Palm Sunday is a day to honor Jesus as the Christ, that is, the Jewish Messianic King. It commemorates the day when Jesus rode through the streets on a borrowed donkey and the Jewish people spread palm branches and their garments before Him in homage. This signified their acceptance that their long-awaited prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you ; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9)
“Then in haste every man of them took his garment, and put it under him. . . and proclaimed, ‘Jehu is king.’” (2 Kings 9-13)
With these beloved scriptures in their hearts, the people cried out to Jesus:
“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our Father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:38-40)
It was this kingly recognition from the people, its implications, and Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees and scribes that sent Jesus to death, for the Jewish authorities were afraid that Jesus would overthrow their power, and the Romans were afraid of an uprising. This was not the first attempt on Jesus’ life. Thirty-three years earlier, King Herod, having heard from the wise-men of the East that the rightful King of Judah had been born, had tried to kill Jesus by ordering the death of all males under the age of two. (Matthew 2: 1-18)
When Jesus was eventually arrested as an adult, Pilate questioned Jesus about the claimed kingship asking, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate’s soldiers then took Jesus away where a crown of thorns was placed and beaten into His head, and a scarlet robe was placed about Him as a mockery of His kingship. They made a sign which read: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews,” and they placed it above His head when they crucified Him. (Matthew 27:11-37)
If Jesus was not God and was not raised from the dead, than Palm Sunday would not be memorialized. Or it would have become a historic tragedy: the story of a man, who duped many into thinking that He was the Christ. However, because of the Resurrection— proof that Jesus is God— Palm Sunday is significant. The branches used in homage to His divine kingship are saved, dried and purposely burned. The ashes from them are intended for distribution on the following year’s Ash Wednesday. With a little bit of oil added, they are placed on the faithful’s foreheads in the sign of the Cross— the sign of the followers [subjects] of Christ.
“Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord [King] and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11)