cut down and waved were specifically identified as branches from palm trees.
In many Christian churches, palm leaves will be distributed this Sunday. Palm leaves will be waved and songs of praise will be sung. Traditions may vary but some things will remain a common thread among all believers. Palm Sunday is a time to remember and celebrate. It is an absolutely appropriate time to welcome our Savior into our hearts and lives in a fresh new way. As we enter into Holy Week, we honor the Prince of Peace and the one who is able to save us now; Hosanna in the highest.