Palm Sunday is a holiday with a lot of cultural and religious importance to many people around the world — this is the meaning of Palm Sunday!
Everyone knows about Easter, but fewer people understand Palm Sunday — even though the two holidays are closely related. For Christians worldwide, this holiday that begins their holy week is one of the most commonly appreciated parts of their faith.
Even if you aren’t a Christian yourself, it’s always good to learn about other belief systems so that you can live in a more empathetic way. Here is what Palm Sunday is all about, why it’s so important to Christians worldwide, and how you can understand it better.
What Is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday, sometimes also known as Passion Sunday, is the Sunday that occurs one week before Easter Sunday. It is the first day of the most crucial week in the Chrisitan tradition at large, ending with the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth on Easter.
Palm Sunday is documented heavily in the gospels of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story is told from slightly different angles and perspectives in each, emphasizing various details for their target audiences.
The primary purpose of Palm Sunday itself is to commemorate Jesus coming into Jerusalem in the triumphal entry. The day that He rode into Jerusalem, many of the Jewish people there celebrated him. They believed that He was the answer to a prophecy that they had been given in many different books of the Torah, including Isaiah and Zechariah.
As a whole, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of many ends, as well as the beginning of many new hopes and wishes. It also signifies the last week of the season of Lent, a religious practice and holiday that many Christians partake in worldwide. Lent begins several weeks before this on Ash Wednesday.
What Is the Story Behind Palm Sunday?
The story of Christ’s triumphal entry begins with Jesus traveling around Judea and Galilee for three years, teaching people and making disciples. Some people thought he was just a great prophet or teacher, but he identified himself as the “son of David,” which meant that he was the true king of Israel and the son of God. This made Jesus incredibly controversial and despised by the conservative religious leaders of Jerusalem at the time.
Upon his final arrival into Jerusalem, Jesus rode in on a colt, which signified a king arriving into a city in peace. As such, a vast crowd cut branches and laid down their cloaks to create a walkway for his path. The most recognizable branches used were palm branches and palm leaves, whose leaves are extensive and work well as a makeshift carpet.
As he entered Jerusalem, the crowds praised and blessed God, primarily using the word “hosanna,” which means “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The phrase “Hosanna in highest heaven” has become synonymous with Christ’s triumphal entry and is one of the most common phrases used to worship within Christian culture.
What Happened After the Triumphal Entry?
Despite the celebration of Christ’s triumphal entry, the positive feelings didn’t last. Even starting the next day, the religious leaders began to convince the people that Jesus was actually not who he said that he was. Following the Passover meal at the last supper on Maundy Thursday, Jesus was arrested in a garden on the Mount of Olives. The same great crowd that celebrated his arrival into Jerusalem quickly turned against him and called for his execution.
That Friday, Jesus was tortured and executed. However, three days later, he was resurrected in his tomb. This was done according to the prophecies that had been told for thousands of years within the Jewish tradition, which led to the foundation of the Christian religion.
What Is the Modern Purpose of Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday is the beginning of the holy week for Christians worldwide. Orthodox churches especially put a lot of effort into celebrating Palm Sunday — including making palm fronds — to celebrate Jesus as the savior of the world.
While Palm Sunday doesn’t get much attention in the secular world, it is still widely celebrated in the church today. If you ever find yourself in a church on the weekend before Easter, there will likely be copious celebrating happening!
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