Palm Sunday: Not Just a Parade By Kylie Hultgren

As a child, I remember lining up in Sunday school with a green palm branch in my hand and the nervous jitters throughout my body as I thought about walking in front of the whole church congregation waving my branch. My parents were eager for a picture. I was eager for the service to end so that I could keep my souvenir palm branch as a reminder of the parade. At the time, I had no clue this was much more than a stroll through the church with a prize to keep at the end. I had no idea that waving my palm branch on Palm Sunday was an immensely significant act that I was able to participate in year after year.

As humans, we instinctively connect to symbols and actions. The physical act of waving branches and walking through the church helps welcome us into Easter week and allows us to act out a kind of symbolism. We start to taste what it must have been like for the crowd—young and old—to lay down their cloaks and branches for their humble, donkey riding Savior to walk on. Waving those palm branches was a sign of worship and sacrifice, but what kind of worship and sacrifice do we demonstrate and participate in on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday? Would it help us to wave branches and lay down our jackets to worship on Palm Sunday morning?

The answer is, not necessarily. Rather than palm branch waving, what if we did hand palm raising. Think about it—open palms are a sign of receiving and letting go. Raised palms are a sign of honor and respect, lifting someone high and putting his glory, not ours, on display.

By raising our hands and opening our palms today, we can give worship and sacrifice to the Lord similar to the way the crowds who lined the streets of ancient Jerusalem did when Jesus entered the city. We can acknowledge who the Savior is and welcome him into all of who we are. We raise our palms to declare, “He is worthy of worship,” and open our palms to say, “He is worthy of all of me.” We can proclaim his beauty and surrender our lives all in this small physical act of adoration.

This certainly doesn’t mean we have to raise our hands in worship every time we hear or sing our favorite worship song. The point is not the physical act, but the heart behind it, the symbolism. How are you demonstrating worship and sacrifice this Easter season for the One who perfectly worshiped his Father and perfectly sacrificed himself for us? Will we spend Palm Sunday thinking it is only about the branch waving, or will we see the significance behind the palm raising? One is just a parade for our children, the other a posture of our hearts.