(By Ruthann Dellandrea)
Swinging palm branches and shouts of praise: these marked the very first “Palm Sunday” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, like the sons of judges long ago.*
“They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel’!" (John 12:13).
But by the end of the week, their blessings had turned to cursings, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). And instead of the waving of palm branches, there was the raising of the cross.
The cross speaks of Jesus’ great sacrifice for you, but the palm tree also points to Him and your need of Him.
I’ve been told by some local Floridians that you rarely see uprooted palm trees in the aftermath of a hurricane because of their unique root system.
Palm trees are very sturdy and strong trees, and storms actually strengthen their root system. Researchers learned this when they planted palm trees inside a biodome (a domed living environment). The trees had everything they needed: air, water, healthy soil, and filtered light. They grew to a certain height, but then began to topple over.
At first, the scientists were baffled but they soon discovered that it happened because the natural element of wind was missing. The trees needed the wind to blow against them to cause their root systems to grow deeper and stronger so they’d have long-term support.
In storms, you need to be anchored to Him with a solid root system that is deep in Him providing strength and long-term support. Life can be hard, but He wants you looking to Him for encouragement, guidance, and strength.
Modeling your life after His, growing deep in the word of God, spending time with Him, and serving and loving others as He does gives you strong roots (Jeremiah 17:8). When the storm hits without warning, only deep roots will keep us standing. I know this to be true.
Most trees grow a canopy of branches and leaves that spread out, but in fierce storms, this formation acts like a sail capturing the brunt force of the wind and allowing gusts to tear off branches and uproot the tree.
Palms are different: they are monocots, like orchids, that grow in one single shoot upward in a single direction, not spread out with branches — which is like us keeping our eyes only on God. And palm leaves actually fold up in storms to add to their resistance to the wind… which looks a bit like prayer!
Palms have been described as self-cleaning, knowing when to shed their leaves and get rid of dead fronds, a reminder that you need occasional pruning of what is no longer working or needed in your lives for new growth to happen.
Palm trees flourish in extremely hot climates and they bend under the pressure, but they don’t break. It’s a picture of being flexible in your storms. God wants you to learn to trust Him through all your difficulties. It also demonstrates what your frame of mind should be like in your storms. He wants you bowing in worship and honoring Him for who He is.
“The problem when facing storms, is we tend to gaze at our circumstances and glance at our God, when we should glance at our circumstances and gaze at our God” (Adrian Rogers).
Like a palm tree that bends to the point where its leaves touch the ground, storms in your lives can bring you to your knees in prayer.
In times of severe drought or dry seasons, palm trees can tap into deep sources of water within the ground. In your dry and difficult seasons, only your Living Well will sustain and strengthen you (Psalm 63:1).
The older the palm tree gets, the sweeter the fruit it produces. It's comforting to know that you have no “expiry date” when it comes to bearing fruit.
Researchers have observed that palm trees that grew together with other palm trees survived storms with less damage than those that were solitary. How beautiful that God created you for community, and, as challenging as that can be at times, everyone thrives and flourishes better together! This is God’s desire.
The palm tree symbolizes fruitfulness, uprightness, steadfastness, health, and longevity. God had its image engraved on the House of the Lord in an abundance of places, symbolizing the fruitfulness, steadfastness, health, and longevity that He can provide to His people (1 Kings 6:29, Ezekiel 40-42).
If you are to flourish like the palm tree in your storms, you need to be deeply rooted in Him, having resilience, flexibility, persistence, and perseverance and being characterized by much prayer as you face the storms. The one thing about storms is that you are either in one, just coming out of one, or soon enough, you’ll be heading into one! (I’ve experienced this throughout my life.)
We may not like our storms, but it’s one of the main ways God develops our character. He is using them for our good and the benefit of others — all for His glory.
Palm branches were used to symbolize victory in the Bible. They were used when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Not fully aware of the symbolic significance of what they were doing, the people waved palm branches in advance of Jesus’ victory over death, sin, and the enemy when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.
As Palm Sunday approaches, remember that as long as you have Christ you already have the victory. Paul reaffirms this in Romans 8:37: “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
Palm trees show that strong winds can be a blessing. They spread their roots out great distances, broad and deep, creating a solid foundation in the ground. It takes time to deepen your roots in Christ, but the blessings are invaluable.
May God enable you to flourish like the palm tree, deeply rooted in Him, thriving, and remaining strong and steadfast in your desert seasons, rich in trust, love, and contentment, and bearing much fruit for His glory, even into old age.
You have an amazing God and an amazing future ahead of you!
“The righteous flourish like the date palm...Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. [Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; they will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in trust, love, and contentment]”