The distribution of crosses woven from authentic and ethically sourced palm leaves is the engaging involvement and effective witness of Palm Sunday in churches around the world.
Palm crosses celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the start of the Holy Week story that leads to Gethsemane, the cross and the resurrection.
Palm Crosses: a Palm Sunday tradition
All four gospels of the New Testament have an account of the enthusiastic welcome given to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem as the humble king. The story is rich in symbolism and Old Testament references that would have had a greater impact on the people of the time than perhaps they do now.
Crosses plaited from palm fronds and traditionally distributed on Palm Sunday recall the branches of palm trees waved in celebration and laid before the donkey on which Jesus rode.
But why palms? Do palms have a special significance and do the gospels actually specify that palms are what the people waved and threw down to make a way for their king?
Different Gospel accounts of Palm Sunday
Only Matthew, Mark and John have the crowds singing ‘Hosanna’ and only John has them using palms specifically.
- Mark’s Gospel: According to Mark, the people, ‘spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches they had cut from the fields.’ (ESV: Mark 11: 8)
- Luke’s Gospel: This is Luke’s account of the triumphant yet humble event, ‘as he rode along, they [the crowd] spread their cloaks on the road.’ (ESV: Luke 19:36)
- Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.’ (ESV: Matthew 21: 8)
- John’s Gospel: Only here is a specific reference that the crowds ‘took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna!”’ (ESV John 12: 13)
Old and new significance of palm branches
Waving of palm branches was a recognized practice to indicate political triumph and victory. In the Jewish book of Maccabees: ‘they now carried boughs and green branches and palms, for him that had given them good success.’ (2 Maccabees 10:6-8)
Palm Crosses weave together the Jewish symbols of conquest and Roman symbols defeat; a blending of kingship and sacrifice, of victorious king and suffering servant. Palm crosses represent to the world that combination of Jesus life and person that a self centred world of material value cannot accept.
African Palm Crosses challenge the world
The celebration of Palm Sunday continues the symbolism of triumph in the palm and the sacrificial suffering of the cross by serving the ever present needs of the poor and deprived.
Using – and making it known that you’re using, ethically sourced palm crosses is part of the challenge of the cross to the world. Plaited from strips of locally grown palm fronds, African Palm Crosses represent your church’s support for the people of one of the poorest regions of Southern Tanzania.
African Palm Crosses are grown and woven without chemical treatment by men, women and children of the Masasi village. Turning a traditional handicraft into a self-help opportunity, African palm crosses help the villagers access otherwise unaffordable health care and educational resources.
Palms and the final Revelation
By accepting and displaying a cross made of palms Christians are challenging the accepted world order – just as Jesus did, and turning the world's values upside down.
The symbolism of assured victory returns in John’s Revelation: ‘I looked, and behold, a great multitude… clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (ESV: Revelation 7:9-10)
Quick Guide to African Palm Crosses
African Palm Crosses
What are they?
- Elegant, Palm Sunday crosses hand woven from natural, chemical free African palms.
- Grown, harvested, woven and distributed as part of the Masasi self-help programme.
- Your opportunity to support health, education and conservation in Southern Tanzania.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
Eden.co.uk source all their Palm Sunday palm crosses through the charity African Palms.
- How important to you is ethical sourcing of products and materials used in church?
- Have you got an esater story about your distribution or display of palm crosses?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips - beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
March 4th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison