Palm Sunday (also known as the Triumphal Entry) is the first day of Holy Week and the day Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time before he was crucified.
When the Jews heard Jesus was approaching the city, they cut palm branches, waved them to celebrate his arrival, and laid them on the street as he entered Jerusalem—an act reserved for royalty and to signify victory. They shouted phrases like “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9, quoting Psalm 118:25—a highly messianic psalm). In Hebrew, “Hosanna” means “Save us!”
They were acknowledging him as King and Savior.
They thought Jesus was the one who would free them from Roman oppression, their promised Messiah. However, they did not comprehend that first, Jesus would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of suffering:
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. . . . He was cut off from the land of the living. (Isa 53:7–8)
Just a few days later, Jesus would be crucified. Those who had followed Jesus thought all was lost. They couldn’t yet see the final victory over God’s enemies, which would come later.
All four Gospels include the Palm Sunday event (Matt 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:28–38; John 12:12–18), although only John 12:13 mentions palm branches.
For believers today, Palm Sunday reminds us of the assurance we have when one day, Jesus will return not just as the suffering servant to save the world from sin but as conquering King to rule and reign from Jerusalem.
3 ideas for observing Palm Sunday
- Read and meditate on all four Gospel accounts about the Triumphal Entry: Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19.
- Consider starting a devotional on Palm Sunday for Holy Week to help focus your mind and heart on what was happening in the last week of Jesus’ life. (A few options are below.)
- Set aside devoted time for prayer and fasting to draw closer to God.
- What Is Holy Week? Ideas for Remembering Its Significance
- Jesus’ Final Week: A Closer Look
- 5 Suggestions for Observing Good Friday
- The Death Side of Life: Paul’s Scars and the Meaning of Good Friday
- What Good Friday Teaches Us about the Meaning of Suffering
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The Death of the Messiah, from Gethsemane to the Grave (2 vols.)
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Jesus’s Final Week: From Triumphal Entry to Empty Tomb
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The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived
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