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Palm Sunday: Jesus Rides into Jerusalem as a King. A week later, he would suffer a Humiliating Death.
The last week of Jesus' life was filled with many events as we follow him from his glorious entry into Jerusalem on Sunday until his death on Friday. In the days in between, he preached, taught, presided over the Passover supper, stood trial, and was condemned to death. This week is known as 'Holy Week.'
On Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, there are two major events.
The first is Jesus' ride into Jerusalem on a colt, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9: 9. The people greeted him as though he were an earthly king; they were sure he would end the Roman occupation and Jerusalem would again be a Jewish city. They shouted, "Hosanna," which means "save us," and comes from Psalm 118: 26.
The second is Jesus teaches and preaches to the crowds. The time lines in the Gospel writers' accounts are compressed. Their story is about being overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus and not an historical account of places or dates. After his warm welcome into Jerusalem, Jesus taught in the Temple for a few days. Luke places many of Jesus' stories or parables during this time.
Jesus' Enemies Begin to Conspire Against Him
Pontius Pilate and his soldiers went from Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast inland to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover. They were afraid that so many Jews gathered together from all of Palestine would start riots against the Roman government.
The Jewish Sanhedrin, the council of elders, played on Pilate's fears, because they were afraid that Jesus would start a religious revolution against them, their philosophy and the Temple sacrifices. They thought that if the people would follow his new ways of teaching and healing, they would no longer be in charge of the Temple.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, so called from the custom of blessing palms and of carrying portions of branches in procession, in commemoration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The custom can be traced back at least to the 4th century.
Palm Sunday is when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem where he was greeted warmly by the crowd. In the words of St Matthew:
"Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
And this is where the basis of the Palm Sunday procession lies.
The first reference to the Palm Sunday procession, is found in the travel journal of Etheria, the nun from the northwest Spain. She made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century. She referred the day to be the beginning of the Paschal Week.
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