How Palm Sunday Got Jesus Killed

How Palm Sunday Got Jesus Killed


The Christian celebration of Palm Sunday is
the commemoration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and marks the beginning of what
is called “Passion week” — the week Jesus is betrayed, arrested, and crucified. I’ve heard Catholic clerics joke in the
past that there are only two masses a year that Catholics refuse to miss — and it’s
not Easter and Christmas, but Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. Why? Because you get stuff! Ashes on the forehead mark the beginning of
the lenten season and the reception of Palms marks pretty much the end. What many Christians don’t realize while
they wave their palms at the start of that annual Sunday Mass is that what they are reenacting
the likely cause for Jesus’ execution. Let me explain:
In Jewish tradition there were two occasions when the waving of palm branches were customary
— the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurred in the fall, and during a Parousia — the
triumphal return of a king or military leader. Since the gospels point out that Jesus’
entry into Jerusalem took place during the Passover feast, in the spring, the waving
of palm branches for him falls into this Parousia category. And therein lies the problem for Jesus. Parousias in the Bible contain a standard
cluster of motifs: approach of the king, public acclamation/celebration
(sometimes with song), entrance into city, and some form of cultic activity (which included
the cleansing of cultic pollution). See 1 Kings 1:32-40; Zech 9:9; 1 Macc 5:45-52;
13: 49-53; 2 Macc 4:21-22; Jesus fulfills all of these motifs. Depending on which gospel you look at, Jesus
approaches Jerusalem riding either a young horse or a donkey — or in the case of Matthew
— both at the same time! The horse was the usual war animal, hence
a symbol of power and might. The donkey was a draft animal used to carry
persons and goods. Zech 9:9 indicates that for a king to ride
on an donkey was “humble”, that is unbefitting the kingly status. If Jesus was indeed riding a donkey, it would
be yet another way he flipped conventional symbols of power and weakness. The laying of palm branches and clothes at
the feet of the colt signifies a “red carpet” treatment for “the one who comes in the
name of the Lord”. This title is another name for the Son of
David — the long anticipated messiah. Messiah of course is hebrew for king. The Aramaic word “Hosanna” proclaimed
by the crowds means “save us!” or rescue us!” In other words — The crowds shout “king,
save us!” (But they weren’t referring to sin) This would have been quite an alarming scene
to both Roman and Jewish officials for Judea was a Roman Occupied Province. In other words, the people were under the
authority of the Roman Emperor and any attempt to appoint their own king would have been
seen as Treason. The Jews in Judea also weren’t too fond
of “outsiders” and here Jesus is identified as being from “galilee.” The Sadducees, that is the Temple officials,
also had a gentlemen’s agreement with Rome that pretty much said that as long as they
help keep the masses in line, they would be able to maintain their wealth and status. Failure to do so could result in the blood
and destruction that the High Priest Caiaphas indicates in the Gospel of John. What would’ve been most concerning would’ve
been the timing of this parade — that it was that the week of Passover — the Jewish
holiday that commemorates liberation from slavery under a foreign rule. During this week in particular soldiers would’ve
been on edge — and believe me — the officials were watching. Whom Jesus entered with didn’t help relieve
tensions either. Zealot rebellions were quite common during
the first century and at least one of his apostles was a known Zealot → you know,
the people who wanted to overthrow Roman occupation of YHWH’s land. Then, As if the parade and whom he associated
with didn’t attract enough political attention, what Jesus does next further propels the situation. First, He kills a tree. Well, only in Mark and Matthew. And then he goes directly into the temple
and drives out the money lenders by overturning the tables. This causes quite a ruckus and you can rest
assured, is an arrestable offence, particularly during this volatile week when thousands of
Jews pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After disturbing the temple, Jesus then preaches
about tearing it down and then goes into eschatological sermons about the end of his life, the end
of the world, etc…. In the eyes of public officials — Jesus is
a security threat and from that point on, he’s a marked man. The Jewish officials seek a way to arrest
Jesus away from the crowds — Lord knows you can’t do that in front of the people who
just through him a king’s parade so they arrange a scheme with Judas to subdue him
while he’ out of the public eyes. This of course takes place on Thursday night
in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next day he is sentenced to death by crucifixion
in a Roman court of law, not a Jewish one despite the fact that the Jewish officials
had legal authority to sentence people to death for violating the Torah. Crucifixion was reserved for Roman capital
prisoners — that is, people guilty of committing crimes against the government. What crime was Jesus put to death for? Look no further than above his cross “King
of the Jews.” Traditionally interpreted as a mockery statement
alongside Jesus’ crown of thorns, plaques above crosses were typically there to convey
to the masses the crime that warranted such a fate. To refer to Jesus as the King of the Jews
is Pilate’s way of saying this is what happens when you rebel against the Roman Government
by appointing yourself a king, which you did when you gave Him that ceremonial king’s
parade on that first ever Palm Sunday.

6 thoughts on “How Palm Sunday Got Jesus Killed

  1. Hey Man! I really wish you had a Facebook page. I can't find your email address anywhere, either. Do you have a website?

  2. Can you put your citation that the jews had the authority to sentence people to death for violating the torah under Roman rule?

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