Palm Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday prior to Resurrection Sunday–this year March 25th. It remembers the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem a few days prior to the Feast of Passover when thousands of other Jewish pilgrims from across Judea, Galilee, and even further would be coming to celebrate the Festival. Passover was a time of great enthusiasm and hope for the Jews of Jesus’ day. The Festival commemorates God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people out their bondage in Egypt and it inspired great hope that God would do the same again and deliver the nation from their Roman occupiers. Jesus enters the city along with his disciples in the midst of this festive and expectant atmosphere. The multitudes had high hopes that Jesus would fulfill their aspirations for him by confronting the pagan Romans, leading a rebellion against them, and establishing the Kingdom of God in a political and nationalistic form. This journey Jesus makes with his disciples up to the temple mount is often referred to as “the triumphal entry.” This term does reflect the festive mood of the crowd, but is hardly an accurate description of Jesus’ prophetic purpose and mood on that day.
Jesus’ entrance is indeed a significant event in the outworking of his Messianic purpose. The event is recorded in all four gospels and serves as a transition from Jesus’ ministry during the three years prior to the intensity of the events of his final week leading up to the cross. The multitude greeted Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” which means “Save!” and a refrain from Psalm 118:25, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” As they shouted these expressions of their high hopes that Jesus would become the kind of king that they desired him to be, they waved palm branches and also lay them, and even some of their outer garments, on the road before him as acts of homage.
Jesus was indeed presenting himself as Israel’s Messiah in this entrance into Jerusalem. He takes great care to have his disciples secure for him a young donkey that had never before been ridden. This is not the noble steed of a military conqueror and king, but a very humble mount. Both Matthew and John in their gospels quote Zechariah 9:9, “See your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus is fulfilling Messianic prophecy here, but his Kingdom is not one marked by violence and sword. Luke tells us that despite the celebratory mood of the crowd Jesus enters Jerusalem weeping, for most of the people—especially the religious leaders—had not embraced him and the Kingdom that he was offering to them.
At Wellspring we will have palms in our Sunday services on March 25. And we will worship Israel’s Messiah, who has also become our Savior and Lord because of his obedience unto death on the cross. God the Father vindicated Jesus’ obedience by raising him from the dead. Now the peoples of the earth are invited into this Kingdom that Jesus has brought near in his life, ministry, death and resurrection. So we can call out to him, “Hosanna—Lord save!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”