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Why Do We Need To Have Palm Sunday?

As Orthodox Christians we consider Palm Sunday as one of our beloved Major Feast Days. This day is also known as the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. All four Biblical Gospel accounts tell the story. A week before His Resurrection, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey. The people who greeted Jesus, in a manner of honor, covered His path by laying down clothing and branches. The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is “triumphal” because it is an event intended to proclaim that the Prince of Peace (Jesus Christ) has arrived as the King of Israel. This is why Jesus rode on a donkey - a symbol of peace, as opposed to a warrior on horseback. This event can also prophetically be found in the Old Testament in Zechariah, where it states, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you; righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding a donkey.” The Gospel of John states that palms were used in particular. During the time of Jesus, the palm branch was understood to be a symbol of triumph and victory and therefore; used to greet Him. The Gospel story does not end with the triumphal entry. For those who opposed Jesus, His entry was provoking and consequently; triumph turned to tragedy. The triumphal entry was actually the beginning of the end of Jesus’ life. Those who wished to kill Jesus were able to achieve their goal. Within days of this entry into Jerusalem, Jesus would be arrested, tried and executed by crucifixion.


Why do we need to have Palm Sunday? What is so significant about Palm Sunday? Jesus’ arrival on a lowly donkey might seem almost as strange to us today as it did to the crowds who witnessed it. But Palm Sunday sets the stage for Pascha in several important ways. The important thing to remember is that Palm Sunday is not the end. There is a great deal more to the story. The answer would come seven days later on the following Sunday. In fact, the triumph which turned to tragedy, will turn again to triumph! Palm Sunday can be thought of as the prelude to Pascha. Pascha always follows immediately one week after Palm Sunday. This particular entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of the greatest triumph ever made in the history of the world - the defeat of death! A victory over death! A trampling down of death that granted life! No one, other than Jesus Christ, has ever been able to defeat death. Death couldn’t contain Him. That is why it is a triumphal entry. Palm Sunday also stresses significant truths about both humanity and God. It shows the wavering nature of the human heart. The city that joyfully welcomed Jesus would soon be calling for His death just a short while later. Palm Sunday reminds us that God often fulfills His promises in ways we don’t expect. Here was Israel’s promised king, but riding on a donkey, not the noble warhorse one might expect. Here was a king, but not the one Jerusalem thought it needed - instead of freeing them from Roman oppression through military might, Jesus intended to liberate His people from the oppression of sin by sacrificing Himself. Palm Sunday is a day of genuine joy - a day when we get a brief look of how things should have been. Here, Jesus is greeted with joy and celebration, praised as a king and welcomed by His people into their city and their lives. Even though the warm welcome will not last long and the darkness of His Crucifixion approaches on the horizon, Palm Sunday is an occasion of celebration. For this reason, we consider this as a Feast Day. There is a need to have Palm Sunday. The need that shows that the promised king has revealed Himself at last to His people! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Fr. Mark Swindle
Holy Virgin Parish, Arnold, PA

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