And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way…When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem [they] took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (Matt 21:1-9; Mk 11:8).
Palm Sunday is known to us believers as the day Jesus rode on a donkey and a colt into the city of Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds and the waving of palm branches. This event came very soon after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Many people were caught up in the excitement of the miracle much in the same way people respond to miracles today. They want to be where the action is.
What were these outer garments that the crowds laid out for Jesus to ride on? They were large, loose, outer cloaks or robes that often fell to the ground if not tied up. They were also used to wrap up things that were to be carried. They were like our coats in that they were an outer covering worn outside of the house and they were easily laid aside.
What do these garments symbolize? Perhaps, like many Christians today, they have an OUTER show of praise to the Lord rather than true praise that comes from an inner commitment of self to Jesus. The multitudes on Palm Sunday had not given Jesus their hearts, but they were very happy to lay down their outer garments for him to ride over—it was like “rolling out the red carpet.” However, The Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8).
I grew up with a philosophy that holiness was manifested in outer appearance. Throughout my childhood I never owned a pair of slacks or shorts. If my girlfriends wanted to play with me, they had to come to my house in a dress. Over the years I came to understand that one who is godly will desire to dress modestly, but the Lord said, Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam.16:7). The garment that Jesus is concerned with is the inner-garment, that is, the deepest part of our nature, our conscience, our heart, and our will.
Why is there so much superficiality in Christians? Probably because they’re more concerned with what people think of them than what God thinks of them. They don’t seek the eternal rewards that come from a genuine, inner commitment to Jesus that requires being emptied and cleansed of carnal, temporal rewards.
The saints of the ages whom we read about are those who have denied themselves, endured hardships and sufferings, and more often than not, have shed their blood for their faith. We think how wonderful it would be to have such a dedicated relationship to Jesus, but are we willing to pay the price they paid to achieve it? The testimonies of these saints were not just outer show; they were made of an eternal fabric that lines the soul and outlasts the body. The crowd on Palm Sunday had not comprehended anything beyond the outer show. They were willing to give their outer garments to the miracle-worker, but not their inner-self to the One soon to be crucified for their sin. They were concerned with the present political system and desired to be freed from it. Carnal nature demands instant gratification. It was true on the streets of Jerusalem two thousand years ago and has not changed today.
We read about another aspect of the event that took place on that special Sunday in Jerusalem: ..when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, [they] took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (John 12:13). Their cheers of “Hosanna” literally mean “Save us!” They were thinking of earthly provisions and expecting Jesus to save them from the oppression of the Roman government. This had all the hoopla of today’s political rally. It was the custom to strew flowers and branches, and to spread carpets and garments along the way for those to whom they wanted to show particular honor and respect and on this Sunday palm branches were plentiful.
It’s interesting to look at the symbolism of the Palm branches. The Palm tree grows from sixty to eighty feet high and lives over 200 years. Its six to eighteen feet wide leaves branch from the top to give this tree a very tall appearance. The palm tree is useful in many ways but most of all because of the fruit which it bears mostly between its thirtieth and eightieth years. At the bottom of the leaves of the Palm tree the fruit, called dates, grows in clusters, like grapes. Every year the Palm leaves yield about 300 or 400 pounds of dates. That’s a lot of fruit! Dates are sweet and agreeable to the palate. Get it? SWEET and AGREEABLE. The palm tree also yields a kind of honey, which when eaten is said to cause an agreeable spirit. Likewise, the Holy Spirit, when permitted to take up residence in us, brings forth a sweet smelling fragrance in the nostrils of our Lord, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our enemies. He yields an agreeable spirit in us because it is HIS SPIRIT and not ours that comes forth.
The righteous are useful, dependable, and fruit-yielding over a long period of time—not just for a day. Their fruits are not just outer garments that can be put on and off at will, but are grown from the inside out. The book of Revelation describes a scene in heaven where the saints have palm branches in their hands as they cry out with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb._
With what will we praise Him?
The multitudes had attended the Palm Sunday parade. They shouted and praised Jesus as He rode through the streets of Jerusalem. Some laid down their outer garments, others waved palm branches. Then the streets became quiet. Eerie! Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Where were the crowds and their garments on Friday? They had dropped their palm branches. No longer was there a multitude. No longer were there any outer garments cast down before Him. Now there was embarrassment. Disappointment. In the shadows they could see the cross being raised on Golgotha. The earth quaked. The sun ceased to shine. Where were those He had fed with the bread and fish? Where were those He had healed? Where were those He had set free? Where were those who had lived with Him, walked with Him, learned from Him?
Friends, we are all so willing to be in church on Sunday and give Him our praise and worship and our hopeful hosannas, but where will we be on the Good Fridays of our lives? Where will we be when we are called on to make sacrifices and have to crucify our flesh? Where will we be when we are called on to identify with RIGHT in the midst of an evil and perverse generation? Where will we be when all those around us today leave us or forsake us tomorrow? Will the praise we give in church service prove to be just an outer garment? Or will it be from the deep inner commitment of the heart? Will the waving of the hands as palms be truly the symbol of the righteous giving praise and adoration to Jesus, or just a mere outer show of emotion? If we genuinely comprehend the provision Jesus Christ made for us on Good Friday, we will allow Him the accolades of our hearts and minds at all times and in all situations.
When I think of Jesus hanging on the cross for me, I feel unworthy like Peter who said, Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man (Luke 5:8);_ and like Isaiah, who when he saw the Lord high and lifted up said, Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips (Isa. 6:5)._ He touches my spirit, and touches my lips and causes my words to reflect the joy of His presence in my heart.
In many churches on Palm Sunday, people are given palm branches as they come into the building for service. They wave them and celebrate Jesus. It is symbolic for we are the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified…The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree (Psa 92:12)._ To live a victorious life we need more than just outward obedience. We can’t harbor a grudge or hide anything in our heart. A fly in the soup ruins the soup although it’s just a little thing. We must not be superficial but real. We must be genuine inside and outside. We must be like that Palm tree, the planting of the Lord. We must grow and flourish. We must let the fruit of the Holy Spirit grow from inside our heart and be seen on the outside. Our Lord has made provision for this phenomenon.
Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
(c) The Alabaster Box. Volume 08. Number 03. 1993. C. Yvonne Karl