Palm Sunday is more than an annual religious holiday. It's more than an event in history.
Palm Sunday is celebrated because of what it meant 2,000+ years ago and what it means for us today.
To understand Palm Sunday and why we celebrate it, we must go back in time to consider the months and miracles leading up to this critical turning point in history.
Picture with me first century Judea when thousands witnessed the miraculous works of “God in the flesh” through Jesus (John 1:1-5). . .
Blind men see.
The lame are healed.
The dead are raised to life.
Prophecies were fulfilled right before their eyes. Many recognized Jesus as the Messiah—the Promised Deliverer.
In their hearts, the people determined Jesus would make all things right again. To them, that meant the grip of Roman control on their nation would be loosed and their kingdom finally restored.
They tried to force Jesus to be King in times past, but He escaped their expectations. Jesus was on earth to fulfill His mission—not to build His platform.
But here He comes riding on a donkey, his disciples walking alongside him, into the great city of Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Passover holiday.
They see Jesus coming closer, and word spreads very quickly. Palm branches are cut. Blankets and garments are spread along His path.
All four gospels record this moment in history—the day we call “Palm Sunday.”*
Thirty-three years earlier, Jesus came riding on a donkey in His mother’s womb to begin His earthly mission. But on this sacred day, He comes riding on a donkey to finish it.
As the spectators patriotically wave palm branches, as they did for other holiday feasts, they shout “Hosanna,” meaning “Save, we pray” or “Save now!”**
And that is exactly what Jesus would do. Jesus would save now.
The long-awaited moment in the timeline of history had come when Jesus would restore His Kingdom—not a political one. Jesus explained His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
Here is what you need to know—Jesus came to be King of their hearts and lives, not King of their land.
Jesus would give His very life for theirs. He would take on their sins and die in their place—even though He knew their motives were all wrong.
While the palm-wavers shouted, Jesus looked into their eyes and grieved. He was mourned by what His prophetic eye foresaw of the people’s rejection and the city’s destruction (Luke 19:41-44).
Sadly, the same voices singing “Hosanna” to Him would shout, “Crucify Him,” only a few days later. Yet, Jesus endured their praise and allowed the parade.
So, why do we celebrate Palm Sunday, and how should we respond?
As the drama unfolds, we begin to see the meaning of it all.
That first Palm Sunday was no ordinary day. It was “Lamb Selection Day” (Shabbat HaGadol) when the religious leaders chose the sacrificial lamb for the annual Passover holiday ritual.
Jesus knew He was riding His way toward the cross to offer Himself as the perfect Passover Lamb of God. He would be sacrificed for their sins and the sins of the world—including our sins.
His wounds would heal our wounds. His death would bring us life.
Jesus would accept our punishment by taking our place dying on a cross. This was all foretold hundreds of years earlier:
At one point during the parade, the religious leaders stopped looking for lambs. Rebuking Jesus’s disciples, they demand He silence the people. Jesus responds:
Yes, all creation was made to worship Jesus—the King of kings. He is worthy of our praise.
In many ways, Jesus revealed to the religious leaders that He was the Promised Messiah. This final acclamation before His crucifixion proclaimed it in public.
No more wondering if He was the One.
No more questioning His authority.
He was and is King. Jesus is worthy of praise. Hosanna! Hallelujah!
Jesus’s disciples would later understand that He was fulfilling prophecy with this unique entrance into the holy city (Zechariah 9:9-11). Receiving a royal reception while riding on a lowly donkey was forecast in the only Book written by God—the Bible. The only Book which predicts the future with 100% accuracy.
Yes, Palm Sunday represents praise—Jesus, the Lamb of God, is worthy.
Yes, Palm Sunday fulfills Scripture—the Bible is true.
But, in the end, Palm Sunday demands your response.
Will you join the crowds that temporarily praised Him, focusing only on earthly pleasures and comfort?
Will you reject Jesus as God’s son, like the religious leaders who placed their faith in laws over His sacrificial love?
Or, will you stand alongside Jesus, like a few of his disciples, past the fanfare, to the cross?
You have a choice on Palm Sunday to “die to sins and live for righteousness.”
We invite you to put your faith and trust in the perfect Lamb of God and His finished work on the cross so your sins can be forgiven.
Because the reality is Jesus did not stay on the cross, but He rose from the dead—and that’s what we celebrate on Easter.
Yes, resurrection is only days away.
If you’ve never turned from your way of life towards God, we invite you to do that now. You can learn how to know Jesus here.
The Bible says if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (the Leader of your life) and believe in your heart (complete reliance and surrender) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
You can pray to Jesus, “Hosanna”—“Save now”—and He will.
By placing your faith in Jesus on this Palm Sunday it can become a holy day for you, too—a day worth your waving, shouting, and celebrating.
*Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.
** Hosanna is the Greek form of a Hebrew term used in both a cry for help and a cry of thanksgiving (Psalm 118:25-26). History records that palm branches were waved during the Feast of the Tabernacles and Feast of Dedication.