In Jesus’ day, palms were carried in joyful, triumphant processions by Jews and Romans alike. Roman soldiers, returning from a successful conquest, would wave palms as they returned home to their welcome. Jews used palm adornments for their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to the Festival of Tabernacles. And palm decorations were carved in stone within the Temple. Palms symbolized an oasis in the desert, victory in public games and in conquests, and a sign of blessing and homage.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem replicates how the Roman Emperor and his emissaries would enter the city: on a roadway strewn with palms, and with the crowds waving palms, shouting their praise. The crowds welcoming Jesus are shouting, “Hosanna,” which, in Hebrew, means “savior.” “Savior” is the very title already claimed by the Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor’s titles included the “Savior of the World,” and “Son of God,” and “Lord of Lords.”[i] That’s the Roman Emperor. Unlike the Emperor and his party, whose processional entry would be on magnificent Persian stallions, Jesus is on a donkey.
Jerusalem is silent. The shofars have sounded, the priests with their ram’s horns have announced the beginning of Sabbath and now all things lie in unquiet silence. “And the Lord God rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work he had done in creation.”
“It is finished.” It is accomplished. The work has been done. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly host.”The Word has come forth and has accomplished what was purposed: in flesh. The word did not return empty, as it had been prophesied: