What did Jesus do every day of Holy Week? Join us as we trace Jesus’ steps from His triumphant entry in Jerusalem through His final teachings, betrayal and sacrificial death all leading up to the glorious Resurrection of our Risen King!
John 12:12-19; Matthew 21:1-11; Psa 118:19-29, Zechariah 9:9
The word of a miracle quickly spread around the region. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead! Each gospel account records Jesus’ triumphant entry as a crowd eagerly awaited his arrival in Jerusalem: what we now call Palm Sunday.
Why the palm branches? Date Palms are majestic trees, native to the Holy Land, symbolizing victory. They were used to celebrate festive occasions, and they were often engraved on coins and buildings as a symbol of royalty (Leviticus 23:40, Nehemiah 8:15). 1 Kings tells us King Solomon had them carved on the walls all around the temple.
Why the donkey? To fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 as a symbol of peace and humility. While riding on a horse would often be a sign of power and the pursuit of warfare, riding on a donkey would symbolize a king in pursuit of peace. He did not come as a political figure to rescue the Israelites from the Romans like they had thought. He was coming to be their spiritual savior, to rescue them from the captivity of sin.
The people shouted Hosanna, laying their coats on the ground and waving palm branches in the air to show great honor.
“Hosanna!” literally translates to mean, “Pray, Save us!” But what were they expecting him to save them from?
They certainly believed he had “come in the name of the Lord”, echoing the words of Psalm 118 – a song traditionally sung as part of Hallel during Jewish celebrations. They believed he was the promised King of Israel, but he wasn’t the king many were expecting.
The majority of the crowd wanted him to wipe out Roman oppression, not take away their sins. This is evident in their response. When the people in the city asked the crowds, “Who is this?” they didn’t call Him Savior or worship Him as God. Instead, they replied in Matthew 21:11 “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” If you read the account carefully, you’ll notice that they praised him as the Son of Man but they never once proclaimed he was the Son of God.
In a dark turn of events, scholars believe this same crowd were the ones who demanded his crucifixion. Charles Spurgeon preached, “You must not imagine that all those who strewed the branches in the way and cried “Hosanna” cared about Christ as a spiritual prince. No, they thought that he was to be a temporal deliverer, and when they found out afterwards that they were mistaken, they hated him just as much as they had loved him, and “Crucify him, crucify him,” was as loud and vehement a cry as “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
As the Holy Week begins with this excitable crowd, looking to God for the wrong things, may it remind us to anticipate the right things. The victory is ours in Christ Jesus, not for personal prosperity or political victory but over the powers of Sin and Death. In the end, Christ will be victorious. He has already won the victory!
This isn’t the only time we see Palm Branches exalting Christ. In Revelation it says, “...there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)
Christ is exalted as the Son of God with all power and authority, and the whole world will see that He is who He says He is.
It’s easy to go along with the crowd, to be excited when others are. But is your faith sincere? Do you actually believe God is who He says He is?
Examine your prayer life this Holy Week. What does it mean to look to God as your spiritual savior rather than a temporal fix to your circumstances? Do you pray for quick fixes? Or are you interested in the spiritual lessons he has for you to learn?
Lord, help me praise you with a sincere heart. May I love you for who you are not just what you do for me! You are mighty to save! True victory is found only in you.