Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday?

Why Do WE Celebrate Palm Sunday?
By
Brother Lawrence Damien Cos
Dear family,
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday when the Christian Church celebrates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. Jesus is coming fresh from raising Lazarus from the dead. While many believed in him because of that miracle others report what has happened to the priests who decide to kill both Jesus and Lazarus as well. The next day as he enters Jerusalem he is greeted by people waving palm branches. What is the significance of the palms? In the ancient world palm branches were widely recognized as symbols of peace and victory. Thus as we shall see the people are recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and coming king that the prophets had spoken about. This leads them to cry out Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna means save us now, Mark in recording this incident says

“Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”

A couple of things we need to see here. First by saying that he comes in the name of the Lord they are recognizing Jesus as the king whom the prophets foretold of. The word kingdom used here refers to the reign and rule of God. Thus the people are asking Jesus to save them by ushering in the realm and reign of God. This is seen as a fulfillment of the Prophet Zechariah who said that their king would come to them riding on a donkey bringing salvation with him. In Matthew we see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Why a donkey? Why couldn’t Jesus have come riding a horse? Again in ancient times the donkey was seen as a symbol of peace as opposed to a horse which was seen as a symbol of war. Therefore had Jesus ridden into Jerusalem riding on a horse he would have been seen as a man of war coming to overthrow the system and usher in a new reign of God here on earth by overthrowing the Romans and establishing Israel as the masters of the world. According to the religious leaders the Messiah would descend out of the clouds riding a white horse and leading the armies of heaven. They would wipe out the hated Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel. This is the view the apostles would still hold even after the resurrection when they ask Jesus if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at that moment. However that is not Jesus plan.

Instead Jesus is coming riding on a donkey. This has a two-fold meaning here.

First Jesus is acknowledging the fact that he is the king and promised Messiah spoken of by Zechariah. The people catch that idea real quickly as do the religious people. In the case of the latter it fills them with jealousy as Jesus is drawing more people than they are therefore leading them to conspire against him lest everyone ends up following Jesus and not them. This leads to my second point.

Jesus comes not as a man of war as they are expecting but as a man of peace. He is no threat to anyone and when asked by Pontius Pilate tells him flat out that his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom not an earthly kingdom. Jesus says if his kingdom were an earthly kingdom then his followers would fight to him from being handed over to the Romans. By the fact they didn’t fight and allowed Jesus to be taken showed his kingdom was of another world. I think Pilate gets the idea somewhat especially after a warning from his wife warning him to have nothing to do with that just man (Jesus). Pilate wants to release Jesus and even declares him innocent saying he finds no fault in him. He tries scourging Jesus in the hope that that will satisfy the crowds and he can let Jesus go. However nothing will satisfy them as the religious leaders have stirred up the crowd into a mob mentality. A riot is about to break out and so Pilate finally gives in and orders the crucifixion of Jesus
We also as Christians are called to be people of peace following Jesus wherever he may take us. It is knowing that if we pursue peace then whatever situation we may find ourselves in God will bring good and victory out of it even as he did for Jesus. God will provide a way of escape for us and not allow us to be given more than we can handle.

So how does this apply to us in the 21st century and what will be doing as we wave our palms and do our march on the morrow.
First we will be joining the crowds in the spirit celebrating the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem. However we are not celebrating the coming of an earthly king as they were and when he didn’t appeared turned against Jesus and demand his death and crucifixion on Good Friday. We realize that his kingdom is spiritual and all who believe in him are a part of that kingdom. We also are acknowledging we believe and are looking forward to the second coming of Christ at some point in the future. Therefore we can rejoice as we know that the betrayal of Maundy Thursday, the mock. trial and conviction and crucifixion of Good Friday, the vigil at the tomb watching with Jesus of Easter Vigil is not the end. Easter is coming and Jesus will rise again. In the same way for us death is not the end but we will rise again even as Jesus did. Like him we to will live eternally and serving him for eternity in heaven and in his new kingdom here on earth.
Secondly it shows us the fickleness of human beings. On Palm Sunday they are ready to crown him as king. Five days later they are ready to kill him for blasphemy and claiming to be a king. They kill him thinking they have gotten rid of a man they think is a trouble maker but then resurrection comes and Jesus is raised from the death. Then as Jesus lives in all believers there are now a million Jesus’s bearing witness of him. The demons blow it big time. They had only one Jesus limited in time and space to one place and to the number of people he could minister to. Now he is unlimited as he works through a multi bodied of believers.. So yes tomorrow we will celebrate an historical event. However we also celebrate resurrection, victory, life, Jesus second coming at the time of his choosing, and everlasting life which we well experience in its fullness once we cross over to the other side.

Pray you have all been blessed by this. Any comments or thoughts are welcomed

Brother Lawrence Damien Cos

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