Holy Week: Palm Sunday
HISTORY OF HOLY WEEK
In the first century, the early Christians celebrated every Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus. By the second century, they established a particular day for the celebration of the resurrection, which was connected to the Jewish Passover. Their observance began at sundown on Saturday evening. They called it the Night of the Great Vigil, a time of remembrance and expectation that lasted throughout the night so they could sing “Alleluia” at dawn on Easter morning.
By the fourth century, it became customary for people to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to celebrate what was called the “Great Week,” which included Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.
Over time, the practice of observing Holy Week spread throughout the Christian world, with prayers, historical re-enactments, and special liturgies. During the Middle Ages, the celebration of the Easter Vigil gradually fell out of practice. The important days of the week were Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Read: Matthew 21:1-11
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” He said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to Him and threw their garments over the colt, and He sat on it.
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!” The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as He entered. “Who is this?” they asked. And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Put yourself into this scene as one of the crowd along the roadside. What are you doing? What do you see and hear? What emotions are you feeling? What are your expectations?
It’s Passover and Jerusalem is crowded with pilgrims coming from all over to celebrate. According to some consensus back then there would be an estimated 2,700,000 people in Jerusalem. This was the moment the Father chose Jesus to participate in the beginning of this Passion Week. A time where Jews from all over the world come to Jerusalem. A time where the most people would be able to see Jesus for who He really is.
He shows people who He is by coming into the city riding on a donkey. This event had two meanings to the people back then. Zechariah predicted that the victorious and righteous king, the Messiah, will come riding on a donkey.
When Jesus came riding in on a donkey, those watching knew Zechariah 9:9, they knew what Jesus was saying by doing that. Jesus purposed to show the people that He was, in fact, that which Zechariah had predicted all those years ago. Also, in the Ancient Near East, a king riding a donkey into a city meant that he come not conquer, but to come in peace.
By riding in on a donkey He’s claiming to be the King of Peace. The One who will ultimately put everything back into order as it should be, the One who came not to destroy but to love, not to condemn but to help.
Thank God for His peace that surpasses all understanding. Ask God to give you His peace today.
Thanks to Capo Beach Church for permission to use this resource.