Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm branches thrown on the road ahead of Jesus’ trek into Jerusalem – sometimes called Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The passages are found in all four of the Gospels: Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19.
In some of the old movies you’ll see Jesus’ riding on a donkey with his followers ahead of him laying down palm branches and their cloaks. Oddly though, the first three Gospels in the New Testament, Mark, Matthew, and Luke never mention “palm” branches but instead, “leafy” branches. The Gospel of John is the only one that mentions “palm” branches (John 12:13) but never says that they put the branches or even their cloaks on the road ahead of Jesus. John doesn’t say what the people did with the palm branches other than, “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him…” (NIV).
The Apostle John was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus so we should believe him, shouldn’t we? But were the other three wrong? Something else to think about – some Bible scholars say there is no firm evidence that palm trees ever grew near Jerusalem but only in the south in the warm, fertile valleys. Just a thought.
Let’s look at another difference that occurs in the four stories. Did Jesus ride one donkey or was he riding on two? I know that sounds like a crazy question but Matthew seems to believe that Jesus rode on two donkeys (Matthew 21:7), or a donkey and a colt. Christian apologists try to cover this up by saying that they brought a donkey with its colt and Jesus rode on the donkey and the colt walked along side them. But read the verse: “…they brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.” That, to me, is pretty clear that “them” indicates the donkey and its colt. Matthew was one of the twelve recruited by Jesus himself. Why would we not believe his inspired words? But wouldn’t that make the others wrong?
Another difference I observed in this very short reading of Palm Sunday is that in three of the stories Jesus sends two of his disciples ahead of him to get the donkey. In John’s Gospel (John 12:14), Jesus finds a donkey and sits on it himself without the help of any of his disciples. In the other Gospels, two disciples bring a donkey, or two, throws their cloaks on it (them) and then Jesus sits on it (them).
I’m not saying these are contradictions or errors of the Bible. I’m just pointing out that there are differences in the four stories and I often wonder why we choose certain parts of one or more stories to make our own. We tend to conflate, or combine, the various stories to fill in the blanks. I can see in some instances where it might sound better and make sense like Jesus riding on only one donkey. But, then again, sometimes the stories are more interesting with the oddities included.
So, what happens on Monday, the day after Palm Sunday? That just might be my next blog. Stay tuned and drink some coffee!