What is Palm Sunday?

As we approach Good Friday and Easter, let us remember Palm Sunday too.  It is the day that marked the start of what is often called “Passion Week,” the final seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Palm Sunday was the “beginning of the end” of Jesus’ work on earth.

As Jesus ascended toward Jerusalem, a large multitude followed Him. This crowd understood that Jesus was the Messiah; what they did not understand was that it wasn’t time to set up the kingdom yet—although Jesus had tried to tell them so (Luke 19:11–12). The crowd’s actions along the road give rise to the name “Palm Sunday”: “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:8)

On that first Palm Sunday, the people also honored Jesus verbally: “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). In their praise of Jesus, they were quoting Psalm 118:25–26, a familiar prophecy concerning the Messiah.  

But they missed the true reason for Jesus’ presence. They could neither see nor understand the cross. That’s why, “as [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies . . . will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41–47). It is a tragic thing to see the Savior but not recognize Him for who He is. The crowds who were crying out “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were crying out “Crucify Him!” later that week (Matthew 27:22–23).  Similarly, it is easy for us who live after the event of the Cross to lament the spiritual obtuseness of the Jews of that time. 

However, we should learn from their mistakes by making sure that we truly believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Why? For there is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10–11). The worship will be real then. Will you take the time to survey the wondrous cross and bow with gratitude for what our Lord had undergone in order to save you from your sins?  If you haven’t done that, why not take a few moments to meditate on the Passion of Christ this week? Read Matthew 26 to 28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19:28 to Ch. 24; John 18-20. I am sure you will be blessed as you pour over these accounts.

Rev. Mark Tay