I’m a life-long Minnesota Twins fan and so is my husband. We aren’t avid baseball fans, but if you ask about “our team”, we’ll say “the Twins”. (Although I have to admit we follow “our team” closer when they’re winning.) When I think about why the Twins are my team, I’m brought back to 1987 when the Twins claimed the World Series Championship. It’s not so much the championship that I remember, but the hysteria surrounding the championship drive. The StarTrib introduced a promotion to give away hankies during the pennant race. Sounds kind of strange, I know. A handkerchief is something you use to blow your nose or wipe away tears, but these “homer hankies” were a symbol of victory. I remember watching our 21” RCA television and seeing the Metrodome full of hanky-waving fans cheering their team on to a rally and later the welcoming them home after a 9 to 5 victory in Detroit, where fans lined streets and overpasses waving banners and countless homer hankies.
I have a homer hanky, and my husband does, too, along with the iconic championship Wheaties box (unopened, I might add). I love our homer hankies and the Wheaties box because they remind me of the buzz, excitement, and ultimate victory of that special season.
In Jesus’ time, the palm branch held a similar role to the homer hanky. Palm branches were a symbol of victory and triumph. This is why the palm branch and palm trees are so frequently pictured in ancient Near Eastern artwork. The palm wasn’t used for its beauty. It was a symbol of victory. So when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and believers lined the streets waving palm branches, it was a celebration similar to welcoming the Twins back to Minneapolis after securing a bid to the championship playoffs. I imagine it as a spontaneous party celebrating our Lord.
Today is Palm Sunday, and many churches will include palm branches in their worship. When you see palm branches, I encourage you to think about the symbolism of victory denoted by them. Victory over death through Jesus Christ. Oh, and if any of your palm branch wavers get enthusiastically out of control, remember that this is a celebration! It might get raucous at times.
Waving the palm branch for the Jewish people on Palm Sunday was their way of demonstrating that they wanted Jesus to establish a kingdom on earth and free them from Roman rule. The Palm branch to the Jews is like the stars and stripes for us. They even included an emblem of a palm branch on their coins during the Hasmonaean and Maccabean era. The victory in the minds of the people waving the palm branches was not an eternal victory over death, but a temporal victory over the Roman suppressors.