This Sunday, March 20th, is celebrated as “Palm Sunday.” When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, this began His last week of life before His crucifixion. He chose to ride in on a donkey, a beast of burden, not on a stallion as a conquering king.
The people welcomed Him, as recorded in all four gospels (Mt. 21, Mk. 11, Lk. 19, and Jn. 12. They waved or strewed palm branches in His path and shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Wanting Jesus to overthrow the Roman government, the crowds are disappointed when He does not meet their expectations — and their cries of “Hosanna!” within a few days quickly turn to “Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar!”
Jesus had predicted His rejection by the Jewish people in Mark 10. There He gave the details of His arrest, condemnation, and crucifixion: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (Mark 10.33-34). However, Jesus was not a helpless victim in these events, but the instigator of them. He came (as He said in Mark 10:45), “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The faithful have traditionally decorated their houses with the palms from Palm Sunday, and, in many countries, a custom developed of weaving the palms into crosses that were placed on home altars or other places of prayer. Since the palms have been blessed, they should not simply be discarded; rather, the faithful return them to their local parish in the weeks before Lent, to be burned and used as the ashes for Ash Wednesday.
Tomorrow we will look at John’s account of the triumphal entry. (to be continued)