Image courtesy of wileywillows.blogspot.com
Palm branches remind us of … what?
- A tropical beach vacation.
- A warm January day in Southern California
- A welcomed oasis respite in the burning desert
- Children processing and singing “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
The custom of palms at the end of Lent can serve to remind us of a Sunday long, long ago.
12The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" 14And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion;behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!" (John 12:12-15 ESV)
Why palms for such an event? In Jewish culture, palms are symbols of victory. What an awesome connection – Jesus rides into Jerusalem amid shouts of praise and symbols of victory. Little did the people know that the victory Jesus would win was not political or military victory but salvation victory!
Jesus is riding into Jerusalem amid the shouts and palms on His way to the cross. The cross would be where He won the victory for us over sin, death, and the power of the devil. The palms represent the victory that Jesus won over our sinful, corrupt nature. And God said of this nature,
9"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, ill you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;t for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 ESV).
Remember those words? They were spoken over you when you received a cross of ashes on your forehead or the back of your hand on Ash Wednesday.
And the ashes we used were of palm branches used on a previous Palm Sunday. Interesting connection, isn’t it?
There’s one more connection I found. In the English language, “palm” doesn’t just mean a certain type of tree or the branch of that tree. It also means the part of the hand from the wrist to the base of the fingers. Our English word for this part of our hand – “palm” – came from the Latin word for the tree or branch. One source says the word traveled to Northern Europe (where the English language developed) via the Christians bringing the word for the tree they used on Palm Sunday in celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
While that may be interesting to some – ok, maybe just me – that isn’t the connection I really wanted to make.
This is the connection I want to make. The English word “palm” – meaning the part of the hand – is used in an Old Testament Bible passage.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16 ESV)
God says this to us to remind us that He has not – and never will – forget us.
Have you ever thought – or even cried out loud – “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me”? I know I have. I’m pretty sure that you have, too. It feels that way sometimes.
But God specifically tells us that He will not forget us. In fact, He says He cannot forget us because every time He looks at His hands, He remembers us. He has “engraved” us on the palms of His hands as a reminder of us, as a reminder of how much He loves us, as a reminder of what He did because He loves us.
Our names are not engraved on the palms of His hands. Our names are written in the Book of Life. I like to think that our names are written in the Book of Life not with ink but with the holy and precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Shed on the cross when He died for our sins.
Written with the blood of Jesus shed when nails where driven through the palms of His hands – thus marking Him forever.
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Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
The custom of palms – may it ever serve to remind us that God will never forsake or forget us.
The custom of palms – may it ever serve to remind us that God loves us.