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Why the Palm Branches? (Sunday)

Palm Sunday kicks off a significant chain of events that turn out to be a cornerstone to our faith in Jesus. The day before Palm Sunday, Jesus visited a village about two miles from Jerusalem called Bethany. Lazarus and his family were hosting a dinner in Jesus’ honor at their home. It was here that Lazarus’ sister Mary, poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair. This perfume was worth about a year’s salary!


The next day, Jesus traveled from Bethany through Bethpage and into Jerusalem. Crowds gathered and  threw down palm branches before the feet of Jesus as he entered the city. In the Roman empire, people would throw palm branches before the feet of a victorious hero as a sign of respect. This signifies so much to the heart of what Israelites hoped for, as Jesus rode into the city. In the eyes of the Israelites, Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem meant good news them; for the outcasts, the blind, the women, the oppressed and the poor. 


The Gospel of Mark tells the whole story. The crowd shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! God save us! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!"


During this particular weekend, thousands of pilgrims were coming into Jerusalem from all over the region for the Passover celebration. Most traveled by foot. The fact that Jesus is riding a donkey is the only recorded instance in the Gospels that He wasn't walking. Every other time Jesus traveled anywhere, He was on foot. This is significant because this moment marks the fulfillment of another prophecy. Zechariah wrote about this welcome into Jerusalem 520 years before Jesus was born:


Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.


Don’t miss the importance of this! By Jesus riding into Jerusalem, He was proclaiming himself to be the shepherd king predicted by Zechariah hundreds of years prior!


The Israelites responded very warmly to Jesus’ entry. They respected Him, honored Him and adored Him. Many of them even witnessed His miracles just days before. They had expectations that Jesus would be the leader who would finally free them from Roman oppression, but Jesus was a different kind of king.


Five days changed a lot of hearts.


As we reflect on the significance of Palm Sunday, we remember our coming Savior and the fact that He is worthy of us laying down our palm branches and burdens at His feet. Let this truth bring joy to your heart today because no matter what happens in this broken, fallen world of ours, no matter what calamity befalls us or what virus threatens us, we serve a victorious King who is very much still alive!


Happy Palm Sunday!


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