Palms Up or Palms Down?
By Ed Delph
March 27, 2023
You may remember the story of Palm Sunday. At the height of His ministry, Jesus came into Jerusalem days before He would go to the cross. He rides into the city on the colt of a donkey as a Servant King, contrary to the day's culture. Multitudes of people spread out their clothes and tree branches on the road for Jesus as He enters the city.
You might be asking, “What is all the hubbub about? Why the celebration? Why the palm tree branches and the gold carpet treatment?” Well, people knew Scripture was being fulfilled right before their eyes.
How did they know? It had been written in the scriptures years before in Zechariah 9:9. "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." This event was foretold hundreds of years before it happened, but this day the foretold has become 'forth-told.' A prophecy is being fulfilled right before their eyes. The next has become the now, and these people are watching it happen.
People are shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The Psalmist foresaw this day coming hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 118: "This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it." The atmosphere is electric. "This is the day" — an awakening, a quickening, an epiphany, a revival, a stirring that ripples through everyone's space in the city.
The crowd's shout of "Hosanna" was very significant. Today, many think the word Hosanna means praise. But the original Aramaic (or Hebrew) meaning meant something so much more than praise. The real meaning of Hosanna is a desperate cry from the people for help, deliverance, or salvation. It meant, "I beseech thee, save me now, or I perish."
The Scripture says, "And when He entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred saying, "Who is this?" Two types of people observed Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. One group was the people who celebrated Jesus, and the other was the religious, academic, and political elite disrespecting Jesus. One group was palms-up, and the other was palms-down.
The palms-up crowd or people supporting Jesus asked, “Who is…this?” with expectancy, joy, and the revelation of Scripture fulfilled. The palms-down group trivialized the event, asking, "Who…is this?” In other words, who is messing up what we have raised up? God sent Jesus to mess things up in a positive, uplifting, elevating, ascending, resurrecting, eternal-life-giving way. You see, Jesus was raised up, to mess things up, for the better.
Where did Jesus go when He dismounted the colt? He went right to the temple, the church at that time. What did He do there? Jesus revealed four characteristics of what God's temple (or church) was created to be.
1. A Church of Purity. Jesus first cast out those robbers buying and selling, turning over the moneychangers' tables and the seats of those selling doves for sacrificial offerings at exorbitant prices. Through the years, the temple had lost its purity and turned into a robbers' den at the expense of worshipers and those needing help. This type of profiteering hurts everyone and presents a wrong picture of God. People associate God and money in a way that God hates. (Matthew 21:12)
2. A Church of Prayer. God's church was designed to be a house of prayer for all nations. Still, it had deteriorated into a place of dysfunctional robbers using clever marketing techniques and temple leaders far from God. Their religion was a religion of rules and regulations. They were more concerned with external behavior than internal redemption and transformation. Jesus wanted them to be aware of the purpose and power of prayer. Prayer is the boiler room of the church. And, prayer was for all the nations, not just one select nation. (Matthew 21:13)
3. A Church of Power. The temple had lost its power. When Jesus evicted the robbers and money changers, it created room for the blind and the lame to enter the house of the Lord. Jesus healed them. In effect, Jesus pointed everyone toward caring for people, not using or abusing people. That's what a real church does. A true church reaches the lost, disciples the found, and releases the ready into the community to be salt and light. (Matthew 21:14)
4. A Church of Praise. The temple leaders had forgotten whom the people were to praise. Temple leaders were being lifted up, not God. These leaders wanted to be praised as they had always been, but the children praised the real God. Jesus even quotes a verse written many years before to the leaders, saying that on this day, praise will be given to God out of the mouths of babes. (Matthew 21:16)
Why did Jesus come to earth? To make God known in people's hearts through church services and transformed communities. God revealed Himself to people through Christ.
People, churches, and communities: Make “This is the day" your day today. And don’t let the money changers crowd you out of coming to a church of purity, prayer, power, and praise. Raise your palms upward!
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com