The best experience I’ve ever had with palm trees was a few years ago when my sister and I went to Cancun. We spent hours sitting under the shade of palm trees reading the books which had weighed down our suitcases on the trip down. It was peaceful, it was beautiful, and most importantly right now, it was warm!
For most kids who grow up in New Brunswick (those who don’t travel south on vacations) their experience of palm trees is limited to the occasional house plant, and the palm fronds that are passed out to the children in churches on Palm Sunday. In churches around the world palm branches will be passed out to children this Sunday in commemoration of Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem which began what we call Holy Week.
I started thinking about what we do with the branches in relation to what was actually done on that first day. I always assumed that the children waved the branches in the air, which may be the case for some, but mostly they laid them down on the ground in front of him, creating a carpet of green, a palm carpet. As far as the people were concerned, Jesus was entering Jerusalem as a king and deserved special attention. They gave him the “red carpet” treatment on Sunday and then by Friday they were crying for his death.
My dad was saying the other day that it seemed strange that we consider Palm Sunday as a celebration when it really is the beginning of the end for Jesus and based on the Jew’s misinterpretation of Jesus’ role as the Messiah. He wasn’t here to be an earthly king who would defeat the Romans and seize control. That is the person they were dancing, cheering, and quoting scripture about, but it wasn’t the man on the donkey.
By Palm Sunday word was definitely spread wide about all the miracles that Jesus had been doing, all the radical ideas he had been preaching, and definitely the news that he had just raised a man who had been dead for four days! This was, to borrow from the popular rock opera of the 70’s, a Superstar entering the temple city! Jerusalem was already filled to overflowing with people who had come to celebrate the Passover at the temple. Everyone wanted to see him. For our politicians today it would have been a photo-op and media event for which they could only wish!
I think the reason we celebrate Palm Sunday isn’t that we are commemorating the erroneous reason from Jesus’ day, but celebrating the true meaning of the entry of the Messiah. Jesus was entering Jerusalem as the man who would not conquer the Romans, but would conquer death itself! So, get out your palm branches, or whatever materials you choose, and make a carpet for our king. “With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118: 27)