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 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. Here 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 celebration.
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, many throng the city of Jerusalem. 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 the 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 into the city riding on a donkey to announce who He is as the King and Messiah but a different one 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. Though a king but His kingdom is of love, peace, justice and compassion.
2. During the triumphant entry as we mark in every Palm Sunday, people spread their cloaks, and palm branches which is an act of homage shown to a king. ( 2 Kings 9:13). The Jews see the palm branch as a symbol of triumph and victory (Leviticus 23:40; Revelation 7:9).
So, as Jesus was openly declaring Himself as King, the people openly were acknowledging Him as one. 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.
3. Jerusalem means the Land of peace. To show that He is a king, Jesus rides on a donkey into the land of peace. Hence 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. Nothing surpasses peace.
4. In the land of peace, Jesus passed through agony and crucifixion and death. This is a pointer of what Jesus is going to do. He came to create a peaceful relationship between us and God. His death and suffering is not bad in itself but for our good. 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.
A King with A Difference.
1. In today’s celebration. Jesus rides on a donkey as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “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.
Hence this is the first time a King is coming to Jerusalem in such a manner. They always ride on horses. 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 but 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.
Hence Jesus lays down for us the secret to win wherever we are, which are; to be willing to serve with all your heart, to be peaceful and to 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 a response to the people who are expecting that the Messiah would be a political one. The one 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 and Easter Sunday tells us how this victory is achieved through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Palm Sunday event is making a statement. It is proclaiming that God chooses to work not through violence, war and enmity but service. 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 and find a way out of a problem.
The humble procession of Jesus made a statement. It proclaimed that the Almighty God chooses to work, not through displays of power, but displays of humility. This is a secret weapon for the victory of every child of God.
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 gather around the city of Jerusalem to welcome Jesus.
As Jesus came through 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.
Hence they acknowledge openly that Jesus is the saviour and asking 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.
Hence 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.
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.
The Palm Branch.
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. Hence the palm branches are saying “respect me, I don’t want trouble”.
Hence 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, Jesus is bringing peace in 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.
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 means 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.
1. In the passion narrative of today we encounter different types of people which I see as the kinds of people you must encounter in life. To reach your destination in life you must encounter them 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 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 and physically. These ones 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.
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.
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.