The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to 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 12:12-13 New International Version
Today is Palm Sunday, and many churches will be filled with palms and will hand out palm branches to parishioners. But what is the significance of the palm branches?
Most of you know that when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, the masses meeting him there ran ahead of him spreading palm branches on the streets and waving them overhead as Jesus passed by. At this point in the story, I always recall that he is riding on a donkey and am concerned that the donkey will slip and fall on the palm branches under foot or shy away from the waving branches and dump Jesus at the side of the road. Of note is that the Bible elsewhere states that this is a young donkey which had never been ridden before. So how does this beast of burden navigate this ride? Anybody else ever wonder that?
But back to the palm branches. In ancient times, palm branches symbolized victory and were often waved when kings returned home triumphant. So, here was Jesus returning home and the people were acknowledging him as their king, their conqueror. Only thing is they were still thinking that he was saving them from their Roman overseers, returning Israel to its glory here on Earth. It would take them a while to get it and in the meantime, Jesus dies for them. What must they have thought of their victor then.