Perhaps your church has children wave palm branches down the aisles of the congregation. Or maybe they use burn palm branches from year’s past to create crosses on foreheads during Ash Wednesday. No matter what the case, many Christians celebrate a holy event known as Palm Sunday. This event commemorates when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, right before his death. Although the people cried “Save us, now” and greeted him with anxious expectation, by Friday, they would crucify him. And a week after he enters Jerusalem, he resurrects.

In this article, we’ll explore what what Palm Sunday means and why we celebrate it.

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What Is the Meaning of Palm Sunday?

The various Gospels hold accounts of what happened on Palm Sunday. Let’s take a look at Matthew’s account.

Matthew 21:1-11: As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Palm Sunday remembers when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as foretold in a prophecy found in the Old Testament in Isaiah and Zechariah. The people wanted an insurrectionist to topple Rome. Jesus did come to defeat an enemy, but not the one they had in mind. Instead, he came to defeat the enemy of sin that ensnares every man and woman.

What is Palm Sunday? According to Crosswalk, “Palm Sunday was the first day of Holy Week leading up to the Jewish holiday of Passover. Jesus rode on a donkey through the town of Jerusalem on His way to conquer death and bring us life through His sacrifice on the cross.” —Emma Danzey

Jesus served as our sacrificial Passover lamb when they lead him to his death the Friday of that week.

What Do Palm Branches Represent?

So why did the people wave palm branches and place them at the feet of Jesus’ colt? No doubt in Palestine, where Jesus ministered, they had plenty of palm trees scattered throughout the land. But do these trees mean anything in particular?

According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, the branches and trees actually have a significant meaning. People didn’t just grab whatever leaves they could find for no reason.

“Its branches are a symbol of victory (Revelation 7:9). "Rising with slender stem 40 or 50, at times even 80, feet aloft, its only branches, the feathery, snow-like, pale-green fronds from 6 to 12 feet long, bending from its top, the palm attracts the eye wherever it is seen." The whole land of Palestine was called by the Greeks and Romans Phoenicia, i.e., "the land of palms."

The Jewish people wanted victory, victory over the Romans who had invaded their land. Jesus did come to enact a victory, but not quite the one they had in mind.

When we use palm branches in our services, we can remember how Jesus had conquered death in order for us to have a chance to have salvation through him.

How Do Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday Traditionally?

So how do Christians celebrate this holiday? It depends on which church you attend. Both Protestant and Catholic churches celebrate Palm Sunday. Some may put up a few decorative palm branches while most churches you attend on Palm Sunday will dedicate the sermon to discussing Jesus’ triumphal entry. 

Others may have children wave palm branches down the aisles, sometimes singing a song that has the word “Hosanna!” the same phrase used by the Israelite people when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Many of us, this year, also find ourselves at home watching Livestream services. This Crosswalk article has some great ideas for how to celebrate Palm Sunday at home.

Reading the story of Palm Sunday aloud, or in private, is an intimate way to draw close to God and celebrate. Meg Bucher shares - “Jesus’ fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures on Palm Sunday is recorded in all four New Testament Gospel Accounts: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19. We can draw close to God by reading the truth of His Word. Scripture promises, where two or more are gathered, He is with them! Scripture also says, when we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him. God is … close! When Jesus rode into the city on Palm Sunday, He was God the Son coming close to us. Because of His sacrifice, He remains with every believer through the Holy Spirit."

No matter how you celebrate, many Christians join in praise of Jesus on this day by using palm branches or read from the passages of the Triumphal Entry, to recognize and celebrate Palm Sunday. You can read more Palm Sunday Bible verses Here.

When Is Palm Sunday?

When is Palm Sunday this year? Palm Sunday always falls a week before Easter Sunday (or Resurrection Sunday). For this year, it falls on April 10, 2022. We’ve also highlighted some upcoming dates for future years.

April 01, 2023

March 24, 2024

April 13, 2025

March 29, 2026

March 21, 2027

Palm Sunday Prayers

Lord God, I give you thanks, for you are good, and your mercy is endless. passion and death, And I am distracted by many things. Turn my eyes now to the One who comes in your name the one who opens the gates of righteousness the one who answers when we call. I bless you, Lord, for shining your light upon me, and for sending your son to us, in human frailty. To walk the road we walk. Open my eyes that I may see him coming and may praise him with a pure heart. And may walk in the way of his suffering and share also in his resurrection. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.Rachel Marie Stone

Dear Jesus, I plead for You to give me Your grief over the people who have missed You and rejected You. This Easter, remind me just how much I need You. Help me see Your grace. Grant me that divine combination of sorrow and tenderness that points people to the cross and to new Life. Dear God, give me Your heart for my world, to see the desperate need for salvation we all have. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” —Amy Carroll

Additional Easter Resources:

The Biblical Meaning of Lent

Ash Wednesday - Biblical Meaning and Purpose

Easter Bible Verses

Holy Week Scripture

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