This month I would like to sharpen our focus on three things as it relates to Easter season: The Prophecy, The Palm and The Prince!
“The next day the great crowd that had come from the Feast 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!’ Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, ‘do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt’” (John 12:12-15).
What a scene that must have been; a great crowd of people lining the road leading into Jerusalem, waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna!” (meaning “save now”). They knew the prophecy and were waiting for this day for centuries.
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
The words “O Daughter of Zion” was a common title for the people of God and as for “your king” they would all remember this prophecy.
The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne” (Psalm 132:11).
But what kind of king were they expecting? Certainly not the one they got! They wanted an earthly king to remove the “rule of Rome” as they longed for the glory days of Israel. But this King was a different kind of King and their shouts of “Hosanna!” turned to “Crucify Him!” before the palm branches had time to turn brown lying on the road.
“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 12:13).
Palm branches are a part of worship in many churches on Palm Sunday. They symbolize goodness and victory. Often, palm branches were depicted on coins and significant buildings like the temple.
“On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he [Solomon] carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers” (1 Kings 6:29)
The significance of the palm branch is mentioned again in the last book of the Bible.
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
The people were waving palm branches and laying them across the road and shouting “Hosanna” which was pointing to their view of salvation in an earthly, physical sense, not a heavenly, spiritual one. They wanted a military, political leader who would overthrow the oppressive Roman rule.
“See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt” (John 14:15).
It is instructive to notice Jesus is not seated on a chariot or a war horse. He is riding on a colt that has not yet been weaned or ridden. This King came in humility, not honor. This picture would be comical if it were not so cosmic. Jesus rode into town on an animal he did not own, surrounded by people who did not understand what He came to do, only to be crucified by the religious people who did not want Him as their King.
Did Jesus know what the people wanted? Yes, but He refused to give it to them. Do you know why? For the very same reason He does not give you everything you want. Often what we want is not what is best for us. Surely, an earthly king was what the Israelites wanted. But that was not what they needed most. What they needed was the forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting. What they refused to acknowledge was their slavery to sin was greater than their slavery to Rome.
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities…We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent” (Isaiah 53:4-7).
The deepest truth of this Easter season is found in the fact that the prophecies have been fulfilled by this Prince who took our nails, our crown of thorns and our cross to pay in full, the penalty of our sin. But it did not end on that bloody cross. After three days in the tomb, a dead man got up and walked.
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said’” (Matthew 28:5-6)
By the time you read this, Palm Sunday will have passed. So let me challenge you to remember the meaning of the “waving of the palm frond” every time you drive by a palm tree in South Florida. Let every palm tree remind you of the fulfilled prophecies by your faithful Prince and His final cry of unwavering goodness and unparalleled victory, “IT IS FINISHED!” The tomb was empty so our hope would be filled. He has risen, just as He said.
This is the gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that… Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.