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Why Palms?

So they took branches of palm trees” (Jn 12:13). 

There is something rich about Palm Sunday occurring during our only winter storm of the year. Palms are tropical. Minnesota in March is not. They held a parade in Jerusalem. We’re stuck indoors, but Jesus cannot be stopped by closed or locked doors. Behold, your King still comes to you, and 2000 years later, we still have palm branches. 

So why palm branches? I guess the first question is: why trees? It’s worth pointing out that trees were created on the third day. There’s always something about the third day. Trees are representative of people. Some bear good fruit. Others bear bad fruit. And you know a tree by its fruit. You don't gather grapes from thorn bushes, and Jesus wasn't talking about trees.

But why palm trees? 3 reasons why. They represent all people. They invite judgment. They beg for salvation. 

(I.) Palm trees represent all people. Right after the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites came to an oasis named Elim, and there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees. It’s the first time palm trees are named in the Bible, and the numbers are striking. There’s 12 tribes of Israel, so they’re the springs of water. At that time, there were 70 nations; if you don’t believe me, you can go count the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 sometime.

The point is this - Israel was supposed to be an oasis for the entire world, which was represented by the palm trees. Sometimes Israel lived up to this, but they ultimately failed. 

By getting our palm branches out, we are saying to Jesus, “We, and the entire world, need you desperately to be our spring of water. Let the blood and water flow so that we can live.” 

(II.) Palm trees invite judgment. Before there was ever Palm Beach, Florida, there was a city in the Bible with the nickname, “The City of Palm Trees.” That city was Jericho. It was the first Canaanite city to be conquered by the Israelites. It’s the Jericho that had the walls come tumbling down. And how did those walls come tumbling down? By walking around the city for 7 days and by playing trumpets. 

By getting out our palm branches, we’re asking Jesus to come be our judge and to conquer what needs to be conquered. Deborah sat under a palm tree and judged Israel, and we’re asking Jesus to be the final judge. 

And like walking around a city and blowing trumpets, the way Jesus conquers is going to look unusual. He’s going to conquer by dying. 

There is something in each and every one of us that needs to be conquered. And that is sin, death, and the devil. The only way for our sinful walls to come tumbling down is for Jesus, the Temple of God, to come tumbling down. But He must be rebuilt, which leads us to…

(III.) Palm branches beg for salvation. It’s one thing for something to be conquered which needs to be destroyed. But what happens next? Destruction of Jericho is necessary, but so is the construction afterwards. And what does God build after He destroys Jericho?

The Temple. And what do you suppose were engraved in the walls of the Temple? Palm trees. 

One day a year at the Temple in particular illuminates Palm Sunday: the Feast of Booths. On that day, the Israelites would go to the Temple, take palm branches, read Psalm 118 out loud, and when they got to verse 25, they’d whip the altar with those palm branches and yell out, “Hosanna, we pray, O Lord. O Lord, we pray, give us success!” (Ps 118:25). A few verses later, "Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!" (Ps 118:27)

By getting out our palm branches, we’re praying that Jesus would save us from our sin and save us to Himself. By getting out our palm branches, we’re begging Jesus to take us from this valley of tears to be with Him in the new heavenly Temple. 

I guess the question now is - does He answer our palm branch prayers? Does He listen to all the people? Does He judge sin, death, and the devil? Does He save us? 

To get the answer, you can wait till the 3rd day, when trees were made. Something might just happen then. Or you can wait till you get to heaven. But if you need to know now, you can look at Revelation 7. Who’s standing around the Lamb who defeated death? All nations. And what do they have in their hands? Palm branches. 

“And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ez 47:12).


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