This Sunday is called “Palm Sunday” according to the Christian Liturgical Calendar. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” This is the last week of Jesus’ life before He is crucified on “Good Friday.” All four Gospels give many chapters to Jesus’ Passion Week: Matthew 21-27, Mark 11-15, Luke 19-23 and John 12-19. Palm Sunday or “The Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels. When an event is recorded in all four Gospels, it tells me that the event is very important for me to know about.
“The Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem is recorded in Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-48 and John 12:12-19. Here is a summary of the events that transpired during the first Palm Sunday:
Before entering Jerusalem, in Bethphage, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus tells his disciples to go into the village and get a donkey. If anyone asks what they are doing, they are to answer, “The Lord has need of it.” Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill Old Testament prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). The crowd wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (“Hosanna” is a Hebrew expression meaning “Save!” which became an exclamation of praise, according to my Bible footnote for Matthew 21:9 and 15). When the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard the children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David” they told Jesus to make them stop. But Jesus told them, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise’?” (From Psalm 8:2). With all the attention Jesus was getting, the religious leaders wanted all the more to kill Him, “Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on His words” (Luke 19:48). John 12:19 records that “the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!’” The jealousy and desperation the religious leaders was mounting as they felt their power and control over the people was slipping away.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke talk about Jesus entering the temple and being indignant at the people who were buying and selling in His Father’s House. In His righteous anger Jesus “overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ He said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ [Isaiah 56:7] but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’ [Jeremiah 7:11]” (Matthew 21:13). After this dramatic display of love for His Father’s House, Jesus healed the blind and the lame who came to Him. All of this, on top of the people’s rowdy welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem, made the religious leaders all the more determined to find a way to put Jesus to death.
Even though the people were excited to see “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11b), Jesus knew their “Hosannas” would not last. The Gospel of Luke records how Jesus mourns over Jerusalem’s unbelief and ultimate destruction: “As He 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 build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 1941-44). Jesus could “read the palms” the people threw down on His path. He knew that their “Hosannas” would turn into “crucify Him” just in a matter of days. But, that did not stop Him from loving them, dying for them and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The human race is fickle. All we have to do is listen to Boston sports radio. When a sports figure is doing well, the sports pundits are ready to crown him king of Bunker Hill. The next game, when he goes 0 for 4, they want him to walk off the plank of Ol’ Ironsides. We have a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” mentality that gets in the way of our faith, loyalty and trust. I am so thankful that Jesus will never give up on us, no matter how many times we give up on Him. All we have to do is read about the last week of Jesus’ life – His life that He freely gave to set us free. “All glory, laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King, to Whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring” (Theodulph of Orleans).
What does your palm say?