This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the traditional beginning of Holy Week. The events of Holy Week are of tremendous importance to the world. Many think that the importance of Palm Sunday lies simply in the fact that Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final week of His life. But, there is much more to the story. Hopefully, this will help with your understanding.
The events that we just read about happened on a very important day for the Israelites. Many years before, just prior to the Israelite’s release from bondage, the Lord announced His tenth and final plague upon the Egyptians. At the same time the Lord told the Israelites about the final plague, He gave them the following instructions:
Shortly after these instructions, the Lord passed through Egypt and killed the firstborn of every man and beast. When the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors of the Israelites, he passed over them. They were quickly released from their bondage in Egypt and went out to serve the Lord with great joy and gladness. God declared that this celebration would signify the first month of their year and would be an everlasting celebration known as the Lord’s Passover.
In obedience to the Lord, the Israelites called the first month of their calendar year “Nisan” which means “fresh, green, new growth” and instituted the annual celebration of Passover. On the tenth day of Nisan, the first month of their calendar year, the Israelites choose a male lamb, without blemish and set it aside to be held for four days and then slaughtered at twilight of the day of preparation for Passover.
The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem occurred on the tenth of Nisan, the day of the choosing of the spotless Passover lamb. He rode into town on a donkey. The people laid their clothing on the road before Him which in Israel, was a sign of the recognition of royalty. They also cut down palm branches and laid them before Him which was a sign of victory for a conqueror. The entry of Jesus and the manner in which it was done fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, the great prophet of Israel’s future which alerted to Israel the appearance of its Messiah.
As Jesus entered, the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” – the Son of David being their affirmation of Him as Messiah and the cry of “hosanna” being their cry for salvation.
On 10 Nisan, at the same time that the priests were choosing the Passover Lamb for the sin of the people, Jesus was “chosen” by the people as Messiah and source of salvation for the Jewish people.
The entire city was moved at Jesus’ entry. Not in history had a man been affirmed as this Man was. The Romans became watchful and the leaders of Israel became jealous. Jesus immediately went to the temple and began the process of cleansing it and proclaiming it, “His house”. He drove out all that bought and sold. His fearlessness frightened the Pharisees and Sadducees. He began to heal the sick. The release of power and the praise of the children in the temple so unnerved the chief priests and scribes that they became indignant. In one day, by His actions, Jesus had done something that the priests and leaders had not been able to do the whole time they had been in charge: He restored purity, power, and perfected praise to the house of God!
Of course at the triumphal entry the multitude did not understand that they were choosing the Lamb of God to sacrifice, but they believed they were choosing a king who would set them free from Roman rule. In less than a week, they would turn against Him as an imposter and the high priest would order Him sacrificed for the nation.
John 11:47-52: “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’ And one of them, Caiaphas, being the high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’ Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.”
In the days leading up to the killing of the Passover lamb, Jesus would be “tested” and “inspected” by the priests with hard questions. His answers and actions proved His fidelity to His Father and His freedom from sin and impurity.
But, the more clear His lordship as Messiah became, the more obstinate and rebellious the leaders of the people were. By the end of the week, all the people: those who had at one time declared Him Messiah just a few days before, those who had seen His power and had partaken of His kindness and goodness – they turned against Him and by their words and actions demanded His death.
Jesus went to His death of His own free will – knowing exactly what was going to happen to Him before it ever did. He told His disciples before they entered Jerusalem that He was going there to be rejected and to die. But, that was not the end of the story.
1500 years of Israeli history – the celebration of the Passover year after year was simply a dress rehearsal leading to the moment when the bridegroom (Jesus) would come and be killed for the sin of His people – for the sin of you and me.
Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was bruised for OUR iniquities; the chastisement for OUR peace was upon Him, and by His stripes WE are healed.”