This Sunday, March 28th, is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, the Sunday before Easter, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified. Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm fronds which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem.
In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29).
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9), when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent. Jesus traveled to Jerusalem knowing that this journey would end in his sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Before he entered the city, he sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage to look for an unbroken colt:
As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.'" (Luke 19:29-31, NIV)
The men brought the colt to Jesus and placed their cloaks on its back. As Jesus sat on the young donkey he slowly made his humble entrance into Jerusalem.
The people greeted Jesus enthusiastically, waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches:
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" (Matthew 21:9, NIV)
The shouts of "Hosanna" meant "save now," and the palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. Interestingly, at the end of the Bible, people will wave palm branches once again to praise and honor Jesus Christ:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9, NIV)
On this inaugural Palm Sunday, the celebration quickly spread throughout the whole city. People even threw down their cloaks on the path where Jesus rode as an act of homage and submission.
The crowds praised Jesus enthusiastically because they believed he would overthrow Rome. They recognized him as the promised Messiah from 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. (NIV)
Although the people did not fully understand Christ's mission yet, their worship honored God:
"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise'?" (Matthew 21:16, NIV)
Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus Christ, he began his journey to the cross.
In churches of many Christian denominations, members of the congregation, oftentimes children, are given palms that they carry as they walk in a procession around the inside of the church.
Palm Sunday is a celebration of peace and gentleness
In a world that is torn apart by violence and polarization, things like peace, calm, and gentleness are much needed. Palm Sunday allows us to take a moment to appreciate the gift of life and all that it has to offer.
Palm Sunday is a celebration of hope and harmony
The people of Jerusalem had been waiting for generations upon generations for the Messiah to come. Prophet Zachariah’s prophecy took some time to happen, but it eventually did. Palm Sunday promises better times to come, always.
Palm Sunday is a celebration of different cultures coming together
While Palm Sunday is a religious day with fixed standards in terms of importance, each culture celebrates the day with its own customs and traditions. It’s a sign of unity in all senses of the word — unity in togetherness and unity in uniqueness.