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Easter: Palm Sunday
What is remembered on Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week – a celebration of the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. On Palm Sunday, Christians remember the time when Jesus went into Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city, riding on the back of a donkey. This occasion is sometimes known as the Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem.
What happened on the first Palm Sunday?
Like many Jews, Jesus was going to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover, the time when the people remembered the story of Moses. On this occasion, the people welcomed Jesus like a king and threw coats and palm leaves on the ground for the donkey to walk over - just as a red carpet would be put on the ground for a King or Queen today. The people also shouted:
‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
This was a line from an old Jewish song of praise. Hosanna means ‘help’ or ‘save.’ The people were calling out to Jesus to help or save them.
Why did such an important person decide to ride into the city on a donkey?
Firstly the Old Testament prophets wrote about a king that would ride upon a donkey. One prophet called Zechariah wrote:
"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" (Zech 9:9).
So in riding on a donkey Jesus was showing people that he was like the king that Zechariah had written about. Secondly the donkey was a symbol of peace and humility. Jesus was a king - but he was not riding a war-horse. He was coming in peace to bring about his mission not through violence but through love and sacrifice.
How do Christians celebrate Palm Sunday?
In some churches palm branches or palm crosses, made from palm leaves, are given out to everyone. In some other churches the children will make crosses from strips of paper. Many churches will have a procession in or around the church while people sing songs of praise and wave palm leaves. This is to help them imagine what Jesus' entry into Jerusalem might have been like.