Palm Sunday: Celebrating Jesus’ Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem

By Alice Bassett
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published April 5, 2022.

Crown of thorns resting on palm leaves

Palm Sunday is a celebration followed by Christians to commemorate Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. This occurred a few days before the Holy Week, which is the week in which the death and resurrection of Christ occurred. If you are interested in finding out more about these events, take a look at our blog on the significant moments in Christ's life in the holy land.

To learn more about Palm Sunday and how it is celebrated, read further.

What Is Palm Sunday?

Palm Sunday occurs exactly one week before Easter Sunday. Easter this year is on the 17th of April, which means that Palm Sunday is on the 10th of April. The first Palm Sunday occurred the week before the resurrection of Christ when He came down from the Mount of Olives and into Jerusalem following the resurrection of Lazarus.

Lazarus was the brother of Mary of Bethany—the woman who poured perfume on Christ and cleaned his feet with her hair. Mary sent word that her brother was sick; however, Jesus insisted that his sickness would not result in death and thus took his time to depart to Bethany. When he arrived there, Mary and Martha (her sister) told Jesus that he was too late and that Lazarus had already been dead for four days. To this, Jesus replies:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” -John 11:25, NKJV

Jesus was led to a tomb that contained Lazarus' body. At first, Mary did not want him to enter, but Jesus persuaded them to open the tomb. He uttered a short prayer and proclaimed, "Lazarus, come forth!" and Lazarus did exactly that, still dressed in his graveclothes.

What Happened During Jesus’ Return to Jerusalem?

The crowd of Jews who witnessed Christ resurrecting Lazarus believed that he was the son of God; however, some went to tell the Pharisees, the opponents of Jesus, of what they had seen. The Pharisees grew worried that more would begin to believe in Christ and that they would lose their land and power. They then began plotting the death of Christ and Lazarus, as Lazarus stood as a reminder of the miracles of God.

After the resurrection of Lazarus and the supper they shared, Jesus and his disciples made their way to Jerusalem. Many people had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem due to the miracle that he had performed, and they gathered into a crowd to be there for his arrival.

Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead to fetch a colt that had never been sat on, and to tell the farmer that, if he were to protest, the Lord needed it. They did so and told the farmer exactly what Jesus had told them to, and so Jesus entered Jerusalem atop a donkey. The disciples did not understand why he rode a donkey until they remembered what had been written about Jesus.

Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt. - John 12:15, NKJV

When Jesus approached the crowd, they lay down their cloaks and branches from palm trees—hence the name Palm Sunday—before him. While doing so, the crowd cheered:

Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel! -John 12:13, NKJV

Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday?

Palm Sunday, also sometimes referred to as Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of the Holy Week and a string of tragic and miraculous events in the life of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this is a time for celebrating the fact that Jesus knew he would die on the cross for the sins of man. In this way, the innocent colt of the donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem symbolizes Jesus carrying the burden of our sins.

How Is Palm Sunday Celebrated?

On Palm Sunday, decorations made from palm fronds are used that are typically woven into the shape of a cross. Palm branches are also raised in worship. Fish is a traditional meal served on Palm Sunday.

While traditions may vary from country to country and even from person to person, the important thing to do on Palm Sunday is to celebrate Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for humanity.