Why Are Palm Branches Used on Palm Sunday?

What Do Palm Branches Symbolize?

Palm Branches on Palm Sunday
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Palm branches are a part of Christian worship on Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, as it is sometimes called. This event commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as foretold by the prophet Zechariah.

The Bible tells us people cut branches from palm trees, laid them across Jesus' path and waved them in the air. They greeted Jesus not as the spiritual Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, but as a potential political leader who would overthrow the Romans.

They shouted "Hosanna [meaning "save now"], blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"

Bible Study Tools says that the "finest specimens" of palms "grew at Jericho and Engedi and along the banks of the Jordan," and Psalms 92.12 says that "the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree."

Jesus' Triumphant Entry in the Bible

All four Gospels include the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem:

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

"Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!"

Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

"Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming,    riding on a donkey’s colt.​"

(John 12:12-15)

The Triumphal Entry is also found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11 and Luke 19:28-44.

Palm Branches in Ancient Times

In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness, well-being, and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. King Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple:

On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers.

(1 Kings 6:29)

Again at the end of the Bible, people from every nation raised palm branches to honor Jesus:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

(Revelation 7:9)

Palm Branches Today

Today, many Christian churches distribute palm branches to worshipers on Palm Sunday, which is the sixth Sunday of Lent and last Sunday before Easter. On Palm Sunday, people remember Christ's sacrificial death on the cross, praise him for the gift of salvation and look expectantly to his second coming.

Customary Palm Sunday observances include the waving of palm branches in processional, the blessing of palms and the making of small crosses with palm fronds.

Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week, a solemn week focusing on the final days of Jesus' Christ's life. Holy Week culminates on Easter Sunday, the most important holiday in Christianity.