The Heartbreaking Story Behind Palm Sunday


When is Palm Sunday 2019? It’s always the Sunday before Easter, and this year Easter is on April 21. So, on April 14, Christian churches everywhere will feature palm branches in remembrance of Jesus entering Jerusalem amidst cries of “Hosanna!” Palm Sunday is also recognition of Passion Week, the last week before Jesus died on the cross and was raised to life three days later. Below, learn where to find the Bible passages about Palm Sunday, the significance of palm branches, and the devastating truth in the midst of an otherwise triumphant moment in history.


Scriptures About Palm Sunday

The specific event Palm Sunday focuses on is found in three of the Gospels:

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Mark 1:1-11
  • John 12:12-19

The scripture that best sums up the meaning of Palm Sunday is in Zechariah 9:9, which foretold the event:

“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.”

In Zechariah’s reference to future events, however, a mention of palm branches isn't included. In John 12:12-13 it says,

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’”


What are Palm Branches About?

There are several significant aspects of these scriptures, such as the meaning of Jesus entering the city riding a donkey, but this is about a tragic aspect of Palm Sunday. People waved palm branches as they thronged the streets of Jerusalem at the arrival of Jesus on a donkey.

Palm branches, in ancient times, were symbols of victory, goodness, and well-being. Branches of palm trees were carved into the walls of the temple built by King Solomon. Palm branches also have significance after the Second Coming of Christ. It says in Revelation 7:9:

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."


Why Were People Waving Palm Branches?

The significance of palm branches to the people who greeted Jesus on that first Palm Sunday was that the palms represented a military victory. The people viewed Jesus as a king who would defeat the Romans, who occupied the land. They sought a worldly king, not understanding what Jesus really came to do. He came to lay down his life for our sins and bring peace and forgiveness to the world and provide the only pathway to heaven.


Where’s the Tragedy of Palm Sunday?

The same people who waved the palm branches to celebrate Jesus cried “Crucify him!” just days later. Jesus didn’t meet their expectations, and they turned their backs on him. When Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept. He knew that his people would reject him, bringing judgment.

We are no different than the people who betrayed Jesus back then when we don’t follow him because we don’t like his ways, though they are perfect.


How to Make this a Happy Ending

There is only tragedy for all who reject Jesus all the way to death. But because of what Jesus accomplished for all of humanity during Passion Week, we have the blood of Jesus to cover our sins. If we believe that Jesus died for us and was raised again to life, we can repent of our sins and be saved. Once we become Christians, another type of tragedy can occur. Jesus calls us to love God wholly, and he calls us to follow him fully. In this way, we become lights in a dark world. When we don’t truly follow Jesus, how different are we from those who waved palm branches only to betray him?

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