Our Palm Sunday Reflection is written by Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan

Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Former President of the Lutheran World Federation.

Honorary President of Religions for Peace International.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Palm Sunday in Jerusalem is very festive for Palestinian Christians and the whole community. The sanctuaries are decorated with beautifully decorated palm branches. Palestinian Christian families come to Church with their children carrying their well-crafted palm branches decorated with the spring flowers and roses. The Scout troops parade and march in the streets of every city, town and village playing music with their drums and their Scottish pipes. They add joy to the depressed situation of occupation and war, and it is a sign that the Palestinian Christians are an integral original component of the Palestinian society. All of these crowds and parades join the first celebration of Palm Sunday in confessing that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

In the afternoon of Palm Sunday, the traditional procession of the Roman Catholic Church takes place. The procession starts from Beit Fage all the way along through Gethsemane to St Anne’s church, where the Roman Catholic Patriarch and other Bishops and clergy hold a devotional prayer. Christian and Muslim scouts joyfully and enthusiastically lead the procession. Local and international guests and pilgrims sing in their own vernacular languages songs that say;

 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord. Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest heaven.”

Thus, the Holy Week starts in Jerusalem.

Jesus enters to Jerusalem with much fanfare, with calls of Hosanna all the way through. The first Palm Sunday crowd and children cited Ps 118:25-26 and recited the prophecy of Zachariah “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout loud O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your King come to you; triumphant and victorious is He, humble and riding on a donkey, the foal of a donkey”. (Zechariah 9:9).  This marks the King’s arrival to the Holy City. The crowd who meets Jesus is an extension of those who travelled to Lazarus house in Bethany to find Him before Passover.  As noted in John 2:13-22, pilgrims travelled to the Temple before Passover to purify themselves in order to participate in the festival of Passover (John 11:55). When they instead go to Jesus and parade with Him, they reflect the theme running through the Gospel of John that Jesus is the location of God’s glory and presence. They recognise that this Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfilment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament.

However, this triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not only seen as fulfilment of prophecy but also political. It was misinterpreted by many including His own disciples. They expected the Messiah to exert political power, bring liberation and restore the nation of Israel to a position reminiscent of the Davidic monarchy. This Johannine Jesus subverts these expectations in a way that challenges the empire. In John 19, we see Pilot affirming Jesus’ position as “King of the Jews”, despite heavy protests and opposition by the religious leaders of that time. For this reason, John presents Jesus’ death not as a low point of failure in Jesus’ ministry, but as a high point and His moment of glorification. 

The triumphant entry to Jerusalem clarifies the anti-imperial agenda of Jesus Kingdom. Jesus the “King of the Jews” was not riding into Jerusalem to secure the geo-political power of the monarchy for Israel. Rather, Jesus came to speak truth to power in both the Roman Empire and the religious establishment. Jesus came to bring salvation and redemption for every human being. Jesus earlier told his own followers the hard truth that “those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

But it seems that this triumphant entry to Jerusalem has caused fear and jealousy among the religious establishment. They did not understand the real mission of Jesus. It always shocks me to find that the same crowd that shouted the prophetic song “Hosanna – save us” is the same crowd that four days later shout “Away with him!” Away with him! Crucify him” (John 19:15). This exactly reflects the insecure human nature. When they felt that Jesus’s entry has shown His power, then people stand with the powerful. But when they noticed His weakness, then they shouted “crucify him!”

Don’t we still live in this world of double-standard and hypocrisy. Don’t we still with the powerful without counting the results. The war in Gaza has opened a Pandora’s box. We have clearly seen those who offer lip service, or are silent and complicit, for they are afraid for their worldly interests. But we have also seen those who are still committed for justice and freedom whatever is the price.  Some have spoken about the attack and the war to be prophesized in the Old Testament. I do not know how this group reads their Bible.  We tell this group, do not recycle prophecies of Old Testament and the books of apocalypse  according to your narrow political agenda. Do not use the God of justice and the Bible to oppress any nation and justify any killing. Our God is only a God of love, not revenge or hatred. God is never one-sided. God is always the God of justice. This is the reason God sent His only Son to save all of us on the cross.

