A Palm with a Story

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Around this time of the year I receive advertisements in the mail to order palm branches for Palm Sunday.  I am happy to throw them away because I can walk out the front door of the church to find the branches we use.  If it was our tradition to welcome people in parades with a shower of palm branches none of us would have to go far to find plenty to lay on the road. 

When Jesus was entering Jerusalem people greeted him with palm branches.  The parade of people would have looked very much like the celebration of victory that greets a returning general.  Palm branches symbolizing victory and peace.  But the general at the center would not have looked like has was coming from war but going to war.  He was not riding on a victorious warhorse but instead on a little donkey.  His humility could almost make you think that he is about to be taken captive instead of leading a train of captives behind him. 

Those palms branches at his feet marked a path right into Jerusalem.  The people waved their palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12).  Their king was coming home.

Palm branches can be so beautiful, giving shade, they are feathery and in some movies they are portrayed as fans for a king waves by servants.  But some types of palm branches are not as kind though equally beautiful.  If I were to grab a branch from my tree it would certainly still be as beautiful in it’s feathery symmetry but because of one difference it could tell the rest of the story.

You see this kind of palm changes as you go down the branch.  I discovered this when I went out to trim it for the first time.  Instead of the soft feathery leaves down the branch, the base of the branches change into long, rigid, sharp thorns.  The kind my bare hands discovered with pain and blood.  Those palm branches of victory changed for Jesus as well.

When Jesus announced that he was to be lifted up (on the cross), the people refused to accept Him as the Messiah since their hero would rule them forever (John 12:34), in the end the people who once held palm branches of victory now lowered their hands offering no help to Jesus who was being arrested for claiming to be their Messiah, the Son of God (John 19:7).  The beautiful palms of victory changes from victory to defeat, from beauty to pain.  They became thorns that would pierce Jesus as his captors made them into a crown for His head (John 19:2).  Jesus, the one once proclaimed king was now labeled king with a sign above his head as he hung on the cross “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19).  From Palms to Thorns, this one branch tells the story.

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