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August 20, 2018

The Lessons of Palm Sunday

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By Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

Palm Sunday is one of those Church’s major celebrations which has gradually become Paramount and appropriated by the entire Christendom worldwide. Simply understood, it is a ritual festival commemorating the solemn but triumphant entry of our Lord Jesus Christ’s triumphant into Jerusalem. Here in Nigeria and Imo in particular almost every Christian irrespective of the denomination participates in principle with relative joy. Catholics openly carry palm fronts singing and chanting joyful choruses unto Jesus the son David. On this day many Christians are seen carrying beside their Bibles palm fronds with cross adjustments to match the occasion of Palm Sunday. This ritual attitude portrays the sacredness and importance of the palm fronds in the Holy celebration of the Easter which is the culmination of our salvation history.
The gospel according to Saint Matthew Chapter 21 verse 9 and following gives us a true imagery and insight concerning all that took place in Jerusalem on this special day popularly ascribed to palm. The Scripture has this to say, “And the Multitudes that went before and those who followed cried out saying, Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest”.’
One remarkable incident was that when Jesus Christ, the beloved son of our heavenly father ventured into Jerusalem the entire city was moved. This showed the greatness, influence, power, majesty and Omnipotence of our Lord and master in whose honor we file in procession jubilating. In our world today, various Christians differently commemorate the Palm Sunday in Churches, streets, major roads and homes.
One significant lesson from this whole celebration was that Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on an ass which is the most humble and peaceful animal and not on a war horse. He did never appear as one who was going to face his detractors and enemies that later crucified him. Nothing portrayed him as a monarch, king or ruler. He had no siren, no police orderlies or any pretentious paraphernalia. All the same, the crowd in Jerusalem recognized Jesus Christ even though he came incognito.
Though humble, yet some extra biblical records have it that the people of Jerusalem acknowledged him as Saviour, King and Royal Majesty springing out from the branch of David. Our Christ’s kingship no doubt was unlike our present day modern monarchs who deck themselves with pump and ostentatious spectacles. He was not like some of our present political leaders who have turned into demi-gods or modern day colossus that bestrides the narrow world. The triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem forms a wonderful image of meditation for generations. His kingdom manifested the kingdom of God on earth and in the hearts of men. Invariably Christ was showing that in the kingdom of God Almighty, the uncreated creator, the uncaused cause must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Hence the saying that God is a spirit and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
This annual festival significantly sanctifies the use of palm frond. In our traditional religion palm fronds have far reaching symbols and signs which are for the most part negative but Christianity with its purifying effect happened on the palm frond at this ceremony. Therefore placing palm fronds along the roads that lead to places of our worship reminds us that we are celebrating something holy, sacred; solemn and deeply religious. Other leaves are not used because their parent trees shed their leaves once a year since they are deciduous by nature.
Today as ever, we venerate our Savior Jesus Christ who remains the role model for every Christian. He is our pathfinder, a trail blazer, a pillar of ancient and modern. The king who rode into Jerusalem, the city of God by one of the lowest beasts of burden and labour  an ass. What a humble, simple, unassuming practice worthy of emulation by mankind, especially those of us who are today living in this materialistic and avaricious world.
The Gospel according to Saint Luke chapter 19 verse 37 indicated that, “The whole multitude of the Disciples began to rejoice praising God with loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.  Verse 38 added, “Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord; Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest”,
The lessons of Palm Sunday are many. The ceremony lays emphasis on the need for us human beings to be humble and disciplined. It calls us to have regard for one another, for constituted authorities and to be prepared at all times to serve and not to be served borrowing a leave from the life style of Jesus Christ our Saviour. We should as a matter of fact be concerned about what we shall do for people and not what people should do for us.
By extension, let us also ask what we can do for our nation and our local community to enable it advance economically, to move forward and not backwards. Jesus Christ the only begotten son of our heavenly Father who was crucified, died and buried has taken the lead through his humility on Palm Sunday. It is left for us to emulate his pattern of life in giving ourselves up for the good of others. Carrying the palm fronds in our hands with our Bibles may not be enough but applying the shining examples and lessons of Jesus Christ in our daily lives wins the race. The Palm Sunday which is part of the Lenten season should be a big and enduring lesson to all of us in our Christian lives.


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