Today, the Church celebrates Palm Sunday. This begins the final week of the Lenten season. Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, as it is addressed by many, commemorates the entrance of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem; when the people placed branches singing Hosanna as was reported by the four gospels (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19).
This shows how significant today’s event is. Today begins our journey into the Holy week.
Therefore, Palm Sunday begins the journey into the Holy Week. It begins with the Commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.
Today begins our journey into the Church’s most sacred moments in the liturgical calendar. The agony, suffering, crucifixion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ begins today with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a king. The Palm Sunday entry began with singing, praises and glorification but ended in pains and agony at Golgotha.
The liturgy of Palm Sunday begins outside the church. The priests and the people carrying palm branches assemble in a place distinct from the church to which they will go in procession. There, the priest will address the people and explain to them the meaning of the time and how solemn it is. After the gospel reading and a brief homily, the liturgy continues with a procession of palms into the Church. Then the normal mass follows.
The palms which are blessed today as it is done on every Palm Sunday will be taken home to serve as sacramentals and burned to be used as ashes for the Ash Wednesday of the coming year. So, let us have a brief analysis of today’s readings and celebrations.
The Passover feast is a great feast for the Jews. It was a time the Jews commemorate their deliverance from the hands of the Egyptians. During this feast, a great number of Jews throng the city of Jerusalem. Also, many people come from all over the country and beyond to witness this great feast.
This feast is also attended by kings, governors, chief priests etc. During this great feast, many Kings and governors come to Jerusalem riding in their horses, accompanied by an entourage of soldiers and dressed in kingly and richly garb to mark their importance.
So, as the feast approaches, Jesus enters the city riding on a donkey to announce who He is as the King and Messiah. Though He is coming as a different king indeed.
So, Jesus enters Jerusalem to let the people know that He is the King of Israel and the Messiah they have been waiting for. With this type of entry, He is telling us that though He is a king, His kingship is different. His kingdom is of love, peace, justice and compassion.
2. In Mark’s account, during the triumphant entry people spread their cloaks, and palm branches which is an act of homage shown to a king. ( 2 Kings 9:13).
Today in our different churches, we will come with our different palm branches. The Jews see the palm branch as a symbol of triumph and victory (Leviticus 23:40; Revelation 7:9).
In 2 Kings 9:13, Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was received and announced with the spreading of cloaks upon the ground.
In today’s celebration, the same honour was given to Jesus to mark Him as a King. So, as Jesus was openly declaring Himself as King, the people openly were acknowledging Him as one.
3. Jerusalem means the Land of peace. To reveal that He is truly a king, Jesus rides on a donkey into the land of peace. Therefore, His kingship is to lead us to the heavenly land, the land of peace with our creator.
The entry into the land of peace also points to the significance of who we are as children of God.
This celebration teaches us that to reign as the children of God, we do not wield arms and use force and intimidate people. We win with love, peace and compassion. For Nothing surpasses peace.
4. In the same land of peace, Jesus passed through agony and crucifixion and death. This is a pointer to what Jesus is going to do.
He came to create a peaceful relationship between us and God. His death and suffering are not bad in themselves but for our good.
Therefore, to reign as children of God, we need Jesus to reign in our lives. To do this, we have to create a peaceful relationship with God by following Jesus and obeying His word.
A King with A Difference.
1. In today’s celebration, Jesus rides on a donkey as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, which says “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Therefore, this is the first time a King is coming to Jerusalem in such a manner. They always ride on horses during great celebrations.
The donkey is an animal seen in the bible as a symbol of service, peace, and humility. So, Jesus entering the city on the donkey is a message that though He is a king.
He is one of humility, peace and service. Other kings win through wars and violence, but He has come to lay down his life for the people.
Therefore, Jesus lays down for us the secret to victory wherever we are, which is; to be willing to serve with all your heart, to be peaceful and be humble. Behind every victory, you will find a man who is willing to serve in sincerity and humility.
2. The Palm Sunday triumphal entry is also a response to the Jews who are expecting that the Messiah would be a political one.
The Jews are expecting a messiah that will crush their enemies and deliver them from the hands of the Roman domination.
But Jesus uses this event to announce that His messianic reign is not to deliver them politically but to deliver them from spiritual bondage through His death and resurrection and make them true sons of God.
So, the journey to this victory begins with this triumphal announcement. The triduum from Thursday to Saturday tells us how this victory happened through His agony and the Holy Saturday.
