Many churches will provide plam branches for the congregants during the worship service on Palm Sunday. The worshipers will hold them, maybe wave them, perhaps lay them on the altar. But why do this?
In the chruches I grew up as a child, we weren't given palm branches. We studied and celebrated Palm Sunday, but no green, leafy branches were present.
I wish they had. I love symbols. Images are teaching tools and help us remember a lesson. So, what is Palm Sunday?
The people in Jesus' day recognized Him as special. Many thought He was the promised Messiah. The King.
On Sunday, before Good Friday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. As He and the animal approached the city, people cut palm branches and spread them on the pathway. As a result of their action, we have Palm Sunday.
The palm branches give us a visual of the ancient day and time. The Sunday when Jesus was praised as the King. He was crucified five days later. The people praising Jesus expected their King to act differently. Their idea was royalty...pomp and ceremony...military and a destruction of Rome. A Suffering Servant didn't fit the mold, so He was crucified.
But back to the palm branches.
Palm branches symbolized several things for those laying them at the donkey's feet as Jesus rode into the city.
Palm branches were sewn into the fabric of Jewish life. Remember the Festival of Booths? No? Well, Jews celebrated the Festivals of Booths once a year. God told them to them to cut palm branches and make huts or booths from them and live in them for seven days. In so doing, they would remember His deliverance from Egypt, and the years theyr forefathers had lived in huts and tents in the wilderness wanderings.
The use of Palms was a celebration symbol. God would save. God would deliver.
The crowd lining the road to Jerusalem expected the King of their Dreams. They got the Man of Sorrows. He didn't save or deliver them in the way they expected.
He is the Great Deliverer. We understand that today. He saves us into eternity when we confess our sins and believe He is who He said He was. The Son of God.
So today, we celebrate the King with the symbol of Palm branches. Just as God delivered His people out of Egypt, His Son, Jesus, delivers us from bondage.