Why Palms Before The Lord?

April 9, 2006
by Judith Welch

John 12:12-13 – The next day the great body of pilgrims who had come to the festival, hearing that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, took palm branches and went out to meet him shouting, "Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!" (NEB)

Psalm 92:12-15 – The righteous flourish like a palm-tree, they grow tall as a cedar on Lebanon; planted as they are in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God, vigorous in old age like trees full of sap, luxuriant, wide-spreading, eager to declare that the Lord is just, the Lord my rock, in whom there is no unrighteousness. (NEB)

Why palms before the Lord? That was one of the first questions I wanted to answer when I started reading about the plants of the Bible. How, I wondered, did all those Passover celebrants coming to Jerusalem from near and far know to bring and wave palm branches? Reading Matthew 21:1-9, I realized that Jesus' mode of entry into Jerusalem, though fulfilling prophecy, seems to have been an impromptu event. Surely some other plant's branches would have been easier to access than branches atop an 80-to-90-foot-tall palm tree!

In Psalm 92, the palm is shown to be a symbol of righteousness. It is also a symbol of majesty and victory. In the past, dates — the fruit of the palm — were considered to be the chief source of food for desert people. From clusters of dates could be made a kind of wine as well as a syrup called "honey" in the Bible. Traditionally, palm branches (along with branches of citron, willow, and myrtle) were waved in praise to God during the Festival of Succoth (Booths).

Perhaps, then, it was no accident that the multitudes chose to wave palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem. What better way to rejoice and praise our Lord than to wave the symbol of His righteousness, His majesty, and His victory?

Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming triumphantly, majestically, and victoriously into our lives. Thank You for being the "Bread of Life" and the "Son of Righteousness" Who came to save us from our sin. In Your precious name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Judith Welch <judithwelch12@gmail.com>
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

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