Jesus begins His final week of ministry by entering Jerusalem amidst a jubilant celebration. Multitudes greet Him, shouting “Hosannas” and waving palm branches in their hands, as He enters the city. For this reason, Christian tradition refers to this day as “Palm Sunday”—the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry. The fact that Christians through the centuries have commemorated this day suggests that it’s a day of great importance and significance. Notably, all four Gospel writers include this event in their Gospel account. Obviously God intended this event to reveal gospel truth.
So,what is the biblical meaning of Palm Sunday?
The week preceding the Jewish Passover was a time when Jews from all over the civilized world would make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.The Jewish historian, Josephus, estimates that the pilgrims who gathered for Passover numbered somewhere above two million.
It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, to find these multitudes flocking to Jesus of Nazareth as he approached the city, in order to hail him as the long-awaited Messiah. His miraculous deeds and authoritative teaching was already well known in Palestine. Moreover, the news of His raising Lazarus from the dead had reached the city. When it was heard that Jesus was approaching, the multitudes fled the city to greet their approaching Messiah.
And they greeted him with a royal victory celebration. John tells us that they “took the branches of palm trees and went out to meet him.” The waving of palm branches was a common way of celebrating the victory of a great king or deliverer. The synoptic Gospels tells us that the people laid their own garments in the way before him. They were clearly preparing the way for the king.
They “began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD, even the King of Israel.” The majority of that chant of praise comes from Psalm 118:25-26—a Psalm commonly sung during the Passover. The final words, “even the King of Israel,” are added here to show the peoples meaning of their chant.
Without question the great multitudes that thronged Jesus of Nazareth were hailing Him as the promised messianic king.
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“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”