Palm Sunday marks the occasion when Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) for the last time and rode into the city seated on a donkey amid the welcome and cheers of the crowd. In 2016, it is observed in the Western church on March 20, while in the Eastern church, it is April 24th. For both churches, it marks the beginning of Holy Week.
The Gospel of John notes that they welcomed him with palm branches (John 12:13). Palm trees were in abundance in the Mediterranean and were even found on ancient coins. After the Maccabean Revolt (167 -160 AD), the Jews rededicated the temple carrying palm branches (1 Macc. 13:51). In Revelation 7:9, people from all nations use palm branches in their worship of Jesus. All four Gospels provide an account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:28–38; John 12:12–18).
Many churches initiate the Palm Sunday service with a procession that represents Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem. This practice is attested to as early as in the 4th century in the Pilgrimage of Egeria.
Scripture Passages and Quotes to Consider for Palm Sunday
“Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” Psalm 24:7
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.” Psalm 118:26-27a
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you; righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9
Within the very liturgy of Palm Sunday, the tension is evident; traditionally, it is the only day with two Gospel readings—the enervating triumphal entry, and the tragic narrative of crucifixion. Palms turn to passion. It is the way God has designed it, for he “did not count equality with God something to be grasped.” (Brian Rhea)
O Christ our God
When Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion,
Thou didst confirm the resurrection of the universe
Wherefore, we like children,
carry the banner of triumph and victory,
and we cry to Thee, O Conqueror of love,
Hosanna in the highest
Blessed is He that cometh
in the Name of the Lord
–Toparion of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday
“When Christ entered into Jerusalem the people spread garments in the way: when He enters into our hearts, we pull off our own righteousness, and not only lay it under Christ’s feet but even trample upon it ourselves.” (Augustus Toplady)
“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” (William Penn)