Have you ever wondered about the significance of waving palm branches to the Lord? Let’s glean a richer understanding of this Palm Sunday celebration. Come along as I share this nugget from God’s treasure chest with you.
“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!“ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The King of Israel!’”John 12:12-13 NKJV
Here’s the story…
As Jesus and His disciples approached Jerusalem, He sent two of them ahead to find and untie a colt on which no one had sat. The Lord instructed them to answer anyone who questioned their actions by saying that the Lord had need of it, so they would allow it. As the disciples obeyed, it happened exactly as Jesus had said. They spread their cloaks over the animal’s back where Jesus then sat and led him down the hill into Jerusalem.
When the multitudes who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was arriving, they ran to meet Him. They laid their cloaks on the ground and cut down leafy branches as a “red carpet” for Jesus’s entrance into the city. The excited crowds consisted of those from Bethany who had witnessed Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead and those in Jerusalem who had heard about this great sign. They congregated joyfully around Him, waving palm branches and chanting Scripture taken from Psalm 118:25-26: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:13 NKJV).
The Jews intended to cast off Caesar and his Roman rule and crown Jesus as their king. This uproar, however, distressed the Pharisees because they were losing the fight to suppress His popularity. Caiaphas expressed fear over what would happen to them politically, realizing they had to side with Rome against Jesus in order to save themselves.
What’s the significance?
What is the significance of people waving palm branches? We can trace this practice in both the Old and New Testaments.
In Leviticus 23:39-44 (Click HERE), the Israelites waved beautiful palm branches for seven days during the Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths or Sukkot). This feast memorializes how God brought them out of slavery from the land of Egypt. (For more study about the Feast of Tabernacles, click HERE.)
During Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people rejoiced by waving palm branches in His honor. They welcomed the deliverance they believed He was bringing to them—freedom from Roman tyranny and the political occupation of Israel. They honored Him as a king riding victoriously into His kingdom. A worldly king would come riding on a horse—a symbol of war—but He came riding on a donkey’s colt—a symbol of peace. Later the disciples would understand how this act fulfilled Zechariah 9:9:
“‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!NKJV
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
Lastly, we find a future waving of palm branches during a thrilling time in heaven. Revelation 7:9 describes those who will be saved out of the Great Tribulation wearing white robes and holding palm branches. They will cry out, “‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (v.10). (Click HERE to read more about it.)
Do you understand why waving palm branches is significant to God? It represents people showing thanks for God’s deliverance.
- In Leviticus, God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and entrance back into their Promised Land.
- The Gospels describe how the Jews expected deliverance from Rome’s political tyranny and the beginning of Messiah’s reign.
- Revelation reveals the Lamb of God who will deliver a multitude from the evil rule of the Anti-Christ. They will stand before God’s throne and will serve Him day and night in His temple.
The triumphant entry into Jerusalem will happen one day in the future.
At the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus will be riding on a white horse, not a donkey’s colt. He will come to make war on the Anti-Christ and destroy his reign. This is the age when the Messiah’s eternal reign will begin. (Click HERE to read Revelation 19:11-16.)
As we joyfully wave our palm branches on Palm Sunday, let’s remember to be deeply thankful to God for His gift of deliverance. Jesus loosed us from the bondage of sin and death and gave us the right to become God’s sons and daughters through Jesus’s shed blood. We will be joint-heirs with Christ in His kingdom forever.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”John 1:12 NKJV
Dear Lord, thank you for becoming our King of kings and Lord of lords. We wave our palm branches to you with hearts full of thanksgiving and praise for Your gift of deliverance. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.