History of Palm Sunday: How it Starts Holy Week

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Geography

The procession started at the Mount of Olives, across the land bridge of the Kidron Valley that ran along the eastern side of the city, and through the eastern gate into the city. There is some debate among scholars as to which of the two gates on the eastern wall of the city Jesus would have entered.

Sheep Gate

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Golden Gate

Others contend that the Golden Gate on the center-eastern part of the city is the one, though it’s currently sealed up and has been for five centuries since the mid-16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Jewish tradition states that Messiah will enter through that gate when he comes in the new age to rule.

Triumphal Entry

Whichever gate Jesus entered near the Temple, crowds began to gather to see the rabbi from Galilee. The procession began accompanied by shouting and singing from the throngs as they threw down their garments on the pathway to cushion his ride — an Oriental custom still observed on occasions — as well as palm fronds, the symbol of triumph. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah had foretold the arrival of the Messianic king in Jerusalem via the humble conveyance of a colt. Here the crowd hailed Jesus as “the son of David”, a loaded name used at a loaded time. The Bible had predicted that the Messiah would be the “son of David.” The priestly establishment was understandably disturbed, as the palm was the national emblem of an independent Palestine. These were essentially Jewish flags. What if Jesus should claim to be the heir of King David?

The Palm in Archeology

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Context

The “conspiracy” against Jesus by the religious leaders had been building for at least 3 years, and the sources record seven instances of official plotting against him, two efforts at arrest, and three assassination attempts before this time. Indeed, this intrigue was no spur of the moment idea. A formal decision to arrest Jesus had in fact been made several months earlier. The Jewish religious officials were afraid that if Jesus were to continue performing his signs, he would win over the people and the Romans would come in and destroy the Temple and nation. According to legal custom at that time, a court crier had to announce publicly or post an official “wanted” handbill in the larger towns of Judea about forty days before a trial. Small wonder that there was some debate over whether Jesus would dare appear in Jerusalem for the next Passover. This discussion ended abruptly on Palm Sunday with his public appearance.

Politics

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Religion

Religiously, Jesus was a dangerous item to the current establishment. The people were hailing the Teacher from Galilee as something more than a man, and Jesus was not denying or blunting this “blasphemous” adulation. The Pharisees had been bested by Jesus in public debate, being called vipers, whitewashed tombs, and devourers of widow’s houses. Humiliated, they would be only too happy to conspire with the scribes, elders, and chief priests.

Economics

Finally, there were economic motives for opposing Jesus. Seeing the commercialization of the Temple, Jesus drove the dealers and animals out and turned over the tables of the money changers causing a major disruption in business.

Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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