The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
On Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for the last time. All four Gospels record what is known as the triumphal entry. By the end of the week the crowd had turned, and those shouting “Hosanna” would shout “crucify him.” The triumphal entry appeared to be Jesus’ finest hour and the crucifixion appeared to be his greatest defeat. Things are not always as they appear. Christians recognize that Jesus’ most important work was done on the cross, as he humbly submitted to the will of the Father.
Waving palm branches was a symbol of victory in this culture. Hosanna is Hebrew for save us or even save us now. The first century Jews were expecting a Messiah to drive out the Romans and sit on the throne of David. But Jesus wasn’t restoring the nation of Israel. The Kingdom he was bringing was bigger than a political national with geographic boundary lines. Compare the triumphal entry passage above to Revelation 7:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” -Revelation 7:9-10
I noticed the palm branches today for the first time. The triumphal entry was apparent victory, the victory over death, hell and the grave was for real. The nation of Israel was physical and temporal. The Kingdom of God is one not made with human hands, and of his coming kingdom there will be no end.