The Passover celebration in Jerusalem before Jesus was crucified was different from all others. As Jesus was coming down from the Mount of Olives on Sunday, crowds of people came out to greet Him. The Gospel of John states, “They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’” (John 12:13)
Scripture does not specify that palm branches are to be waved at Passover in the Spring. So why was that the case at this particular Passover celebration recalled by John and others among the Disciples? Or was that the case at all?It is helpful to know ‘the rest of the story.’
The only Feast of the Lord celebration during which branches are waved is the Feast of Tabernacles, in the Fall of the year. During this Feast, a cluster of ‘. . . palm fronds, leafy branches, and poplars‘ (Leviticus 23:40) is waved to recognize and glorify the Messiah. Collectively, these leafy branches are called ‘lulav.’
So, why did John specifically mention that palm branches were waved on this Passover occasion, while Matthew 21:8 recalled ‘branches from the trees’ [like the willow], and Mark 11:8 cited ‘branches they had cut in the fields’ [like leafy branches of the myrtle]. Collectively, the Gospel accounts of John, Matthew, and Mark seem to be describing the three components of the lulav.
Traditionally, Jewish Rabbis taught that ‘Whatever time of year the Messiah was to appear, the Jews were to greet and hail Him by taking up the lulav clusters and singing Hosannas to Him as the Holy One of Israel’ (Peskita de Rab Kahana, 27:3 – as referenced in Messiah in the Feasts of Israel, a book originally published in 2002 by author and Messianic Jew Dr. Sam Nadler.
That is the rest of the story. So perhaps what we now call Palm Sunday could just as easily been labeled Lulav Sunday. Either way, what is most important is that we recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah, the promised Son of God, and the Savior of the World. His entry into Jerusalem on that long-ago Sunday changed the world – regardless what plants the adoring Jews waved before Him.