THEME: WAVE YOUR CHRISTIAN VICTORY FLAG
READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-7/ Phil. 2: 6-11/ Matthew 26:14-27:66
While we would wave our national flag if our national (football) team wins a championship, the Jews of the biblical times would wave palm branches to celebrate their victories. For example, around 170BC, the Maccabees led some fellow Jews to defeat the Greeks who had earlier on taken over Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple. On the occasion of the purification of the Temple and the celebration of the victory, the Jews sang songs of praises to God while waving palm and other branches (cf. 2 Macc. 10:7).
Thus, as Jesus entered Jerusalem on that faithful day – which we now call Palm Sunday – the jubilant crowd was celebrating the victories of their Hero! They were celebrating the victories of Jesus over evil:
His victory over sickness (the many times He had healed the sick, lame, blind, etc.)
His victory over evil possessions,
His victory over hunger (e.g. feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves),
His victory in raising the dead (the most recent of which was the raising of Lazarus).
Though the crowd celebrated the victories of Jesus, they did not know that they were welcoming Him to the ‘stadium’ of Jerusalem for the greatest of all His victories – His victory over sin, death and Satan (the author of these evils).
Furthermore, a description of a vision by the Author of the Book of Revelation gives us a deeper meaning of the symbolism of palm branches. In the vision, the saints in heaven, with palm branches in their hands, praised God and Christ, the Lamb of God, while the angels responded by prostrating before the heavenly throne and worshipping with the words: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, amen!’ (Rev. 7:9-12). We could, therefore, say that as the crowds waved the palm branches in Jerusalem, the angels, who had the fore-knowledge that it was the celebration of Jesus’ anticipated victory over Satan, were prostrating and worshipping in heaven!
In addition to waving their flags, a victorious crowd would usually sing a song. Similarly, the crowd in Jerusalem shouted: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, praise to Him in the highest heaven!’ (Matt. 21:9). The ‘Hosanna’ in the victory song means ‘Save us!’ or ‘salvation’. A similar victory song was sung by the saints in heaven while they waved their palm branches: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Rev. 7:10). Therefore, let us join the saints to sing: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! … Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb of God!’
Beloved, since the victory of Jesus for our salvation is an everlasting victory, let us always wave our victory flag. Let us wave, in the church and outside the church, our PALM branches:
P – Prayer
A – Adoration (worship of God)
L – Lifestyle
M – Mercy (deeds of mercy and forgiveness; for Jesus says, it is mercy that God desires, Matt. 9:13)
Anytime we wave our palm branches of prayer, adoration, good lifestyle, and deeds of mercy, may the angels respond with their worship in heaven! Amen! And may we one day be part of the palm-waving heavenly saints and witness ‘live’ the angels prostrating before the throne of God the Father and of the Lamb of God! Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis