Why is Palm Sunday significant? When we celebrate the Triumphal Entry, we are celebrating an occasion with great spiritual meaning. As we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and allow the people to praise Him as king, many things stand out. Here are three of the most significant things we should keep in mind.
1. Jesus was setting his crucifixion in motion
It is essential to realize that the Triumphal Entry is the first time Jesus allowed the people to praise him as king. He had forbidden them to do so every time before this because his time had not yet come. In enabling the people to praise him, Jesus was bringing the wrath of both the Jewish and Roman leaders upon himself. He was not being pushed around by the principalities and powers; he orchestrated them and set things in motion for the passion week. He was coming to save us as prophesied by Zechariah.
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.
– Zechariah 9:9
2. Jesus was being selected as the Passover lamb according to Old Testament law
Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and he does this in many ways. One fascinating detail he fulfilled has to do with Passover. Matthew Henry points out, “The Passover was on the fourteenth day of the month, and the triumphal entry was the tenth.” The tenth day of the month was significant concerning Passover. We read this in Exodus 12:3,5-6
“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house….Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”
As Jesus was riding in and the people were crying, “Hosanna in the highest,” unbeknownst to them, they selected the Passover lamb for sacrifice, the one and only sacrifice that can take away sin and cause death to pass over us.
3. Jesus knew he was marching to his death.
Jesus was not only riding into the city but riding towards his death on the cross. He knew by the end of the week he would be spit upon, beaten, and crucified, but the thought of this torturous death was not the most grueling image he would have foreseen. It would have been thoughts of that final moment when he was to take on the sins of us who call him Lord, and his Father, whom he had obeyed perfectly, would turn his face away from his Son and pour out on him the justice and wrath our sins deserved. In anguish, Jesus knew he would cry out, “Father why have you forsaken me.”
On the way to the cross, the entry must have been bittersweet. As we consider this moment, we know that nothing could have hindered him from reaching his goal because he had set his face like flint toward Jerusalem. As he rode, he was first and foremost focused on glorifying his Father. Secondarily his thoughts were directed to those he came to save. Maybe he saw our faces, knowing that without his death, he would have to watch us die. For we were born sinners, hopeless, and condemned already. Maybe he looked at us as a man who would look into the eyes of his bride as disease steals her away. Whatever he was thinking, he was not going to let anything stand between him and his children.
His desire to see his Father glorified and his love for us drove him forward, and when the time of the crucifixion arrived, he had reached his destination. Upright, between two thieves, nailed to the cross and having a spear thrust into his side, the cleansing blood and water flowed. His final cry was, “It is finished.” He had paid our price, and he broke the powers of hell. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “No sin of the believer can now be an arrow to mortally wound him.” All who have faith in Jesus and are washed by his precious blood have every reason to sing,
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the Highest!