Throughout this Holy Week we’ll be looking at the final days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. On Monday we recalled the prophecy of the coming King; today we’ll take a look at the significance of the palm branches the people were waving as Jesus entered into Jerusalem.
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)
Why palm branches? I remember looking forward to Palm Sunday every year during my childhood. This great excitement had nothing to do with the significance of the palm branch, however. I just loved using it as a sword against my little brother when we exited the church! I’m a great deal older now . . . and a little bit wiser . . .
Palm branches are a part of worship in many churches on Palm Sunday. The palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. Palm branches were often depicted in drawings, on coins, and in significant buildings, such as King Solomon’s temple, which had palm branches carved into the walls of the inner and outer rooms (1 Kings 6:29).
The significance of the palm branch cannot be understated. We find them mentioned again in the last book of the Bible:
There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people were waving the palm branches and laying them on the road as Jesus rode across them. But the “goodness” and “victory” the people were looking for was not one of a spiritual nature. They wanted Rome removed, not their sins. They were shouting for a political leader who would raise up an army and overthrow the oppressive Roman rule. Their shouts of “Hosanna,” meaning “Save now,” were meant in the physical sense, not the spiritual. In essence they were saying:
- Welcome, warrior king!
- Hail the conquering prince!
Our Lord knew exactly what was in their hearts:
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)
The people ought to have known better. Jesus often said things that were utterly inconsistent with their “warrior king” ideal . . . things like “Blessed are the meek . . . Blessed are the peacemakers . . . If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:5, 9, 39-41).
These words from Jesus were intended to unambiguously communicate that He was a different kind of King than the one the people were expecting . . . but they did not have ears to hear.
We’ve looked at “The Prophecy” and “The Palm.” We’ll finish our Holy week messages on Good Friday with “The Prince.”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!