By Kelly Carr
What fascinates me about this California parade is the challenging requirement: every surface on each participating float has to be covered in living plants—flowers, grasses, seeds, etc. The television coverage shows the long process of volunteers gluing individual flower buds and other material onto the giant creations. It intrigues me to see how they make huge mosaics of color with a variety of vegetation.
Today we annually recall another parade where plants were prominently featured. In fact, the plant itself gave Palm Sunday its nickname. Why was this public demonstration of branch-waving spectators so noteworthy?
At my home church, they often let the kids participate on Palm Sunday. They’d hand out branches to tiny hands, and kids got to wave them during “big church” (aka: the main worship service).
But I learned a new meaning about the branches that gave Palm Sunday a different perspective. During Jesus’ time, waving palms was a declaration of a victorious king. Waving branches at a Jewish teacher while the Israelites were being ruled by the Romans was no small action. These people were declaring their allegiance to Jesus as their true leader, which would be seen as rebellion to the Roman government. Surely the branches were not handed out to small children that day—rather, defiant adults offered the Messiah this symbol of their loyalty.
Juxtapose the branches proclaiming kingship and victory with the image of Jesus riding on a humble animal. He was not on a majestic steed but, instead, a lowly donkey—and not even a full-grown one. Where was the royal majesty?
His disciples may have wondered the same thing. Here was their chance to exalt their teacher among the crowds, but this likely wasn’t what they imagined. John 12:16 tells us that later the disciples realized they had been helping Jesus participate in fulfilling prophecy:
“See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Why was this prophecy so specific about the foal of a donkey? Why did he have to appear victorious but lowly? Perhaps it symbolized that Jesus would rule, not in tyranny, but as a servant leader, as his entire life demonstrated. And in a few days, his death would be lowly and degrading and painful, but his resurrection would be victorious for us all.
Jesus will one day appear in a different parade, and the whole world will understand his power and victory:
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. . . . His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. . . . He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16).