Palm Sunday and Jesus’ Great Entrance into Jerusalem

A cross made of palm fronds laying on top of a giant palm frond.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and remembers Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Christian churches observe Palm Sunday by blessing palm branches or leaves, some choose to then burn them for the following Ash Wednesday ceremony, while others fold them into crosses to keep at their homes. This is a reference to the palm branches that, according to the Bible, were waved and spread in front of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.

Many churches conduct a morning procession during which they sing praise to Jesus. A Church Procession is an organized body of people advancing in formal or ceremonial manner as an element of Christian ritual or as a less official expression of popular piety.

A crown of thorns sits amongst a flower and a palm frond on a table.

Palm Sunday in the Bible

As they come near to Jerusalem, Christ sends his two disciples ahead to collect a tied-up donkey and the donkey’s colt:

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:5-11, ESV

The Word reveals how Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a young donkey. Giving Jesus royal treatment, He received a triumphal entry by the very large crowd; the crowd laid palm branches in front of him and threw their cloaks on the ground. This was a sign of respect and admiration, and it showed that the people were truly grateful for all that Jesus had done for them, signaling that they recognized Jesus as their king.

Hosanna to the Son, Hosanna in the Highest

Hosanna in Hebrew means “save us”, or “deliver us,” and that is what these praises are for. The people were thanking Jesus for all He had done for them and were looking forward to the salvation He would provide and an indication of their faith that Jesus was the one who had been foretold by the prophets. They were calling Him the Son of David, which was a title given to the Messiah. 

  • “Hosanna to the Son” is a phrase that is often used in worship songs and hymns. It is a declaration of praise and worship to Jesus Christ. 
  • “Hosanna in the Highest” is a phrase that is often used in prayer. It is an acknowledgment of the supremacy of Jesus Christ and a request for His help and protection. 

Both of these phrases are used to express our praise and worship for Jesus Christ. He is the Son of David, the Messiah, and our Lord and Savior. He is the one who has saved us and given us eternal life. We are grateful for all He has done for us and we will continue to praise Him forever.

Two people making crosses out of palm fronds.

Why do we Celebrate Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, days before his crucifixion. Palm Sunday is celebrated by Christians around the world, and is often marked by special church services, processions with palm fronds, and other traditional observances.

For Christians, Palm Sunday is a time to remember Jesus’ humble entrance into Jerusalem and to reflect on the events that led up to his death and resurrection. Palm Sunday is also seen as a symbol of hope. Christians believe that through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death, and offers us the hope of eternal life. So Palm Sunday is a day of both celebration and reflection, as we remember all that Jesus has done for us.

The Lord’s Prayer is also traditionally recited on Palm Sunday. The prayer asks for God’s protection during the coming days of Holy Week.

How Does Palm Sunday Relate to Easter Sunday

Christians celebrate Holy Week as a time of reflection and preparation for Easter. It is a time when Christians remember Jesus’ last days on Earth and his death and resurrection. Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, kicks this week off.

When Jesus sent his two disciples to the village ahead, he had to know what lies there for him, his life, and the sacrifice he must make. The Romans, seeing the large crowd gathered rejoice greatly at Jesus’ arrival, laying leaves of palm trees along his path, found Him to be a troublemaker, a false king, and wanted to do away with him. Because of his actions on Palm Sunday, the Romans were further encouraged to kill Jesus, and while we will find new life in the highest heaven because of this sacrifice, it must have been a terribly daunting and trying time that Jesus found the courage to face. 

These events subsequently lead to his crucifixion, where he would, three days later, raise from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Holy Week

  • Palm Sunday, commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 
  • Maundy Thursday remembers the Passover feast known as the Last Supper and Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist (also known as the Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper). 
  • Good Friday is a day of mourning and reflection on Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • Holy Saturday is a day of waiting and anticipation, as Christians reflect on Jesus’ death and prepare for His resurrection. 
  • Easter Sunday is the joyful celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead on the third day. This event is the foundation of The New Testament and the Christian faith, and we rejoice and give thanks to God for His great love and mercy.
A list describing Holy Week that reads, from top-to-bottom, "He enters Jerusalem - Palm Sunday." Then "The Last Supper - Maundy Thursday." Then "The Crucifixion - Good Friday." Then "He Lies in the Tomb - Holy Saturday." And finally "He has risen - Easter Sunday."
A palm frond and a cross sit atop an open bible.

Symbols of Palm Sunday

The Significance of Palm Branches

Palm branches symbolized goodness and victory in ancient times. In the Bible, they were used as a sign of triumph and celebration. The use of palm branches on Palm Sunday can also be traced back to the ancient custom of laying palm branches in the path of a victorious ruler or military leader. This was done as a sign of respect and admiration.

Riding on a Donkey

Both King David and Jesus entered on donkeys into the city of Jerusalem. For King David, this was a triumphant entry after defeating the Philistines. For Jesus, this was an important entry as He was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9, NIV

The Messiah was said to be a descendant of King David, and so riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday was a sign that Jesus was the promised One.

The following readings tell the story of Palm Sunday from different perspectives:

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Luke 19:28-44
  • John 12:12-19

When is Palm Sunday 2024

Palm Sunday falls on Sunday, March 24th, 2024.

Final Thoughts

As Christians, we must put aside our busy lives and shout aloud thanks for the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem and set the stage for his great sacrifice. Praise God and let us remember Jesus’ life as we celebrate Palm Sunday and look towards Maundy Thursday.


For the sake of clarity, Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity. While we generally try to speak of the Christian experience in our articles from a non-denominational perspective, Holy Week is celebrated by both Catholics and Christians, just predominately by Catholics. A non-denominational church may not celebrate Holy Week the same way a Catholic church might, but the themes and purpose of Holy Week are core beliefs of the Christian faith and important to recognize.