TODAY IS PALM SUNDAY by Luchen A. Bailey,
Director of Ministerial Development CA/NV, Retired
In the accounts of the four Gospels, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes place about a week before his Resurrection.
According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks in front of him, and also laid down small branches of Palm trees. The people sang part of Psalm 118: 25–26 – “… Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord ….”
The symbolism is captured in Zechariah 9:9 “The Coming of Zion’s King – See: your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.
The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king came riding upon a horse when he was going to war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out he was coming in peace. Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem would thus symbolize his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king.
There is old eastern custom when a highly honored person came to town they would meet him with laying out Palm leaves as a symbol of peace. Later they rolled out a strip of red carpet in arriving and departing of a royal guest. The use of red carpet, is where we get the saying “rolling out the red carpet.
The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory, in the Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, and became the most common attribute of the goddess “Nike or Victory”.
In ancient Egyptian religion, the palm was carried in funeral processions and represented eternal life. The palm branch later became a symbol of Christian martyrs and their spiritual victory or triumph over death. While studying in Israel, the day we visited the Mosque of Omar, a Muslim funeral was in progress. Preceding the casket were men waving palm branches in front, as symbol of his final enter into the resting place.
We visited the Catacombs in Rome and on some of the wall were painting of palm leaves.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Palm Sunday was marked by the burning of Jack-‘o’-Lent figures. This was a straw effigy which would be stoned and abused. Its burning on Palm Sunday was often supposed to be a kind of revenge on Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Christ.
On Palm Sunday the Christian churches celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection. For many Christian churches, Palm Sunday, often referred to as “Passion Sunday,” marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday.
When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them. Then he will send them at once.”
The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus, He begins His journey to the cross.
Luke takes us back to the last week in His earthly ministry, and a colt that had never been rode. Had Jesus not been the master of all, that would have been a ride that would make the old west rodeo look like a pleasure ride. They were to go to the cross roads to find the mount.
No other place.
He was a new King; this new King had no royal stables to keep his mounts. Other kings would have his mount decorated with jewels of splendor. The disciples make for their King a make-shift saddle with their garments.
Jesus enters in peace even though He knows it is his last entry to Jerusalem.
The Persian King Shpor a Muslim, upon hearing the prophesy of Israelis King, told Rabbi Samuel, “When your king comes, I will give him a horse to ride”, the Rabbi replied ”Do you have one with 100 colors and a 1000 qualities?”
Jesus chose unbroken men to be his disciples, men we would not have chosen, but He called them and is still calling today, Follow Me.
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