One of the issues with the programmed Sunday school "quarterlies" of my childhood was that they were written as single-event lessons. If, make that a big IF, any dots were ever connected, they were drawn almost exclusively as "good character" themes, rarely as cause-and-effect in the flow of history, and never as patterns of how God works. Moving forward…
Today, the congregation was challenged to draw their own dot-connecting lines and go google the kinds of palms used on the First Palm Sunday. I discovered that this is easier said than done.
My first search was for "genus species palms jerusalem jesus triumphal entry". (It used to be that starting big would weed out many mismatches, but Google changed algorithms over the years, effectively dumbing-down searches and guiding them to those that are more popular or more politically correct. As often happens, this "simplification" has made life harder.)
All of the first four matches had "Palm Sunday" in the title. Notice that "Sunday" was not a search term!
My third match, one that you'd think would be pretty close to what I had asked for, included:
• When God Isn't Green: A World-Wide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide, by Jay Wexler (Sounds fun, doesn't it? /sarc)
• Wiggles's Easter Journey, by Jamie Lynn Walters, a 22-page paperback children's book that retails for $10.95
• This Youtube video of a "Palm Sunday Cross" which might be more accurately titled, "Chanters with Staple Guns Gone Wild." (click and it will open in a new window) By the way, "male singer synonyms" gets blocked as an "unsafe search!"
So that was a no-go. And yet, I persevere…
No surprise, the palm used the first "Palm Sunday" was the date palm, (which is also cultivated commercially in California, btw, some random trivia). I found the best search term to be "trees of the holy land." This yielded lots of matches, an overwhelming percentage of which are geared to children 🤔 hmm…
But according to the Science of Correspondences website, the date palm symbolizes knowledge of the Lord. Its singular stem (we'd probably call it the trunk, but biologically it is a stem,) rises straight heavenward and its leaves branch in all directions; there is no direction in which He cannot save.
Palms also show up in temple art.
1st Temple — And he (Solomon) also inlaid all the inner walls of the Temple—both the inner and outer sanctuaries—with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and blooming flowers. […] He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. He overlaid them with gold and spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. 1 Kings 6:29, 32
2nd Temple — It (the inner temple) was carved with cherubim and palm trees; and a palm tree was between cherub and cherub, […] From the ground to above the entrance cherubim and palm trees were carved, as well as on the wall of the nave. Ezekiel 41:18, 20Interestingly, and no doubt purposefully, the palms are found on doors and entrance halls; not at a destination but in places that lead to somewhere else.
Palm branches show up again in Revelation 7:9.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; Revelation 7:9 - NASPalm branches used during the Feast of Tabernacles typically represent Thanksgiving. I'm going to go out on this limb and posit that all the many symbols for palm branches apply here: knowledge of salvation, joy of the king, and thankfulness they made it!
And now back to my connecting-the-dots complaint of the first paragraph—
In case you grew up with disconnected Bible stories too, here are three tidbits about Palm Sunday that I've cobbled together as an adult:
• The story about raising Lazarus from the dead was not far back in the timeline. In fact, as we learn toward the end of the 11th chapter of John's Gospel, that was the miracle that triggered the forming of the plot to kill Jesus. Jesus' few remaining weeks were spent teaching parables, essentially exiled in the wilderness near Ephriam. This puts a different light on the fact that the disciples had an extremely hard time at first believing that Jesus was resurrected. They had seen someone come back from the dead fairly recently, so Jesus wasn't being "unfair" in setting high expectations for their faith.
The raising Lazarus story and Jesus' subsequent "time out" from the area around Jerusalem also helps explain the large crowds on Palm Sunday. It wasn't a handful of kids like the artwork in my Sunday school lesson. This was the first opportunity for most people in and around Jerusalem to see the man who had raised Lazarus from the dead, and they came in droves.
• When the crowds called Jesus the "Son of David," that was almost a throw-away ID in my childhood Sunday school. The teacher who did take the time to explain it said that people didn't have last names back then, so they'd refer to an ancestor to know which family was meant.
But… David had a real son, Solomon, who also rode a beast of burden on the day he became king. This is one of those patterns from the Old Testament that repeats or corresponds to something in the New Testament. I will even look it up for you:
and David addressed them. "Take your lord's servants, have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and take him down to Gihon. 1 Kings 1:33Can you say foreshadowing?
• Another pattern is found in Psalm 118. Beginning at verse 19 we are told about entering at the gates, a description of Jesus follows, and by verse 27 we read:
The Lord is God,The horns of the altar were covered with gold, a kingly metal, and would be touched by the priest with the blood of a sacrifice as a sin offering. This is yet another type and pattern that connects dots.
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
So there you go...