Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Branches

Palm Branches
April 14, 2014
John 12:13  "The They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 'Hosanna!'"

Palm Sunday is typically the Sunday preceding Easter Sunday.  It is marked by the usage of palms, or palm branches, similar to the ones used when Jesus made His entrance into the city of Jerusalem the week before He was crucified.  In the record, Jesus entered the city while riding on a donkey and the people spread their cloaks and assorted palm branches on the ground underneath Him to walk upon.  But there is so much more to understanding the story than just the waving of palm branches.

If you were a history buff, you might explore what palm branches really meant.  The Egyptians used palm branches during the burial process of someone important, to symbolize life after death, or eternal life.  The Romans used palm branches to signify victory.  You would lay the palm branches down upon the ground for the victor to walk upon.  The scene gets even more complicated to understand when you add the fact that Jesus rode on a donkey and the people also shouted the word "Hosanna."  A horse was ridden by a king through the city streets when he wanted to emphasize a battle (either one coming or one just ending).  A king might have ridden a donkey through the city streets when he wanted to emphasize peace (either celebrating a time of peace or the dawning of a new era).   To top it off, the word "hosanna" means to save urgently or imminently, in the context it was used (not something shouted during the dawning of peace-time).

So many images come to mind when you understand the meanings of the symbolism involved.  Remember the Israelites spent 400 years in Egypt as slaves, so they understood the Egyptian burial practices, using palm branches.  At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was also occupied by the Romans, so they understood a king's ride through the city streets.  Jesus rode on a donkey because He wanted to show He was not a military threat.  But the people were shouting Hosanna, or "save us now" while waving palm branches and then putting them at His feet (as if a military victor).  This creates a dichotomy in the story. They were shouting for Him to save them but He was coming in peace and yet already victorious at the same time.

Jesus' entrance into the city was, and is, recorded as a "Triumphant Entry."  He triumphed, though, not during a military battle, but one over eternal life.  BUT He had not died upon the cross or rose from the dead at this point in the story.  His ride represented the dawning of a new era, one of peace, one of soon coming victory (that required a battle) over death and bringing eternal life.  His ride represented He was, and is, the King and He was bringing them salvation, imminently.  When you understand the story this way, it might change your imagery of the event a little bit, creating more appreciation for what Jesus was knowingly about to do, leading into the days and hours before His crucifixion.

I challenge you to close your eyes for a moment, and imagine you were there when Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem.  Image yourself waving a palm branch in the air and shouting "Hosanna."  Imagine just as He is about to pass by, you quickly bow in front of Him, placing your palm branch on the ground for Him to walk upon.  As He passes by, in front of you, imagine Him starring into the crowd and then down at you, seeing you prostrate with your palm branch before Him.  That stare, His glance in your direction, seeing you place your palm branch under His feet, represented He was bringing salvation just for you!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Lev 23:39-41, Psalm 118:22-27, John 12:12-16

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