The Significance of Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday. Do we all know what happened today, and why it is referred to as Palm Sunday? Every gospel has this event recorded, because of the tremendous significance in Christian history. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:9-19.

First let’s talk about Lent. Lent is the 40 days preceding Easter that is culminated on the Saturday before Christ’s resurrection. The last week of Lent is called Holy week (also celebrated in the Jewish religion as Passover) and begins with Palm Sunday.

The word, lent, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, which means spring, was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word, lenctentid (pronounced LENG-ten-teed), which means the time of lengthening and flowering. The entire spring season was called Lenctentid. The ancient Anglo-Saxons (and other pagans) celebrated the return of spring with rioteous fertility festivals commemorating their goddess of fertility and of springtime, Eastre. In fact, the word, Easter, is derived from the Scandinavian Ostara and the Teutonic Ostern or Eastre, both pagan goddesses. The complete month of April was called Eostur-monath with the entire month was dedicated to Eostre. The pagan religion taught that Eostre was one responsible for changing a bird into a rabbit, this then is how the rabbit became an Easter symbol. Rabbits symbolize the fertility of springtime. It should be noted that the rabbit’s capacity of abundant production of young is especially great at this time of year. I should also tell you that most ancient races, including the Anglo-Saxons, included spring festivals to celebrate the rebirth of life, using the Egg was a symbol of fertility, life and re-birth. This is old Latin proverb catches this idea — Omne vivum ex ovo. This means “all life comes from an egg.”.

Alexander Hislop writes, “To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity—now far sunk in idolatry—in this as in so many other things, to shake hands” (The Two Babylons).

Lent was not observed by the first century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized the that particular church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other form of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state In A.D. 360, the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed.

It should be noted that Lent has had many different forms. In history it has been celebrated as 40 hours, 7 days, 40 days, 1 or 2 day… Eventually, it became a 40-day period of fasting or abstaining from certain foods.

The emphasis was not so much on the fasting as on the spiritual renewal that the preparation for Easter demanded. It was simply a period marked by fasting, but not necessarily one in which the faithful fasted every day. However, as time went on, more and more emphasis was laid upon fasting. During the early centuries (from the fifth century on especially) the observance of the fast was very strict. Only one meal a day, toward evening was allowed: flesh meat and fish, and in most places even eggs and dairy products, were absolutely forbidden. Meat was not even allowed on Sundays. From the ninth century onward, Lent’s strict rules were relaxed. Greater emphasis was given to performing “penitential works” than to fasting and abstinence. According to the apostolic constitution Poenitemini of Pope Paul IV (Feb. 17, 1966), “abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of the year that do not fall on holy days of obligation, and fasting as well as abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday”

The Catholic Encyclopedia

So why do we celebrate Palm Sunday?

Read John 12:13: “Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

As a side, the word, Hosanna, is a Latinized transliteration of the Hebrew phrase that means “please save now” or “please help now.” The word is used in Psalms 118:25-26 “Save now, I beseech thee Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.”

Why did they welcome Christ this way? 150 years earlier, Judas Maccabeus, nick named, “The Hammer,” son of a Jewish priest, had led the people in a war of independence and defeated the Syrians to give Israel its independence. Judas Maccabeus became King and he adopted the palm branch as a symbol of his victory and Israeli independence. In the Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees 13:51, “And entered into it the three and twentieth day of the second month in the hundred seventy and first year, with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel.” 1 & 2 Maccabees cover some of the history of this period between the Old and New Testament they are not in the NKJ or other translations of scripture, but they are in the Catholic bible. Judas Maccabeus had palm branches stamped on coins, and had them used in temple feasts to celebrate the victory.

Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 21:1-5: “And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.”

Turn to Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

Why did Christ have to ride in on “a colt the foal of an ass?” First, in Luke’s parallel passage the disciples were instructed in Luke 19:30 to “Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat.”

Why is it important that “yet never man sat?”

God commanded the Jews to sacrifice burnt offerings for the forgiveness of sins, yet here is Christ, coming to Jeruselum as the ultimate sacrifice. For a sacrifice to be holy it must be perfect. Read Numbers 19:2: “This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke.”

Also, when the ark was captured by the Philistines and they were forced by God to return it, how was it returned? Read 1 Samuel 6:2-9.

And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? Tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. 4Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us.

1 Samuel 6:2-9

Christ had to ride on an un-ridden colt because He was God, the Son of God, coming into His city. This was not a political or secular reason, but the holy entrance of the Son of God and the perfect sacrifice for the eternal forgiveness of sin.

You will remember that Jesus is of the root and offspring of David (Revelation 22:16). And the angel that announced the birth of Jesus in Luke 1:32-33: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Solomon rode his father’s favorite mule in his inaugural procession into the royal city of Jerusalem (1 Kings 1:33). Jesus was announcing His kingship in a similar way and entering the city on a donkey’s colt symbolized the truth of the Angels announcement.

In summary, Scripture does not speak about the celebration of Lent, nor does it talk about the celebration of Palm Sunday. Christ does however, speak about the celebration of the Last Supper and to continue to observe the Passover.

Let’s talk about the significance of all of this in our own lives. All the people that came and put palm branches out in front of Christ and cried out Hosanna, one week later many of them were calling for Christ’s death. When we cry out to God “save us,” do we mean save us for a week? Or are we crying out for Christ to save us forever? By his death and resurrection, we have been saved for all eternity, so how do we take advantage of that, or live it out?