Palms: Counterfeit lambs

by | Mar 24, 2024

Each year on the Sunday before Easter, we celebrate and remember Jesus entering Jerusalem with palm branches. This tradition got its start sometime around the 4th century of the common era when the Roman Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the empire.

Perhaps this ritual reminds us of how the priorities of empire and Christianity are conveniently woven together. Which is odd. The story of how Jesus entered Jerusalem seems more anti-empire.

Fast forward a couple thousand years and we find many Christians continue to promote political positions as God’s will for humanity. This includes God choosing candidates for president, according to more than a handful of persons.

In a New York Magazine article published last year, Ed Kilgore shares concern over a “Christian nationalist movement in which (Donald) Trump can only be described as an irreplaceable figure whose political success is crucial to God’s plan for redeeming a sinful world.”

According to Pew Research, most white evangelicals support Donald Trump because they believe he fights for them. For example, he appointed Supreme Court justices who subsequently reversed Roe v Wade and he moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

But even this group of voters question whether their candidate’s behavior reflects characteristics Jesus tells us we should have. They’re willing to support a counterfeit version of right in exchange for power over individual freedom.

In this week’s chapters from our companion book for this series, Pastor Jeremy Duncan equates the quest for power with the dragon found in Revelation because it “looks like a lamb but sounds like a dragon.” His argument is compelling. “This beast represents any religion that cosigns the objectives of politics. It may dress in the guise of peace and take on the language of worship, but the object of its fervor is power.”

The dragon is a counterfeit lamb.

Ironically, but perhaps consistent with human nature, counterfeit is often our first choice. Perhaps authentic may simply come with too high of a price for most of us.

Apparently, Jesus knew what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, He confronted His executioners with a life-sized mirror.

The people expected a warrior king ready to free Jerusalem from Roman occupation and liberate them from oppression. They weren’t so much interested in the morality of Jesus as they were in His willingness to use His power on their behalf. Sound familiar?

A Jewish priest, Judas Maccabaeus, led a successful revolt to regain Jerusalem from the Seleucid Empire in 164 BCE. According to the apocryphal book of Maccabees, the people waived palm branches in praise of Judas Maccabaeus as he entered Jerusalem. He was their hero. And they hoped it was time for history to repeat.

But God was interested in reversing and not repeating humanity’s history of violence. Incarnating God’s love on earth as it is in he aven, Jesus is the authentic Lamb.

You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation, and race.
Revelation 5:9

In chapter 5 of Revelation, John sees the royal throne room. God’s Word is written on a scroll that cannot be opened unless there is One considered worthy. But who is worthy of opening the scroll?

Certainly not the counterfeit lamb. Only the slaughtered Lamb is worthy. The One welcomed with shouts of Hosanna and waving of palm branches only to be executed by religious leaders aligned with and receiving power from the empire.

The crowd welcomed Jesus as a hero and then condemned Him as a criminal when He didn’t deliver on their hope for a counterfeit lamb.

One lesson from Psalm Sunday is how a person conducts themselves matters a great deal. Counterfeit is never a substitute for the real thing.

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Pastor Tommy


Parts of our series was inspired by Jeremy Duncan. Upside-Down Apocalypse:grounding revelation in the gospel of peace. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2022.

Ed Kilgore. “Do Evangelicals Think Trump Is Jesus?.” © New York Magazine, May 8, 2023. Retrieved from: link

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