Hosanna to the Son of David" - Palm Sunday

The branches of the palm tree have historicaly been associated with the motif of "Triumph" and "Celebration." In the ancient world, "palms" victory and triumph. The Romans used to cast palm-branches before their champions of both sport and war. However, "palms" were natural to the region so it was not unlikely to see even earlier usages and customs. Thus "palms branches" were part of the "Triumphal Entry," which was a festive occassion (John 12:13), especially since the "Raising of Lazarus" which was considered a Messianic event and by word of mouth had spread throughout Jerusalem. You can imagine the excitement that the promised Messiah who would release Israel from their bondage had finally been sent by God.

In later Christian art during the Great Persecutions, martyrs were depicted with "palms" in their hands, an allusion of the "victory over evil and death." And sometimes the ancient artists depicted Jesus in heaven amid "palms" as the victorious king.

However, it is interesting that one the key homiletic texts for Palm Sunday has been Phil 2:5-8, which is concerned with Jesus' "Humiliation" (kenosis) and his preparation for his role as the "Suffering Servant." From ancient sermons to Luther to even this day, the "Humiliation" motif (i.e. Phil 2:5-8) has been a key passage to the sermons of Palm Sunday. For it was on that Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, that Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey in accord with the prophecy of Zech 9:9 in order to enter into his "Passion," suffering and dying for the sins of mankind, only to rise "victorious" on the third day. His conquest of Death and Satan chiseled in stone his eternal place as the "King of kings and Lord of lords."

Below are some excellent links (articles, sermons) related to Palm Sunday, including an interesting piece on Jesus as he "weeped for Jerusalem" amid all the jubilation prior to his descent into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

  • Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

  • Palm Sunday - Encyclopedia

  • Hosanna - Encyclopedia