Palm Sunday is also known as “branch” or “bow” Sunday because palm branches are not easily found in some parts of the world. Palm Sunday is Lent’s sixth and last Sunday and the beginning of what the church knows as Holy Week or Passion Week, leading us to Resurrection Sunday. But have you heard about Lazarus Saturday? Wait, you have never heard of Lazarus Saturday before? Most of us have not.
If we grew up in a non-denominational church, we might not know about this celebration. Because we have regular worship services each Saturday, I figured this would be fun and educational for us as a church to consider this part of church history and tradition. Why is the resurrection of Lazarus important to Passion Week events? Because of Lazarus’s four-day death and resurrection (all quite public, I might add), Christ was hailed by many at that point as the long-awaited Messiah, the King of Israel. Hence Palm Sunday and their boisterous celebration. (Zech ariah 9:9; John 12:13; Matthew 21:9)
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in front of a large crowd of witnesses and some of His harshest critics just two miles from Jerusalem. (See John 11:18; John 11:38–44; John 12:1). As a result, many who typically followed the religious leaders, referred to as “the Jews” by John, came to Bethany to see if the rumors were true. Of course, they discover that Lazarus, who had been dead for four days and was publicly mourned (John 11:31), is alive and well (John 12:9). As a result, many people believed in Jesus as the long-awaited coming Messiah (John 12:11).
On the other hand, local religious leaders had already agreed to have Jesus killed (John 11:53). Despite all of Jesus’ evidence, they stubbornly refused to accept the truth (John 5:39–40). When Jesus raised Lazarus, it only strengthened their resolve to murder Jesus. What should have been the most apparent proof turned out to be their most despised incident? Their hatred for Jesus is so intense that the chief priests also seek to kill Lazarus to cover up the truth about who Jesus is to maintain their power. Because of the people’s adoration, the priests and scribes are sadly driven to destroy them both. (Luke 19:47; John 11:53, 12:10).