Then Easter Sunday tells us how this victory is achieved through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Message of the Palm Sunday
The Palm Sunday event is making a statement. It is proclaiming that God chooses to work not through violence, war and enmity but through service.
Therefore, If you want to work for God, choose to serve God and humanity. If you want to reign, choose to serve.
The way to reign is to serve with all your heart. The way to victory is through peace, humility, and love. Every community, family, nation etc that can come together in peace, removing every form of hatred and unnecessary competition will always rise and go far in life. Hence, behind every victory, are men who are willing to come together in peace and unity. Behind every victory are men willing to put heads together and find a way out of a problem.
2. Secondly, the humble procession of Jesus made a statement. It proclaimed that the Almighty God chooses to work, not through displays of power, but through displays of humility.
This is a secret weapon for the victory of every child of God.
We win by humility, love and service.
Hosanna in the Highest.
During the Palm Sunday celebration, many people gather around the church holding their palm branches. This is a commemoration of how the people gathered around the city of Jerusalem to welcome Jesus.
In today’s gospel, Saint Luke’s account first of all states that at the beginning Jesus Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two disciples to get Him a colt (a colt is a young donkey).
So, As Jesus was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives. The people began to shout and rejoice.
The book of Zechariah 14:4 says of this mount Olives “His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives.
Therefore, the Mount of Olives is a mountain adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City. It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. This indicates that Jesus is already on His way to enter the city of Jerusalem.
When He entered the City, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice
for all the mighty works that they had seen. They were shouting saying,
‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
In Mark and Matthew’s account, As Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, the people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest”.
The word Hosanna is a Hebrew word taken from the first word of psalm 118:25 “hō-wō-šî-‘āh nā; ān-nā Yah-weh (save us I pray Yahweh)”. So, the people are saying “save us now Son of David” or Our saviour now, son of David.
Therefore, they acknowledge openly that Jesus is the saviour and ask him that salvation has to come immediately.
The Jews have been expecting a messiah who is to save them and their shouting today indicated that finally, their hope of liberation has come.
The gist here is that the saviour came, He also liberated them immediately during the Passover feast but sadly, the way of salvation the people wanted was not the one Jesus offered.
The people wanted political freedom but Jesus gave them spiritual freedom. The people wanted a victory with war and violence, but Jesus saved them with His death and resurrection.
Therefore, sometimes the way we want God to do something or to answer our prayers may not be the way He wants to answer it. He answers in His way. He comes the way He wants.
Today, The people’s cry that God gives them salvation and their demand that it come “now” was answered with the crucifixion and the death of the Messiah. Therefore, Sometimes behind suffering, behind that adversity you are undergoing, there is always a blessing and victory awaiting us. Never lose faith in God.
As the people were shouting, some of the Pharisees in the multitude asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples.’
But rebuffed them saying ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. Therefore, no one can stop what He is and what He is going to Jerusalem to achieve.
The Palm Branch.
The spreading of the palm branch is very important to talk about it owing to the significance of the celebration that we have today.
In the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world, The palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life.
In the Igbo world, the palm tree is very useful and can serve multiple purposes. It signifies abundance. The palm frond signifies something sacred “nso”.
Wherever you see a place where a palm is placed, it means you have to avoid the place. It is sacred and given to the gods. Therefore, the palm branches are saying “respect me, I don’t want trouble”.
Also, holding the sacred branch in this Lenten season is a message that we are now entering the journey to consecrate our lives to God.
This week is holy and must be kept holy. It is time, for Jesus to bring peace into our lives and with our creator. We have to keep it holy. It is not a time to sin and commit evil. Prove your love for Jesus. Therefore, by holding the palm branch today, we are saying “Sin avoid me, I want to enter the land of peace with Jesus” And as the people use it to welcome Jesus, we are, therefore, declaring our willingness to open our hearts for Jesus to dwell. Therefore, our hearts must be peaceful and without the stain of sin.
2. When you see the leaves of a palm, it is very greenish in colour, long and vibrant, but in between the palm are thorns holding the leaves.
Thorns represent sacrifice, suffering, pains etc. Hence, the message is that if we need victory we have to sacrifice for it. Behind the victory, there are many challenges.
Many of the difficulties that you encounter in life are there to help you, some are there to prepare you for eternal life.
In Revelation 7:9, John says that he saw multitudes of people drawn from all over the world holding palm branches in their hands.
Hence, palm branches here mean that they have passed through the great tribulations but now are enjoying eternal peace and victory. So behind every victory, do not forget that there may be thorns.
