Palm Sunday: Celebrating the coming of the Lord

By Chonmipem Horam | Last Updated: Mar 16, 2008, 00:00 AM IST

Chonmipem Horam

Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem five days before His crucifixion. It marks the beginning of the Holy Week that commemorates the last days of Jesus’ life. For Christians it’s a time to prepare for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.

The Gospel reveals that when Jesus entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, riding on a donkey, the crowds greeted him with palm branches, spread their cloaks on his path and shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” to honour him as their long awaited King.

With this celebration, He began his journey to the cross. The scene is rich with symbolism. In biblical times, the donkey (or domesticated ass) was a symbol of peace. Those who rode upon them, proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm was a sign of martyrdom or victory over death.

Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday, Willow Sunday and Flower Sunday.

The story goes like this…

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah had foretold about the arrival of the Messianic King in Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

The Jewish people had seen how Jesus went around and performed so miracles. His ultimate miracle was raising Lazarus from the dead. When he arrived, the people hailed the Teacher from Galilee as something more than a man, and Jesus did not deny this exaltation.

Many of the Jews believed in Him. “But some other went to the Pharisees and told what Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said “what shall we do? For this man works many signs. If we let him alone like this everyone will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. Then from that day on they plotted to put Him to death. (John 11:46-48; 53). There were economic reasons for opposing him as well, seeing the commercialization of the Temple, Jesus had driven the dealers and animals out, as well as turning over the tables of the moneychangers saying ‘My House is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves”. (Luke 19:46)

So with all these great deeds, His disciples and the believers recognized Him as the Messiah when he still on his way to Jerusalem. Crowds of people carpeted the roads with their cloaks and palm branches and shouted: “Hossana to the son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the heavens.” (Mathew 21: 9)

Palm Sunday in Modern times

Today, Palm Sunday is celebrated in much the same way as it has been since the 10th century. The palm leaves are distributed among the followers to use in the usual Church service. Afterwards, many people take the palms home and place them in their houses. In some countries, these palms are placed on the graves of the departed. In colder climates like Russia and Ukraine, where palm trees are not found, branches of yew, willow, and sallow trees are used. However the meaning of Palm Sunday remains the same. It is a participation for Christians with Jesus in the joy and happiness of His Resurrection.

“Hossana to the son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the heavens.”