Today we think about Palm Sunday. For many Christians this means processionals into the sanctuary waving palm branches in our attempt to connect with those early disciples. We may talk about the fickleness of the crowd that greeted Jesus and wonder how many of those who shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucify him!” on Good Friday.
We may think of the symbolism of the donkey. There are those who proclaim it as a lowly beast of burden, maybe even a possible rejection of a mightier steed at the same inn from which the donkey was taken. Taking the “war horse” would have been a rallying cry for a warrior Messiah for which so many of the people had hoped.
Zechariah 9:9 refers to the king of Israel coming in victory and riding on a donkey. Certainly this verse was forgotten by the priests and Levites watching the procession. Kings road war horses when they prepared for battle. However, they also rode donkeys when they came in peace or when the victory had already been won. Jesus’ riding the donkey could have been a proclamation of the peace of God over the wrath of God, or it could have been a proclamation of a victory already won.
In the Roman world, the palm branch was the symbol for victory and triumph and became the attribute of the Roman deity Nike or Victory, a symbol that, along with the people proclaiming Christ as King, would cause many of the Romans present that day a great deal of anxiety.
In other parts of the Roman Empire, the palm was carried in funeral processions to symbolize eternal life and hope in a resurrection.
Any way you look at it, the donkey was far more than transportation and the palm was much more important than an ordinary parade banner. The people, and probably Jesus, were both making bold statements.
What bold statement are you prepared to make as a follower of Jesus Christ on this Palm Sunday?