Palm Sunday is April 9 this year — occurring a week before Easter Sunday as always.
Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.
We find Jesus riding a borrowed donkey, escorted by unarmed disciples. His purpose is to demonstrate the kingdom of God and to show peace.
Here are five things you should know about this significant biblical event:
1.) Jesus brought peace and salvation. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all recount the Palm Sunday story that took place shortly before Jesus was arrested, crucified on the cross and eventually rose from the dead.
In chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke, it is written: “[Jesus] sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, Why are you untying it? say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
The story continues, as Luke 19: 35-38 tells us: “They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’”
2.) The Holy Day gets its name from scripture. In John 12:13, it is written: “They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’”
The Israelites believed Jesus was going to save them, as the people had awaited the arrival of a special king for hundreds of years. They had waited for a messiah to be an earthly military and political leader; instead, Jesus came as a heavenly spiritual leader and died for humanity’s sins.
3.) Jesus fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy. The minor prophet Zechariah foretold it hundreds of years earlier. “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey,” according to Zechariah 9:9.
John 12:15 notes of the event: “At first [these] disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that these things had been done to him.”
4.) Jesus’ arrival on a donkey is very significant. This animal appears multiple times in the Bible. “There have been other donkeys with important roles mentioned in scripture,” Reverend Tim McConnell — assistant pastor of Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina — wrote in Asheville, North Carolina’s Citizen-Times newspaper on Friday. “We remember Balaam’s donkey that spoke and warned Balaam of danger. Of course, we know that it was God speaking through the donkey. We know about the donkey that carried Mary and the unborn Christ to Bethlehem, and later the donkey once again carried the family to Egypt to escape King Herod.”
Rev. McConnell noted, “We find Jesus riding a borrowed donkey, escorted by unarmed disciples. His purpose is to demonstrate the kingdom of God and to show peace.”
5.) Jesus was not the first to ride through the crowds in parade fashion. An Old Testament story tells of a king triumphantly entering a town. Before his enthronement as king of Israel, Solomon rode into Gihon (a spring in the original site of Jerusalem) on a mule — with people praising him as he arrived.
“Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then the sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing the pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound,” 1 Kings 1:39-40 says.