The story of Christ's resurrection is perhaps the single most important event to occur in the history of Christianity, for according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:17, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins."
The seven days before Easter Sunday are referred to as Holy Week, or the Passover season. These days are set aside to commemorate the brief life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, or "Passion Sunday," a day on which Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, as foretold nearly 600 year prior by the prophet Zechariah. This year, Palm Sunday falls on March 29.
According to the Biblical account found in the Gospel of John, people spread out palm branches before Jesus as he entered the city on a donkey, rejoicing in His presence and crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
By waving palm branches, which symbolized goodness and victory, and using them to cover Jesus' path as He rode into the city on a donkey, the crowd indicated that the Son of God was revered and respected on the level of royalty.
The celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the churches of Jerusalem sometime during the third or fourth century, and had spread as far as Constantinople by the fifth century. The celebration was adopted by the Western Church in the eighth century, and at that time received the name "Dominica in Palmis," or "Palm Sunday".
Today, many Christian churches observe Palm Sunday by distributing palm, olive, or willow branches to worshipers, who then carry the branches in a procession either inside or outside the church. In some parts of the world, flowers are strewn about into the church sanctuary during the reading of the Gospel account Jesus' triumphal entry.
Other Palm Sunday ceremonies and traditions, particularly those which take place in the Catholic Church, consist of the blessing of the palms, a procession and a mass wherein the Passion and the Benediction are sung.
For Christians, Christ's triumphal entry is significant because it symbolizes the beginning of the greatest triumph the world had ever experienced: the ultimate defeat of sin and death.
Below are several verses to reflect on as you consider Christ's brief life, sacrificial death, and resurrection this coming Palm Sunday.
Zachariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey
Matthew 21:4-5: All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.'
John 12:12-13: The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the king of Israel!"
John 3:3: And Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."
Isaiah 53:5: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Romans 1:4-5 And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
Romans 6:8-11: Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:10-12:I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.