Palm Sunday of Easter week

On this day almost 2000 years ago we see Jesus entering Jerusalem with the help of his disciples. He fulfilled prophecy and set into motion the blood lust of the church leaders. Matthew 21:1-11 shows us the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus, having now spent many days going back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem, sent the disciples on ahead where they would find the unridden colt for him to ride when he arrives, therefore fulfilling prophecy. Apparently his teaching and miracles has resonated with the mass public both in Jerusalem and along the “highway between Bethany and Jerusalem, including all those now in town for the Passover week”. As the Jews desired to seek the prophesied Messiah, they were also under active Roman rule and the watchful eye of the religious police. The Sanhedrin and the Pharisees thought’s were on re-establishing the autonomous political state of Israel and the casting out of all foreign powers. They were watching for a foretold messiah that looked like a conquering warrior. However, Jesus had other plans since he came as one that looked to see a change of a person’s heart. The tradition of palm branches on Palm Sunday actually originates with the Jewish festival of Sukkoth, also called the Festival of the Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, which was probably the most popular holiday among the Jews in the first century. Who doesn’t like to camp out and eat well for a week with old friends and extended family. The Feast of Tabernacles usually occurred about 6 months from the Passover week, so although not the right time of the year, the thought behind why they would grab palm branches and wave them around would not have been foreign to them. In the observance of Sukkoth, worshipers processed through Jerusalem and into the Temple, waving in their right hands something called a lulab, which was a bunch of leafy branches made of willow, myrtle and palm. As they waved these branches in that procession, the worshipers recited words from Psalm 118, the psalm normally used at Sukkoth. Among these words were “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord.” Save us in Hebrew is hosianna or hosanna. This is typically followed by “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. (Ps 118:25-6).” They were manifesting a practice that was a traditional activity from years and years of celebrating the Feast of Booths, their had been practicing for this very day for decades and decades. By doing this they were acknowledging Jesus’s holy sovereignty. But by laying these branches on the ground while Jesus entered the city was taking things a step further. This practice was usually held for a conquering king returning from battle. So they were also recognizing Jesus’s lordship and kingship. Or at least what they were hoping for from him. What an amazing site for the Roman occupiers and religious ruling elite to witness. They must have felt at the least threatened and at the most moved. But, oh how fickle are the masses, and how quickly appetites change. Once in the city, Jesus and the boys head yet again to the temple, Jesus teaches, He provokes the religious elite and then they return to Bethany for the night. In the below photo you can see the older walking paths that still line the side of the hill going up from the Kidron Valley towards the temple. Roads now cut across these paths, but one can imagine the thousands of people lining these pathways, laying their palm branches as Jesus approaches, chanting Psalm 118:

For more about Israel in the first century, go here

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Next day: click here



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