Palm Sunday (or the Sunday of the Passion) is the celebration that falls on the Sunday preceding Resurrection Sunday (Easter). It commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, days before he meets his fate of crucifixion. All four Gospel writers narrate the event: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19. The collective report of the biographers recalls Jesus’ stay in Bethany. There, he dispatches two disciples to go and get a donkey that had been tied up, never ridden, and bring it to him.
As Jesus rides the animal into Jerusalem, a throng of supporters throw their clothes and small tree branches in the pathway to welcome him into the city. Echoes of Psalm 118 ring out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…”
In the history of Christian thought, this entry, and its jubilant reception, affirmed the messianic expectations heaped upon Jesus. The narrative is interpreted as fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy:
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10)
In the Christian liturgical tradition, Palm Sunday is marked with either a procession at the beginning of the worship service or some waving of palm branches/leaves in the service proper. Dramatic readings of the passion narrative feature prominently in the liturgy, and worshippers are invited to reflect upon the scenes and themes that the following days unfold. The moment concludes the observance of Lent and inaugurates the solemnity of Holy Week.
Original Source: The African American Lectionary
Don Darius Butler, Guest Cultural Resources Commentator
Pastor, Tabernacle Community Baptist Church, Milwaukee, WI