Revelation 7:9–12 (NKJV)
9After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Today is Palm Sunday, the day on which our Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem and was acclaimed the long-awaited Messiah by the people of Israel. To celebrate Jesus’ entrance into the city, they gathered the branches of palms, laid some upon the road and waved others in the air, rejoicing in His arrival. In Christian history, we have called this event Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and celebrated it on Psalm Sunday.
In Revelation 7, John recounts a vision of peoples praising God with the waving of palm branches. John beholds an immense multitude standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb of God. They are clothed in white robes which point to the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Jesus (cf. 7:14). And in their hands are palm branches. So why palms? Why have we distributed palms in worship today so that your children can disturb you with them during the service?
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery notes that throughout the OT, “the palm tree was associated with the oasis, a place of fertility in the midst of the wilderness. It provided food in the form of the date, and its sap could be used as a sweetener or for making wine… the palm frequently connoted fertility and blessing” (622). Consequently, the palm tree made its way into the construction of the temple. Palms were carved into the walls and doors of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:29, 32, 36). And later, in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s renewed temple, he describes the palms that decorated each of the gateways and gateposts of the temple. The use of palms was God’s way of likening the temple to a fruitful garden, like the Garden of Eden, a place where His blessing dwells.
As we continue reading the OT, however, it is evident that the palms in the Temple were meant to point God’s people to their own calling and identity as well. For the righteous, Psalm 1 tells us, are like trees planted by streams of living water. And Psalm 92 promises, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Ps 92:12-13). God’s people are meant to be fertile in good works and a source of blessing to the world. The Church is called to be an oasis in a dry land, a place of fertility in the midst of the wilderness.
So when John beholds the disciples of Christ, clothed in white robes and carrying branches of palm in their hands, it is this vision of fruitfulness, delight, and blessing that he wishes to communicate to us. We are palm trees adorning the temple of the Living God. So the righteous cry out, while waving their palms, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And the angels join in the praise, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then the angels explain the significance of the palms with these words, “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters [in other words, He will lead them to oases where palm trees grow]. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:16-17). Our gracious Lord Jesus Christ who entered intoJerusalem today is the water of life who gives life to His people that we might be conduits of life and blessing to the world.
So as we enter into worship this Palm Sunday, waving our branches of palm, let us rejoice that our Lord Jesus has given Himself for us, He has shed His blood that we might stand before our God clothed in garments of white and that we might be fruitful palm trees, reflecting the fruitfulness of our God. The only way that we can be here in such joy is by confessing our sin, our need for the cleansing blood of Christ, and our need for His empowering grace. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and rejoice in His goodness. And let us kneel as we are able.