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Probably the most important thing to understand about Palm Sunday is the fact that on this day, back in 33 AD, prophecy concerning the Lord's earthly manifestation was fulfilled. According to John 12:12-13, it was on this "fifth day" leading up to the Jewish Passover Seder [meal] of Nisan 14, that a great crowd had gathered in Jerusalem to welcome the Lord Jesus into their midst with jubilant shouts of praise and triumphant waving of palm branches. This was in accordance with Jewish tradition whereby magnificent events were often commemorated by the waving of palm branches, amongst other things, before the Lord of hosts. This great crowd of Jews and Gentiles was fully convinced that Jesus Christ was the promised Lord and Savior prophesied by Zachariah, Isaiah, King David and others. The unbelievers were astounded as they stood watching the Lord as He rode triumphantly into the city, mounted on a donkey and the jubilant crowd as it hailed him as their Lord, prompting one of them to say resignedly, "Look how the whole world has gone after him."
What is Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that always falls on the Sunday before Easter Sunday. The feast commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem in the days leading up to his Passion. [See Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19]. It is also called Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion.  Jd.gray 21:42, January 14, 2010 (UTC)
How Was Palm Sunday Viewed by the Early Christians
For early and later Christians, Palm Sunday [or Christ’s Triumphal entry into Jerusalem] is the day when God was revealed [to both Jews and non-Jews] through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and this revealing was seen as a great triumph over evil and sin.
Although there is no official record of the early church's outward observance of “Palm Sunday,” the Bible reveals that Christ's apostles and disciples viewed it as the divine fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The early Christians saw it as the day of salvation for all men—a day when God kept His promise of centuries past to return to/visit His people. The apostle James, in Acts 15:13-18, expresses the early Church’s sentiment concerning Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem when he refers to it as the day when God will “rebuild David’s fallen tent” [a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles when Palm branches [lulavs] were ceremoniously waved], and a day when the “remnant of men” as well as the Gentiles may seek the Lord.
James thereby says to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem some time after Christ’s Ascension, 13. “… Brothers, listen to me. 14. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16. "After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it. 17 That the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things. 18 That have been known for ages" [Acts 15:13-18]
Palm Sunday was no doubt viewed as a day when the world could rejoice knowing that their deliverance was near--a day of triumph indeed!
How is Palm Sunday Celebrated by Christians Today
On the Christian calendar, Palm Sunday is followed by Maundy Thursday which commemorates the Last Supper and Christ’s betrayal, Good Friday which commemorates His arrest, trial and crucifixion death, and “Easter Sunday”, the day when Jesus rose from the grave, on April 5th the year, 2009.
Christians observe this day by waving palm branches [or willows] to simulate the waving of palm branches during Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem in 33 AD.
Jewish Roots of Palm Sunday
Like most Christian celebrations, Palm Sunday is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. It was a customary for the ancient Israelites to honor all blessings of God through sacred assemblies. This was in accordance with the guidelines established under the Old Covenant. Leviticus --- states, “1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.  [See Leviticus 23:40 and Revelation 7:9 
Sacred Festivals in Jewish Tradition
A closer look at the sacred feasts below show how significantly the waving of palm fronds ties into Jewish tradition. Although in John we read Jesus made appearances at each of the sacred festivals of the Jews [being of the tribe of Judah] teaching wisdom to the people and performing many miraculous signs, it wasn’t until the festival of Passover, just days before his arrest and crucifixion, that He made His last and triumphant entry.
- 9 The LORD said to Moses, 10 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, 13 together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah [a] of fine flour mixed with oil—an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin [b] of wine. 14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.
Feast of Weeks
- 15 " 'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. 18 Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 19 Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. [c] 20 The priest is to wave the two lambs before the LORD as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest. 21 On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.
- 22 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.' "
Feast of Tabernacles
- 33 The LORD said to Moses, 34 "Say to the Israelites: 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD's Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. 35 The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. 36 For seven days present offerings made to the LORD by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.
- …39 " 'So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. 40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.
Jewish Prophecies Foretelling the Lord’s Day [Jerusalem 33 AD]
Zachariah’s prophecy tells us that the Lord will be revealed in the last days and He will bring salvation to the world. [The prophecy also explains that the Lord [the Christ] will appear during a sacred Feast of the Jews in Jerusalem and reveal Himself to the Jews, telling of his mission to bring peace and freedom.]. A most important symbolic reference to Jesus in this prophecy is the “new wine” which will come to symbolize the blood Christ shed on Good Friday [during His Crucifixion] in order to redeem mankind from sin and death. [See John 12:23]
The prophecy at Zechariah chapter 9:9-15 reads:
- 9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
- Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
- See, your king comes to you,
- righteous and having salvation,
- gentle and riding on a donkey,
- on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
- 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
- and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
- and the battle bow will be broken.
- He will proclaim peace to the nations.
- His rule will extend from sea to sea
- and from the River [c] to the ends of the earth. [d]
- 11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
- I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
- 12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
- even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
- 13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
- and fill it with Ephraim.
- I will rouse your sons, O Zion,
- against your sons, O Greece,
- and make you like a warrior's sword.
- 14 Then the LORD will appear over them;
- his arrow will flash like lightning.
- The Sovereign LORD will sound the trumpet;
- he will march in the storms of the south,
- 15 and the LORD Almighty will shield them.
- They will destroy
- and overcome with sling stones.
- They will drink and roar as with wine;
- they will be full like a bowl
- used for sprinkling [e] the corners of the altar.
- 16 The LORD their God will save them on that day
- as the flock of his people.
- They will sparkle in his land
- like jewels in a crown.
- 17 How attractive and beautiful they will be!
- Grain will make the young men thrive,
- and new wine the young women.
Isaiah's prophecies concerning the Day of the Lord are found at Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
- 2 The people walking in darkness
- have seen a great light;
- on those living in the land of the shadow of death
- a light has dawned.
- 6 For unto us a child is born,
- unto us a Son is given,
- and the government will be on his shoulders.
- And he will be called
- Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
- Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- 7 Of the increase of his government and peace
- there will be no end.
- He will reign on David's throne
- and over his kingdom,
- establishing and upholding it
- with justice and righteousness
- from that time on and forever.
- The zeal of the LORD Almighty
- will accomplish this.
Another important prophecy concerning the salvation of the Lord is stated in Isaiah 12
- 1 In that day you will say:
- "I will praise you, O LORD.
- Although you were angry with me,
- your anger has turned away
- and you have comforted me.
- 2 Surely God is my salvation;
- I will trust and not be afraid.
- The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song;
- he has become my salvation."
- 3 With joy you will draw water
- from the wells of salvation.
- 4 In that day you will say:
- "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
- make known among the nations what he has done,
- and proclaim that his name is exalted.
- 5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things;
- let this be known to all the world.
- 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
- for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."
Isaiah 60 expounds even further on this prophecy highlighting God's promises for His people.
- 1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come,
- and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
- 2 See, darkness covers the earth
- and thick darkness is over the peoples,
- but the LORD rises upon you
- and his glory appears over you.
- 13 "The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
- the pine, the fir and the cypress together,
- to adorn the place of my sanctuary;
- and I will glorify the place of my feet.
- 14 The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you;
- all who despise you will bow down at your feet
- and will call you the City of the LORD,
- Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
- 15 "Although you have been forsaken and hated,
- with no one traveling through,
- I will make you the everlasting pride
- and the joy of all generations.
- 16 You will drink the milk of nations
- and be nursed at royal breasts.
- Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior,
- your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
- 17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
- and silver in place of iron.
- Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
- and iron in place of stones.
- I will make peace your governor
- and righteousness your ruler.
- 18 No longer will violence be heard in your land,
- nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
- but you will call your walls Salvation
- and your gates Praise.
- 19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
- nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
- for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
- and your God will be your glory.
Prophecy by King David
Psalm 118 by King David is appropriately recited on the Holy day that looks forward to the Lord’s revealing to Israel.
- 1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
- his love endures forever.
- 2 Let Israel say:
- "His love endures forever."
- 3 Let the house of Aaron say:
- "His love endures forever."
- 4 Let those who fear the LORD say:
- "His love endures forever."
- 5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD,
- and he answered by setting me free.
- 6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
- What can man do to me?
- 7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper.
- I will look in triumph on my enemies.
- 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
- than to trust in man.
- 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
- than to trust in princes.
- 10 All the nations surrounded me,
- but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
- 11 They surrounded me on every side,
- but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
- 12 They swarmed around me like bees,
- but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
- in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
- 13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
- but the LORD helped me.
- 14 The LORD is my strength and my song;
- he has become my salvation.
- 15 Shouts of joy and victory
- resound in the tents of the righteous:
- "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!
- 16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high;
- the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"
- 17 I will not die but live,
- and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
- 18 The LORD has chastened me severely,
- but he has not given me over to death.
- 19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
- I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
- 20 This is the gate of the LORD
- through which the righteous may enter.
- 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
- you have become my salvation.
- 22 The stone the builders rejected
- has become the capstone;
- 23 the LORD has done this,
- and it is marvelous in our eyes.
- 24 This is the day the LORD has made;
- let us rejoice and be glad in it.
- 25 O LORD, save us;
- O LORD, grant us success.
- 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
- From the house of the LORD we bless you. [a]
- 27 The LORD is God,
- and he has made his light shine upon us.
