It’s a day that always brings back childhood memories. Growing up in Africa, palms grew everywhere. Tall, stately palms dotted every horizon and smaller bush-type palms popped up seemingly in every yard, and on every hillside.
My parents spoke fluent Yoruba, the language of the people where we lived. So we attended a Yoruba speaking church. I never understood much of what was said in church because I was not fluent in the language. However, I understood enough to know when to clap along with the music or chime in with the Amens.
My mother taught the children in Sunday School along with the help of some of the Nigerian women. Many a Palm Sunday, I have helped my mom carry in armfuls of palm branches and played along with the other children in role play of that day. One child would be Jesus, pretending to ride in on a donkey, while the rest of us waved our palm branches. Even though I couldn’t speak the language, I understood fully what the role play was all about.
There is another place in scripture that tells of a crowd waving palm branches. This scene can be found in the book of Revelation, chapter 7, verses 9-10 where it says, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” (KJV)
This crowd is very different from the one in Jerusalem that my friends and I mimicked. They are true believers praising God for their salvation. They are a crowd too large to number from every nation, people, and tongue.
Some years ago I was privileged to hear Steve Saint speak. He is the son of Nate Saint, the missionary to Ecuador martyred along with several other missionaries in January 1956. Steve Saint said that this verse in Revelation was the verse that drove his father and the other brave missionaries to push ahead with their evangelistic efforts to the very tribe that ended up killing them. The tribe was unreached and had a language few understood. Steve said his father and the other missionaries kept saying if people of every nation and tongue will someday stand in front of God’s throne praising Him, then the people of that rare unknown tribal tongue needed to be reached with the gospel!
It's this same calling—to help reach the unreached people of the world—that my parents heard too, and the reason I grew up waving palms on Palm Sunday alongside of other happy, laughing children whose language, culture, nationality and even skin color differed from mine. As my parents reached these others with the gospel of salvation, they reached their own child with the gospel too.