What is Palm Sunday? How Can We Celebrate It Today?
What is Palm Sunday?
Is it worth celebrating this feast?
Discover the history behind Palm Sunday and the reasons why you should celebrate it. Learn about the fascinating truths about this feast that are worth sharing with your family today!
What is Palm Sunday? The History of This Feast
On Sunday, April 5, many churches around the globe will follow the tradition of incorporating palm branches in worship…
Or they would if they were meeting.
In the unique time that we’re living in, most will forgo gathering together for traditional celebrations on what’s been called Palm Sunday for about sixteen hundred years.
Instead, this year church leaders may continue the established practice of including greenery in the day’s worship via video. Or, families may do so at home as they worship and celebrate the beginning of the holy week.
But are these rituals biblical?
Do they reflect the message and atmosphere of the event they’re meant to honor?
What is Palm Sunday and how can we celebrate it today?
Palm Sunday was first celebrated in the 4th century. This is the time when the church gained its freedom.
The 4th-century believers recognized Palm Sunday as a day to be set aside as special. They designated Sunday as the day.
Palms held a prominent place in the celebration. Centuries later, the festivities that took place became worship of palms and included the crucifix.
What began in the generations for whom free worship was a new experience is now believed by most Christians to be a biblical fact.
Yet, is this true?
Sunday has never been a day set apart in Scripture. It is a traditional belief. Now don’t write mean comments unless you can back it up with the Word.
Today, I want to challenge you to look deeper.
As followers of Jesus, we desire to share the Gospel truth with others, including our children. We teach them about God in many ways. However, often, scripture is overshadowed by traditions that have crept into the church over time. Instead of taking stories and religious practices as truth, we want to examine them against God’s Word.
We want this for ourselves, but also for our children. When it comes to Palm Sunday, our desire is to teach the kids in our lives the beautiful story of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry.
AND let’s call it that – J T Entry!
Why and How to Teach our Kids Facts Found in God’s Word
The more we take our kids to the Bible for facts, the less likely they will be to leave their faith, as a youth in many churches are doing.
How simple it is for a professor in college to twist the words of tradition to ‘prove’ the bible is false. When a student studies the Word for himself and sees what the world has added with traditions versus the actual events in God’s Word, they will have wisdom and depth of faith no professor can detour.
Teaching our family to be confident in God’s Word brings freedom unlike any other.
The “Palm” in Palm Sunday
Let’s look at the palm branch.
What does the palm symbolize?
Is the palm rooted in God’s Word?
Truth vs. Speculation:
We don’t know for sure the day of the week Jesus rode the donkey colt into Jerusalem. Many scholars who read the same bible as you and I have come to different conclusions. By some calculations, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem could have even been as early as the Friday before Shabbat the week before. Others have concluded it could have been as late as Monday.
What is most important is Jesus entered within a procession riding on a colt. A sense of excitement and anticipation filled the people. They shouted, sang, and praised God.
Furthermore, they called Jesus King.
And the people waved palm branches before him, some throwing the palm branches down on the path before Him.
Now, this is exciting!
Each of the Gospels tells the story. John, Matthew, and Mark each mention palms or “leafy branches.”
So, why the palm branches?
Old Testament History Behind Jesus’ Triumphant Entry
The book of Zechariah describes how the King of the Jews would come onto the scene as the triumphant, victorious leader.
“Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion! And cry aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king is coming to you; he is righteous and able to deliver; he is humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the offspring of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).
The Jewish people were looking for the one who would deliver them from the Roman Empire.
These very same people of Jerusalem no longer wanted the corrupt Roman rulers to dictate their Jewish lives. They lived in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
When we connect Zechariah 9:9 to the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (Sukkoth), which normally happens sometime in late September or October, we discover an even greater reason for some to wave and throw palm branches before Jesus while riding on a donkey.
