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Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

The Lord be with you

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. The final two weeks are the two week prior to Easter. These two weeks have been called Passiontide and the Sunday’s called the First and Second Sunday of the Passion. The Second Sunday of the Passion has also been called Palm Sunday because the old Gospel lesson recalled Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem to the greetings of the general population. They waved branches, including palm branches, and spread their cloaks and such before him. The Gospel lesson now includes the entire week.

In The Lutheran Hymnal, we called this day Palm Sunday. When Lutheran Worship was introduced, we were offered the option between Palm Sunday and Sunday of the Passion, with Palm Sunday given first place. With the introduction of our current hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, we are again given the same two options, but Sunday of the Passion is given first place. This reflects the longer Gospel lesson.

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion/the Second Sunday of the Passion, introduces Holy Week. Most Churches will have a special service, often with Palm Branches. In some areas, where it is difficult to acquire palm branches, other local trees are used. This is in accord with the Gospel accounts, which indicate that all sorts of tree branches were used. In fact, only the Gospel of John specifies that palm branches were used.

Describing Jesus’ entry as “triumphal” didn’t begin until the second-half of the Middle Ages. Zechariah 9:9 foretold his entrance.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
behold, your king is coming to you;
Righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Typologically, we see this day foreshadowed when Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was greeted by the people in 2 Kings 9:13.

Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

The donkey is a humble animal, indicating that Jesus is the king of peace (Isaiah 9:6). Because palm trees live for an extraordinarily long time, they were often associated with everlasting life. Jesus is the source of our eternal life. We find this thought reflected in the picture of all the saints in heaven found in Revelation 7:9-10.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Of course, the Jewish leadership was very upset that Jesus received such a welcome. The plot to kill Jesus would soon shift into high gear. But how would they get the general population on their side? Remember that crowd shouting “crucify him” on Good Friday? The answer, it seems to me, is that we are speaking of two different crowds. Remember also that many followed Jesus along the way to Golgotha, weeping. That was the crowd that greeted him on Palm Sunday. They had been excluded from the gathering before Pilate.

No matter what name you use, may the Lord bless you this day and throughout Holy Week.


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