The Sunday before Easter has come to be known as Palm Sunday. It is so named because of the actions of a great multitude of people who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover around 32 A.D. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us that at a Passover observance just before the Jewish War, which would have been in the early 60’s A.D. (the war – 66-70AD), some 2.7 million people were present in the city. John says a great multitude, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem went out to meet Him carrying branches of palm trees. And because of this action, we call this day Palm Sunday even some 2,000 years later. We call it Palm Sunday, but its significance or importance is indicated in the action taken by the crowd, and the action taken by Jesus that day.
The crowd went out to meet Jesus carrying palm branches implying that they were welcoming a king. What they implied by their actions is made explicit by their words. “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”
The action of Jesus demonstrates that the crowd was correct to welcome Him as King! He road into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The crowd cried out Hosanna which means “Save, now!” or “Save, we pray!” Jesus had come to save His people from their sins (Mat.1:21). The people were looking for a Messiah to save them from their enemies including the Romans. The nation of Israel rejected Him, and put Him to death. They did not know that in that death He provided eternal life for all who believe in Him! The Bible says, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved’” (Romans 10:13).
Questions for John 12:12-19
1. Why is Palm Sunday so called?
2. What action did the multitude take that day? How does the action they took indicate the significance of Palm Sunday?
3. What action did Jesus take that day? How does the action He took indicate the significance of Palm Sunday?
4. Were both Zechariah 9:9 and 9:10 fulfilled on that first Palm Sunday? If not, when was/will 9:10 be fulfilled? What event does 9:10 predict?
5. His disciples did not understand what happened that day. They understood after Jesus was glorified. When was Jesus glorified? What does it mean that He was glorified?
6. What did the Pharisees mean, “Look, the whole world has gone out after Him”? Perhaps 19:20-26 will help understand what they meant. Or how John applied their words.
7. What did they want to accomplish?
8. What does Hosanna mean? What kind of salvation do you think Israel was looking for from their Messiah?
9. How did Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead figure into this event?