Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter when the Holy Week begins. Here are five facts about the occasion that shed light on its importance in the lives of Christians.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of the final seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, based on Matthew 21:6–11, which reads:
“The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.'”
1. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts in the Bible, which points to the significance of the event.
It was the fulfilment of a prophecy, found in Zechariah 9:9 in the Old Testament: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
In Jerusalem, Jesus publicly said he is the Messiah and King of Israel.
2. Jesus rode on a donkey for a special purpose
Jesus wouldn’t normally travel on a donkey, but He did so that day. During ancient days, horses were symbols of war, while donkeys symbolized peace. The use of a donkey also spoke about the humility of Jesus, as the prophecy reads, “… Righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This humility is more explicitly shown in the death of Jesus on a cross, which followed a few days later.
3. Many praised Jesus on Palm Sunday but few could understand Him fully
As the biblical passage says, people in the crowd spread their cloaks and branches on the road and followed Jesus, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Scholars say that people at the time expected Jesus to start a political rebellion against the Roman occupation, but Jesus’ mission was to bring freedom from sin, and salvation.
This is the reason why many people who were praising Jesus on Palm Sunday were found shouting “crucify Him” a few days later.
4. Palm branches had a symbolic meaning
John 12:13 reads, “They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the king of Israel!'”
People in the ancient world laid out a path of branches to welcome a king.
Revelation 7:9 also mentions palm branches: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”
The palm branch also represented the victory of martyrs, or the victory of the spirit over the flesh.
5. Palm Sunday is the beginning of the “Passion Week,” also known as the Holy Week.
The term “passion” refers to the suffering and death of Jesus, accounts of which can be found in Chapters 21–27 in Matthew; Chapters 11–15 in Mark; chapters 19-23 in Luke; and chapters 12–19 in John.
Some highly significant events occurred during this week, including the Last Supper, the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, and the arrest of Jesus.
The Rev. Billy Graham, who died in February, once asked this: “Where would you have been during Jesus’ final days? Would you have been in the crowd demanding His death —or would you have been among the minority who remained true to Him? And are you true to Him today?”