Palm Sunday is the last Sunday in Lent. It introduces the Passion week which consists of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The week is concluded with the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection from the dead. On Palm Sunday Jesus, who humbled Himself, that is made no show of His equality with God, came into Jerusalem on a lowly beast of burden. He was greeted with palm branches and hosannas. The entrance into Jerusalem in this manner was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9. Christ came as the King He was though in lowliness, not as an earthly king to satisfy the dreams of men. He came as the King whose kingdom is spiritual and Whose scepter is peace. He brought His royal rule of peace to all in the world who, feeling the burden of their sin, find their forgiveness and eternal hope in Him.
Palm Sunday was observed in the Greek Church as early as the 4th century and in the Western Church since the 7th century or earlier. Greek and Roman churches held a procession on that day. The members carried branches which had been previously blessed. During the Middle Ages a live donkey, beautifully decorated and carrying a priest with a consecrated host and the Bo of the Gospel, headed the procession. In England Palm Sunday was formerly celebrated with much ceremony, but during the reign of Edward VI the blessing and procession of palms was discontinued in the churches of England.
Many rites that are not with us today were conducted on this day throughout its history. In the Lutheran Church Palm Sunday became a traditional day upon which confirmation was observed. The result was that the real significance of this day was lost upon many.
On the first Palm Sunday the people sang hosanna to the Lord. No doubt there were many sincere expressions of praise. But the reality is that many who sang hosanna were among those who by the end of the week were crying for Jesus to be crucified. In other words, they became caught up in the emotion of the moment on Palm Sunday, an emotion that soon wore off. It is an easy thing to become emotional about Jesus. But emotion lacks substance if it is an emotion not grounded on a firm foundation. The Lord does not desire mere emotion but is pleased with an abiding faith anchored in His sacrificial atonement. Such faith prevails through the peaks and valleys of life. Such faith is not swayed by the opinion of the moment. It is not embarrassed by the lowliness of the Savior. Rather it rejoices in His lowliness believing that in His lowliness the believer in Christ is exalted to heaven. That is good reason to sing “Hosanna” and to pursue a life that gives supports the word of praise. Faith, “steady as she goes,” los unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who shall return in glory to take His people home.