Out of all the events that happened in the gospels, only eight events appear in all four gospel accounts. Jesus’ triumphant entry on Palm Sunday is one of these, letting us know that in the minds of the gospel writers, this is one of the most significant events in Jesus’ life. Palm Sunday was the first day of last week of Jesus’ life and it set the stage of what was about to happen.
Context of Palm Sunday
This event actually took place on March 29, AD 33. The setting was Jerusalem, the capital city of the nation of Israel. There was a huge temple gleaming white marble, the heart of the nation, capturing the heart of the people. But Rome had conquered Israel a century earlier and there was animosity between the Jews and the Romans.
Every Jewish male was required to go to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Hundreds of thousands of people would have made this pilgrimage. The feeling was electric. Jesus had just raised Lazarus a week earlier and news of this miracle was spreading like wildfire. People were hearing about Him everywhere and wondering: would this be the man to free them from Rome?
What is the meaning of Palm Sunday?
Pastor George spoke of the significance of Palm Sunday by using the acronym P.A.L.M.
Promise of God fulfilled
As He prepared to enter the city, Jesus sent two of His disciples to find him the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:1-5). Jesus did this to fulfill something that was prophesied 500 years earlier.
Fulfill means to deliver a complete message, to explain something fully. When God gives a promise, it doesn’t just come true; it communicates truth. The prophesied actions are not just coming true; they are a revelation about Jesus. Zechariah 9:9 says,
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
In entering Jerusalem this way, Jesus reveals that He is in control as the sovereign King with absolute authority. He is coming to His people as our “God with us.” Yet He enters gently and lowly, as He never abuses His authority. He is not coming to conquer, but to be crucified.
When Jesus promises something, it’s going to come true. He doesn’t just tell the truth, He is the truth (John 14:6). It is not in His being to be false.
The first message of Palm Sunday is that God fulfills His promises and is completely trustworthy.
Arrival of the King
Don’t forget that tens of thousands of people had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. As Jesus rode into town, He came through a sea of makeshift tents and shelters. Thousands of people came alongside to join Him in their excitement. Matthew says that as Jesus entered, “all the city was moved” (Matthew 21:10).
It is also important to note that Jesus' arrival was in direct contrast to another ruler. At this same moment that Jesus entered from the east, Pontius Pilate was entering Jerusalem from the west end (from Caesarea). The processions came forth from opposite directions and in an opposite fashion: Pilate had an entourage of soldiers to express military might while Jesus entered on a lowly animal to express His humility; Pilate displayed his wealth and power while Jesus entered with a declaration of peace; Pilate was feared by the crowds while Jesus was cheered by the crowds.
By this opposing display, Jesus purposefully contrasted His kingdom with the kingdoms of the world. When Jesus comes into our lives, He wants there to be a clear contrast with between the values of His kingdom and the values of the world. As we live out our faith, do we feel the struggle of these two kingdoms? Whose procession are we in? Whose parade have we joined? Are we “going along to get along”? Or is there a sharp contrast – a clear distinction—between our lives and the way others are living around us?
We can’t proclaim to follow the King and then reject His kingdom.
Lamb of God set apart.
On the tenth day of the month, five days before Passover, every Jewish family was to select a lamb and bring it into their home to watch over it and make sure it was perfect before they slaughtered it. This was done in remembrance of God’s salvation in Exodus. When Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites and God sent ten plagues for Pharaoh to change his mind, the tenth plague was to kill every firstborn male in the land. But the Israelites were instructed to shed the blood of a lamb and place the lamb’s blood on their doorposts, that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes, reserving God’s judgment and protecting their firstborn sons from death.
The timing of Jesus’ is not coincidental! Jesus purposefully comes in on the tenth day of the month, 5 days before Passover, being chosen by the nation of Israel as the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Jesus is our “pass over” Lamb. When we put our faith in Him and trust in His sacrifice for our sins, God literally doesn’t see our sin; he passes over, reserves judgment, and forgives us completely, setting us free from eternal death and separation from Him.
Jesus is your Passover Lamb – God is not looking for you to make up for your sin, but rather to trust in the provision of His sacrificed Son.
As Jesus came into the city, the crowd shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David!” (Matthew 21:9)
Everyone in this time understood these words from Psalm 118 to be about the long-awaited Messiah. In chanting these words, they acknowledge Jesus as God’s deliverer.
However, they misunderstood the kind of Messiah Jesus would be. They believed that Jesus’ coming would be the confrontation that would deliver them from their suffering under Roman rule, but Jesus had come to bring a much greater salvation. He came not to set Israel free from Rome, but to free the world to know God.
We can still misunderstand salvation today as simply a ticket to heaven, when actually Jesus has so much more for us than that.
We can still misunderstand salvation today as simply a ticket to heaven, when actually Jesus has so much more for us than that. As Psalm 118: 19 says, “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord,” Jesus came to give us His righteousness. He offers a salvation that goes much deeper than forgiveness. The devil wants us to believe that we are stuck in an endless cycle of sin: struggle, failure, repentance, struggle, failure, repentance… but Jesus actually opens the gates of righteousness for us. He offers us salvation from depression, broken relationships, and sin struggles. He wants us to begin living heaven here on earth.
If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, today is the day to call Jesus your Passover Lamb! He died for you, not only to give you eternal life and forgiveness from sin, but righteousness and peace here on earth.