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The Real Meaning of Palm Sunday

By April 5, 2020Gospel3 min read

This article originally appeared on on April 13, 2014.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, you could say that it was a patriotic parade. This is how it is described in John 12:12-13:

“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” The King of Israel!’”

In that day and for those people, it looked like a Fourth of July parade in modern America. The crowd shouted that Jesus was “the King of Israel.” They waved branches “of palm trees,” which were a patriotic symbol for an independent Israel going back to their last independent state under the Maccabees. This was an exciting, happy time of welcoming the man whom many thought could be the King of Israel, who had finally come to overthrow the hated Romans.

Since it was near the Passover, there were a lot of Roman soldiers in Jerusalem. It isn’t hard to imagine that several of them saw the parade and felt it was important to tell their commander, Pontus Pilate, that the Jews just welcomed a king into the city to replace the present rulers.

If Pilate received the news, how do you think he responded? Think of the questions he might have asked of the soldiers who brought the report. What kind of army did this “King of the Jews” have? There were no soldiers, only children who laughed and danced with the parade. What kind of patriotic war songs did they sing? There were only songs of praise to the God of Israel.

What kind of weapons did they have? They didn’t have swords or spears, only palm branches. What about the king? What kind of horse did he ride? He didn’t ride a warhorse. He didn’t ride a horse at all. It was a donkey and a colt at that.

If Pontius Pilate thought about the parade that brought Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem, he probably laughed.

The Romans knew how to put on a proper military parade, and this wasn’t it. It was like the difference between a great military parade with soldiers and tanks and missiles, contrasted with a children’s Fourth of July parade completed with toddlers, tricycles and flags.

Jesus said something dramatic with this entry to Jerusalem: “Yes, I am a King of love and power as I showed with raising Lazarus from the dead. But I’m not like the kings of this world; I am a humble King, come to serve and to die for My people.”

The most wonderful thing about this is that the humble King won. He defeated the Roman Empire and every other empire. His kingdom continues to grow and remains today.

David Guzik is a teaching pastor at Calvary Chapel of Santa Barbara. David is popularly known amongst the Christian community for his online and print commentary on the Bible.