We are currently in a series about the symbols of the Early Church and what it mean for people of faith today. We have already seen two symbols that have so much to say to us. Today we look at a very simple symbol. The symbol is a palm branch. This symbol is simple, yet it invokes many thoughts from the early believers in Jesus. These thoughts are important for our future because their direction and purpose are part of what it means to take on the path of Jesus.
The first and most obvious connection we can make is the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem and the people waved palm branches for Jesus and layer them down for his donkey to walk on. To most this entry into Jerusalem seemed random and one might assume that it is a pointless story, but it is packed with meaning.
One event that every person in Jerusalem would have remembered was the entry of the emperor of Rome riding in on his horse after taking over and being instructed to wave palm branches for him. The Palm branch would have been the symbol that Rome used to say that they had achieved peace through conquering land and bringing their law to it. Jesus, however, challenged that entire notion of peace through forceful means. By Jesus entering this way, he was saying that he was bringing real peace and the crowd was declaring it. The thing that seemed counterintuitive was that he was crucified. How was he achieving this if he was letting people putting him to death? Most people would have been thrown off by the idea of a crucified savior. For them, that was an oxymoron, and if you think about it, it would be considered lunacy if someone did it today.
Jump forward two thousand years. We can ask the question of who has had the most profound effect on history. The Emperors of Rome have come and gone. They have no religion of anyone following. Their concept of achieving peace was not game changing. Jesus, however, has a religion which around 30% of the world claims to be a part of. Even people do not believe he is a savior tend to admit that he is one of the most polarizing, game changing figures of history. We would not be where we are today, if he had not come down to us in the way he had.
For a Christian, this central person of our faith has made a declaration as to how we should live life. Our way of life is not supposed to be defined by using force or violence to achieve what we want. The world ever since our fall has tried to define history by utilizing the eye for an eye philosophy or a worse philosophy of take what you want by any means necessary. If you read the New Testament, you see a Jesus that does not want to take his power and force people to follow his way, but someone who wants to offer life and give us the keys to heaven. He wants to give purpose to people and guide them into changing the world in the same way he did. The emperors were like blips on a radar. Jesus was the earthquake that shifted everything.
In the end, there will be victory. This palm branch included an element of victory or success. When claim this symbol, we claim victory in a way that is very different than anything else. It’s a victory over death. We get to share in the resurrection of Jesus. This means that when people threaten us and say they will go to the point of putting us to death, we can be unfazed because our death is not final. We will see life again. We can live the life of Jesus without fear. We can show a love that brings life in Jesus. We can dramatically shift the direction of the world every day. The question is will we?