Therefore, in our spiritual journey, there may be temptations, persecutions and challenges but we must be willing to pass through them to achieve our goal which is eternity.
1. In the passion narrative today’s palm sunday, a dispute arose between the apostles on who is to be reckoned as the greatest among them.
The surprising fact here is that Jesus is telling them that someone is to betray Him and that He is to suffer, but instead of focusing on how they are to save their master from this fate that will befall Him, they are busy seeking and fighting on who is to be the number one.
This is one of our problems today. Instead of coming together to seek ways how to solve our problems, we are busy fighting ourselves, seeking who is the greatest.
We have neglected the importance of service, love, sharing etc. We now focus on how we are to be the first and others would be the last.
So, We want to reign, we want to be the one that others will worship. Many families today in crisis are because of this.
One person wants to be the one in charge while others will be worshiping him or her. If we can refocus on how to use positions to serve, show love, and save lives, things would be better.
In the liturgy of Palm Sunday, Jesus has shown us what it means to be a victor in humility and service. Service is the secret of greatness and not otherwise.
Today, Jesus reveals that the greatest is always the one who serves.
2. In the passion narrative of today we encounter different types of people which we see as the kinds of people you must encounter in life. It also reveals the roles that we play in our spiritual journey and relationship with God.
Therefore, in our spiritual journey and to reach our destination in life we must encounter these along the way. They are:
A.The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who handed Jesus over to be crucified are those people who will always come to you to find faults. They will always find something against you, no matter how much you try to please them, They are the ones who will tell others something negative about you. They will never see anything good in what you do.
B. The crowd; This set of people will sing your praises when things go well in your life but are the first to turn their back on you when things become difficult. Like the crowds when they do not see the reason they come to you in the first place, they turn back to betray and fight you.
They come into your life, expecting something and when they don’t find it, they turn against you and even use all sorts of lies against you. You will always find these kinds of people among those who say they love you and many of your friends now. This is the reason suffering is good. You will never know who is who in your life until things become difficult in your life.
C. The Herod: Today, Herod was pleased to see Jesus. He had heard about him and waited for a long time to set eyes on Jesus.
He was hoping to see some miracle worked by Jesus. But when He got no reply from Jesus.
So, Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.
First of all, this is when we expect too many miracles from God and answers to our prayers. When the miracles and answers are not forthcoming, we become very angry with God and even lose faith.
Secondly, these are people who will expect too much from us or people who come close to you to gain a selfish interest, when what they want is not coming, they begin to treat you with contempt.
D. The Pilates: these dance to the tune of the crowd or whatever people tell them about you. They may know the truth but because of what an Igbo man will say “akpokwa si” (To avoid what people will say) they keep silent.
Pilate knew that it was out of envy that Jesus was handed over to him but he did not want to wrong the people.
The Pilates are those people who keep their mouth shut, silent and allow evil to rear its head even when they know that what is going on is evil.
Pilates are also those who will allow you to suffer even when they know they have the power, opportunity and money to help and save your life. You must meet them along the way.
D. The Jews: Most of the Jews today were shouting crucify him, crucify him. They forgot all the good things he has been doing for them. They forgot the miracles, the healing, the feeding of the multitude.
In your life, you must meet these kinds of people. First, they are the ones who will forget the good things you did for them only to remember just one mistake you did.
When they tell people about you, they only recount the bad and not the good. They are also those who will fight tooth and nail to crucify you in the presence of people.
E. The soldiers: the soldiers crowned Jesus with thorns, spit on him, flogged him, gave him wine with myrrh, dealt with Him and crucified him.
Wow, you must meet these kinds of people.
They are the ones who will surely attack you either spiritually or physically. These people may even pray for your death. They will do everything to frustrate your life.
These kinds of people will always be against you whether good or bad.
They will mock and laugh at you when you fail or make mistakes. We also can fall into the category of these people when we do it to others.
2. So, the way to victory is filled with sacrifice, suffering, pains and agony. Do not give up on the journey. Like the palm branches, most of the blessings we expect in life are attached to that thorn that you are passing through now.
Therefore, the way to go through them is to be calm and remain peaceful with God and with yourself and hence work your way out.
So, when we walk the way to victory; remember to serve, to be peaceful, humble, faithful, willing to endure and willing to sacrifice. The palm Sunday ushers us into the Holy Week. Let us be willing to make this week holy.
Behind every victory, there must be a journey of agony but remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel. God bless you.