- With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
- up [b] to the horns of the altar.
- 28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
- you are my God, and I will exalt you.
- 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
- his love endures forever.
Events Leading Up to the Day of Jesus' Triumphal Entry
John shows us how Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the day that Christians refer to as "Palm Sunday" was not a coincidence, but a well-planned event. In fact, everything that Jesus did from the start of His public ministry [and perhaps as early as age 12] was purposely designed to bring this day into fulfillment.
God was continually revealing Himself through Jesus Christ by the miracles that Jesus wrought among the people. Christ taught these truths first to the Jews during their sacred festivals which themselves always pointed to the Truth about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit through the priestly rituals. While many came to believe in Him, others still doubted. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was a great turning point in Christ’s ministry, and opened the way for many who had been blinded by the teachings of the Pharisees [and by tradition] to “see” the Lord of glory. This, according to the book of John, was the Lord Jesus’ last earth-shattering miracle that opened the eyes of the great crowd of witnesses as to who He really was. It directly preceded Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Christ’s Final Earthly Teachings and Miracles
At the Feast of Tabernacles [John Chapter 7] The Lord appeared at the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles and taught the people many truths about Himself and His Father Yahweh who had sent Him forth. He made repeated references to the symbolic rituals that accompanied this feast and explained how they all pointed to Him. Jesus, during His teaching, explained how he Himself was the fountain of Living Water which is the Holy Spirit (see vs.37-39) who Christ pours out upon those who thirst. [Jesus is the giver of living water (Holy Spirit). See John 4:10, 4:14] He explained that he was the Light of the world as symbolized by the giant menorah in the courtyard of the women (8:12). As a result of His teaching, many put faith in Him.
The apostle John also makes reference to the Lord at the start of his Gospel when he says, at John 1:4, “ In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” For the Lord’s apostles knew the true meaning of the festival lights.
Note: John 7:1 "After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. John 7:14 “Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.]
John 8:12 “12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:1-21 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Teaching At The Feast of Dedication [Festival of Lights/Chanukah]
(See John 10:22)
- 22 Then came the Feast of Dedication [b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,[c] tell us plainly."
- 25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all [d]; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."
- 31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
It is worthwhile to note that Christians see in the ninth "servant candle," used in the lighting ceremony, Christ, the suffering servant, who came to be the light of the World. [See Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 60:1, Luke 2:32, John 1:4,9, John 8:12).
The Resurrection of Lazarus
(see John 11)
This event was the culminating miracle that made those who witnessed it unable to remain in darkness. Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus was seen by many eye-witnesses who were still in the grip of uncertainty. Once having seen Lazarus’ resurrection, they believed and became the main witnesses of Christ as the true Lord, and formed the bulk of the great crowd that welcomed Him at Jerusalem.
- 1 "Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
- 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
The Miracle at Bethany – cont’d
- 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said.
- "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
- 40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
- 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
- 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
- Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Festival of Passover/Palm Sunday [Jesus’ Triumphal March]
Meaning of Passover
Passover celebrates the time when Jews were delivered from slavery and death by the hand of God. Embedded in the festive celebrations of this Feast of Passover are the themes of salvation and redemption.[Also See Day of Atonement] Although most Jews do not formally acknowledge this fifth day before Passover as the “Day of the Lord” Jesus as Christians do, Jesus’ presence there in 33 AD was hailed by a great crowd of Jews who did believe in Him.
The Passover Feast in Scripture
Leviticus 23:4-8 reads: " 'These are the LORD's appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: 5 The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6 On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. 7 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 8 For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work."
The Lord's Day
Christ’s Triumphal Entry
John informs us that a large crowd of believers lined the streets of Jerusalem; and upon seeing the Lord riding into the city on a donkey, they welcomed Him by shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” [Psalms 118:25-26] and went spreading Palm branches and robes before Him as He passed by. For this great crowd of believers, the prophecy of Zechariah was being fulfilled before their very eyes and they realized that Jesus Christ was their long-awaited King and Lord. They believed that they would be saved [militarily, for some] at last, in accordance to God’s promises. This overwhelming adulation and praise of Jesus was particularly disturbing to the religious leaders who were very fearful and jealous of Jesus. They even demanded that Jesus silence the crowd, but he told them that even if the crowd was silenced, the stones would cry out.
[Note that just before Christ entered Jerusalem he stopped in Bethany at the house of Lazarus. This is when Mary Magdalene annointed His feet with expensive perfumed oil in preparation of His burial. John 12:1 reads, "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor.]
The biblical account at John 12:12 describes the Lord's Triumphal entry as follows:
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
- "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
- "Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
- 15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
- see, your king is coming,
- seated on a donkey's colt."
- 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
- 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"