Palestinian Christians are disappointed to see Biblical interpretations and Christian ethics put into the service of war. We are equally concerned with the growing influence of Christian Zionism. We are afraid that with their interpretation of Old Testament prophecies and the apocalyptic books, they are simply promoting “just war” in order to fit their scenarios of end times but they never care for the sanctity of every life regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, political or religious affiliation. Whether in relation to left-wing or right-wing political values, Christian Zionism is a harmful form of racist colonial extremism that must be confronted and rejected. They join the crowd that shouts: “Away with Him! Crucify Him”.

Our people ask why does not God hear our prayers for freedom, liberation and justice. We have prayed for 75 years, including 56 years of illegal occupation. Why does God not hear us? The story of Exodus teaches us that God hears the groaning of the people and the prayers of the oppressed. (Exodus 2:24).

God hears our prayers, our yearning for freedom and justice. It seems however that the Pharaoh’s of the world still do not. As in Exodus, their hearts are hardened and they do not see truth or seek the liberation of every nation. The Western powers including USA and UK are among those Pharaoh’s and are equally responsible for where we are today. They have heard neither the cries of the occupied Palestinians nor the cries of the many peace-loving Israelis. They only care for their political power, arms sale, re-election and economic interests, not for justice in the Holy Land. Together we must call on these worldly powers to hear the word of Micah “What does God demand of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8).

As Palestinian Christians we shout and pray this Palm Sunday: 

“Hosanna – Save us Lord.”

Save us Lord from violence and killing of human lives that are created in God’s image.

Save us, Lord from hatred.

Save us, Lord from de-humanisation.

Save us, Lord from using religion for political agendas.

Save us, Lord from the illegal Israeli occupation and its settlements.

Save us, Lord from bloodshed.

Save us, Lord from war.

We assure you our lord Jesus Christ, that we are your people of life as you have taught us, that you have come to give us life and life with dignity. (John10:10).

We ask you, our sisters, and brothers in Christ, to do your utmost in prayer and action to stop this unjust war. Our Holy Land does not need any just war, but it only needs just peace. This means peace based on justice.

We ask you to challenge world leaders to work for justice and freedom.  If they invest half as much money and energy into peace-making as they invest in war. Then peace based on justice and freedom will become reality in Palestine and Israel.

We ask you to light two candles this Holy Week staring from Palm Sunday:

One candle to pray for all victims, for the bereaved, for all the injured, for all prisoners of war, for all displaced, for all whose home were demolished and have no place to live, for all the children that live in fear and for all pregnant women, and for all traumatized, and for both Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Gaza.

We ask you to light another candle and pray that Christ may touch their minds, and hearts of decision makers and world politicians to work for an end game for the Palestinian-Israel conflict.  Pray for justice to be implemented by ending the illegal occupation and implementing the international legitimacy. Peace based on justice is still possible. God hears the prayers of His people.

Hosanna – Save us.


Our heavenly Father, it is so easy to worship Jesus when He is victorious and loving. It is more difficult to worship Him when we see Him riding on a donkey, when He calls us to humility, to peace, to justice, to death, to sacrifice and life.

Yet He is the One we want to worship. We want to turn away from our pride and worship the only One who did not need to be humble, and yet chose humility anyway. You still show up in humility in the most unlikely places, using the most unlikely people. We worship You our humble King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

We turn away from our anger, our desire to go to battle and our nature to hatred and dehumanisation, we ask your forgiveness as we worship the King who comes in peace, harmony and justice. Your ways are different from our human ways. You don’t always go to battle with issues that are important to us. Yet we, your children baptized in your name, trust you to deal with injustice, oppression and occupation in your time, in your way. We thank you care for us and hear our yearnings for peace based on justice. 

We pray for the immediate cessation of the war in Gaza. We also pray that enough humanitarian aid may enter the war zone so that no child will be hungry, no woman will be thirsty, no injured will not find enough medication to be treated and no elderly will suffer. We pray for an end game for the Palestinian – Israeli conflict so that peace, justice and reconciliation will become a reality in the Land of Resurrection.

We turn away from our desire to hold onto our lives and worship the King of Kings who comes to die, in order to save us from sin, oppression, hatred, dehumanization, bitterness and any evil. Bless us this Palm Sunday so that we can start the Holy Week daring to speak truth to power. Embolden us this Holy Week to be instruments of peace, and brokers of justice and ministers of reconciliation. 

We worship you Jesus the humble, the source of peace and justice and even the dying King. Hosanna – Save us. This we pray in your Holy name our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ. 



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