Why the People Waved Palm Branches on Palm Sunday

It’s that wonderful time of year. I love finding the promises of God in His creation–analogies of our spiritual journey. Just think how difficult it is for a delicate tulip stem to push through hardened winter soil.

Nothing of beauty and value births easy. Christ’s job wasn’t a walk through the clouds either. His victory did not come without one final difficult, torturous, and bitter day.

Palm Sunday Praise and Pleas

Yet before Christ was crucified there was one special moment when the people worshiped Him. We call it Palm Sunday because they waved Palm branches and threw their cloaks on the ground as a makeshift red carpet.

I wonder if that ride into Jerusalem was more painful emotionally for Jesus than hanging on a cross.

On that day they worshiped the man they believed would take all their troubles away, but their fickle hearts would turn.

Why Palm Branches?

Have you ever wondered why they were waving palm branches? I always assumed that it was simply something they did to honor a king, but there was so much more going on that day than what we learned in Sunday School.

Thanks to a good friend of mine, I learned that the people were waving branches as they did when celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. (Thank you Maureen.) This feast ordained by God commemorated their escape from Egypt(Leviticus 23:33-44). The Lord instructed them to live in small huts during the week to remember their forty year journey in the desert where God dwelt in the tabernacle with them. The roofs of the huts constructed for this week of celebration were covered with Palm branches.

Celebration of God with them

Though Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem occurred in the spring, and the Feast of the Tabernacles fell in the fall, many people who study the Bible through a Jewish lens believe that the palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna” symbolized their belief that Messiah (God) had come to dwell with them again.

The words the people cried out as Jesus entered the city were actually Psalm 118, a psalm recited each day of the feast. Read these verses:

“O Lord, save us (Hosanna); O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118:25-27)

The people were waving the palm branches as they walked toward the Temple with Jesus where they would lay the branches against the wall.

What Hosanna Really Means

But the people weren’t just worshiping Jesus. They were begging Him to change their world. The word Hosanna means save. The people were actually crying out to Jesus:

“Save us, Jesus!”

“Save us, Messiah!”

The first time I learned this truth the teacher reenacted this scene with such desperation that I could no longer see this as just a moment of praise. They were begging Jesus to save them from Roman rule.

Jesus Came to Bring Peace

Just as God had brought them out of Egypt and to the Promise Land, these people begged for a land of their own.

Jesus, however, didn’t ride into town that day on a strong, white horse–the symbol of war–the symbol they expected. He rode on a colt. This was the sign of peace. As He rode through Jerusalem, the people were begging Him to be their savior, their physical savior who would free them from oppression. But Jesus clearly demonstrated His intent.

He did not come to make war but to bring peace.

Can you imagine their frustration as they realized He was not riding the right kind of animal? Jesus’ actions spoke loudly to the people, “I have not come to make war.”

I wonder . . . is this why they yelled, “Crucify!” just a few days later? Between Jesus and Barabbas, the murderer, Barabbas promised more hope for insurrection than the peaceful Jesus.

Though Jesus rode on a donkey, we know the salvation He did bring was so much greater than what the people wanted. Their request was temporary. His actions were eternal. He knew full well that each step toward this city was one more step to His last breath as a man on this earth.

Disappointed with God?

Have you been asking Jesus to save you from something, and it seems He is riding a donkey of peace rather than a white horse?

Take heart. Even if His actions do not seem an answer to your plea, believe He has a good plan. Worship Him as the One True Eternal Savior of your soul. He isn’t finished.

Jesus is coming back. When He does, He’ll be riding on a white horse. And then He will dwell, “tabernacle,” among us, and we will celebrate Sukkot much as the people did the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Read this scripture in Revelation:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9.10.)

What problem do you need to trust Jesus to handle differently than you planned? Can you trust His timing?

Let’s pray the last few verses of Psalm 118 together:

“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Amen.

Much love my friends,

Andy. . .

coffee bible

Bite of Bread Reading Plan for Palm Sunday Week

Psalm 118: 1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love endures forever.”

Prompt: When I’ve been disappointed with God, choosing to believe in his goodness healed my oozing wound. When I confessed, “Lord, I believe you’re good no matter what has happened, the disappointment faded, and I could praise him again. Do you need to choose this belief today? Journal your thoughts and a prayer about the goodness of God.

Psalm 118: 25-26: LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.

Prompt: Bless Jesus today with your praise. Rather than crying out for salvation, thank him!

Grab the Printable

Psalm 118: 27: The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

Prompt: As Jesus rode to the Temple the people followed. If this was the enactment of Sukkot, they carried their palm branches to the Temple where they lit four large menorahs celebrating the light of God shining on them. The light was another part of the festival. How has Jesus shined light on you?

Luke 13: 34: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Prompt: Are we ever guilty of running from Jesus or refusing His love and protection? Go to the altar today. Shuwb (that means turn back toward Him.) Run under his wings and read Psalm 91:1-5.

Make Your Quiet time special with the printable

Revelation 7: 9-10: After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9.10.)

Prompt: One day we will be clothed in white waving palm branches to our King. Think of all Jesus went through for this to one day take place. Are you still disappointed with God?

Don’t forget the printable here.

Enjoy. Savor the flavor of truth and promise. Chew. Ponder. Trust. You are loved all the way to the Cross.

2 Replies to “Why the People Waved Palm Branches on Palm Sunday”

  1. Thank you for sharing these insights about the palm branches and what they meant in this instance. You are such a gifted teacher—you search His Word to teach His truths.

    1. I love this piece of the puzzle we miss. Thanks Sandy!

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