TOPIC: PALM SUNDAY
QUESTION: WHAT IS PALM SUNDAY?
Study References: Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, Revelation 7:9
Palm Sunday is a Christian feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem.(Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-40)
In many Christian denominations, worship services on Palm Sunday include a procession of the faithful carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. The difficulty of procuring palms in unfavorable climates led to their substitution with branches of native trees, including box, olive, willow and yew in some European countries.
The symbolism is captured in Zechariah 9:9. "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". It suggests that Jesus was declaring he was the King of Israel to the anger of the Sanhedrin.
According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks and small branches of palm trees in front of him and sang (Psalm 118: 26). "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" (Luke 19:39). However, Jesus saw no need to rebuke those who told the truth. He replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).
The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king would have ridden a horse when he was bent on war and ridden a donkey to symbolize his arrival in peace. Jesus entry into Jerusalem thus symbolizes as the Prince of Peace.
In Luke 19:41; As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he looks at the city and weeps over it (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin), foretelling the suffering that awaits the city in the events of the destruction of the Second Temple.
In many lands in the ancient days, it was customary to cover the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. 2 Kings 9:13 says that Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was treated the same way as Jesus.(John 12:13)
In the Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, which strongly influenced Christian tradition, the palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory. Although the Epistles of Paul refer to Jesus as "triumphing", the entry into Jerusalem may not have been regularly pictured as a triumphal procession in this sense before the 13th century. In ancient Egyptian religion, the palm was carried in funeral processions and represented eternal life. The palm branch later was used as a symbol of Christian martyrs and their spiritual victory or triumph over death.
In Revelation 7:9, the great white-robed multitude stand before the throne and Lamb holding palm branches. These palm-bearing saints will shout, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (verse 10).