Hebrew Name:
Shabbat HaGadol

English Name:
lit. 'Great Sabbath'/Palm Sunday

Associated Scriptures:
Exodus 12:1-11
Psalm 118:25-26
Zechariah 9:9-10
Matthew 21:1-11
Mark 11:1-10
Luke 19:28-44
John 12:12-16

First Covenant Application:
choosing the lamb that would be sacrificed on Passover

New Covenant Application:
the nation of Israel choosing the Messiah as the Suffering Servant Who would be sacrificed on their behalf

Ultimate Fulfillment:
Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as the king and Messiah of Israel

Palm Sunday

not Levitical by itself (part of Passover preparations)

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, He was fulfilling several Old Testament prophecies (Zechariah 9:9-10, Psalm 118:25-26). The Jewish crowd that day recognized the prophecy in which Messiah would ride in on a donkey colt, and they waved and spread out palm branches--a national symbol of Israel—in the anticipation that Jesus would begin a military revolt against the Romans. They shouted, "Hoshea'na! (most often Anglicized as ‘Hosanna’; it means, ‘Save now!’) Blessed is 'He who comes' (a descriptive term for the Messiah) in the name of the Lord!" What they missed—and what the majority of Christians do not realize is that this particular day was the day in which the people were supposed to choose the lamb that would be sacrificed for Passover (Exodus 12:1-11). Every year, on the tenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar (called Abib in the Scriptures and changed to Nisan after the Babylonian captivity), the people were to select a yearling lamb without blemish which would be sacrificed at twilight before Passover later that week (which fell starting on Thursday night the week of Jesus' crucifixion). Even though they correctly identified Him as the Messiah, Jesus lamented the fact that the people misunderstood what He was there to do (Luke 19:41-44). He had indeed come to save them—just not in the way they thought. Through God's providence, however, the Jews in Jerusalem that week unwittingly served the LORD's purposes anyway.

When the people saw Jesus arrested and in the hands of the Roman governor just five days later, they figured that He had 'failed' to produce what they were looking for; and many of the same people who declared Jesus king at the beginning of the week were now ready to see Him crucified on Friday—just in time for the end of Passover.

Those who are unfamiliar with Jewish custom are often unaware that the Jewish day begins with evening; so according to Jewish reckoning, when Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples Thursday night (the Last Supper, Maundy Thursday), it was the beginning of Passover Day. When Jesus died on Friday afternoon at 3:00 (Good Friday), it was still Passover Day for three more hours; so Jesus did, in fact, die on Passover.

So why is the Hebrew name for Palm Sunday 'Shabbat' HaGadol when it was on a Sunday?  The 10th of the month in the Hebrew calendar does not always occur on the same day of the week, just like it is with the Gregorian calendar that most people use today.  It may be that originally that this day occurred on a Shabbat, or that the people tended to celebrate this on a Shabbat.  This particular week, however, the 10th occurred on Sunday.  On what Christians now call Palm Sunday, the people selected their ultimate Passover Lamb—the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; and sacrificed Him for Passover in fulfillment of the Law of Moses.