Rejoicing with leafy branches (palm branches) was common practice during the Festival of Tabernacles. This specific festival was a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the wilderness and also God’s soon promise for the Messiah to come. It was during this celebration (Feast of Tabernacles) that they would declare aloud:
“O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. (Psalm 118:25-26, nasb)
“Lord Save us” translates to “Hosanna.”
When you apply this to the passage below, you get a greater picture of what really took place that triumphant day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem.
“They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!’”
(Mark 11:7-10, nasb)
(Also found in Matthew 21)
New Testament Setting of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry
To set the stage for Jesus’ entry, remember some key facts:
- Some of the Jews in Jerusalem had already witnessed the profound miracles Jesus had performed.
- There was a growing outcry by the Jews against the increasingly strict Roman rules being enforced.
- The Jews were looking for an earthly emperor to take the seat of power once and for all, enabling Jewish people to destroy the yoke of Rome.
The Actions of the Crowd
They waved branches before the Lord and threw them on the ground before Jesus while he entered Jerusalem on a donkey colt.
The crowd shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Lord, save us!”
The Message of the Actions
The waving of the palm branches has a special message.
“Jesus, You are our Jewish king, our deliverer from Rome. Take Your rightful place now and free us!”
Palm branches were a symbol of power and victory over enemies. In Roman athletic competitions, the winners were awarded palm branches as a symbol of strength.
The people meant to make Jesus “the warrior King.”
Contrary to their expectations, Jesus arrived as “the King of peace.” His purpose was not taking up a battle against Rome, but instead, a war against the wages of sin and death.
He was not what people expected. He was immeasurably better!
This also explains why he came riding on a donkey colt and not a horse – which he will ride in someday very soon.
What the Roman and Jewish people didn’t realize was Jesus had a completely different plan when He showed up that day on the donkey for His entry into Jerusalem. He arrived to destroy the bondage of sin from all mankind forever (John 1:29).
He didn’t come to build another earthly kingdom that would one day fall or collapse just as so many others in times past. Instead, Jesus was opening the door to eternal life, now only found through Him and Him alone (John 14:6).
It wasn’t just a kingdom that was being established that day. It was the Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven, whose ruler will have no end.
“And he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:33, NIV)
Palms Then and Now
In Solomon’s temple, we find that images of palm branches were present throughout.
“On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers.” (1 Kings 6:29)
Palm branches played an important part in Jesus’ final days. Similarly, the symbolism still plays an important part in living with Jesus Christ forever.
Later on, in the book of Revelation, we see that the righteous will hold palm branches while proclaiming eternal victory to our Savior, the one who rescued us from sin. It’s then that we’ll get to celebrate Jesus Christ’s eternal victory as King.
“Then I looked. And there was a great multitude which no one could count, from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Rev. 7:9, MEV)
Palm branches are a symbol of victory, triumph, and eternal peace. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is the personification of these.
Incorporating Palms In Holy Week Celebrations
Take time with your family this week to celebrate the Triumphant Entry in tangible, memorable ways.
- Cut branches of greenery to lay on the floor.
- Act out the story of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem.
- Sing the words of Hosanna.
- Use some branches to wave in front of a colt. (This could be a stuffed donkey or a picture of one.)
- Sing the words of Psalm 118.
- Place a “bouquet” of green branches on your door or in a window.
- Read the words of Zechariah and Revelation
Remember, the important aspects are not about the day of the week or the use of palms. Celebrating the Triumphant Entry, with palms or without palms, is about our victorious Savior who is still willing to come into every heart that desires to know him personally.
Use this as an opportunity to teach your family to do the following:
- Read God’s Word and use it as the foundation of faith activities
- Teach of the details of His story
- Forget worldly customs and labels
- Reach out to others and teach the Word
Palm Sunday – A Celebration in God’s Word
Use everything as a chance to train up your child in the Word of the Lord. Teach them to celebrate every season in Jesus’ life and in their life as well.
Heading into Passover is the perfect time to celebrate and dive into what God’s Word says about Jesus’ Triumphant Entry!