I Esdras saw upon the mount Sion a great people, whom I could not number, and they all praised the Lord with songs. And in the midst of them there was a young man of a high stature, taller than all the rest, and upon every one of their heads he set crowns, and was more exalted; which I marvelled at greatly. So I asked the angel, and said, Sir, what are these? He answered and said unto me, These be they that have put off the mortal clothing, and put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God: now are they crowned, and receive palms. Then said I unto the angel, What young person is it that crowneth them, and giveth them palms in their hands? So he answered and said unto me, It is the Son of God, whom they have confessed in the world. Then began I greatly to commend them that stood so stiffly for the name of the Lord. (2nd Esdras 2:42-47)
Second Esdras is a non-canonical book (actually, a series of books), parts of which show up in the “Anabaptist Bible” from which we have been taking our passages this year. Cornelis Claez, according to “Reading the Anabaptist Bible” encouraged his wife to “take up [her] cross with patience and joy” that she might enjoy the palms of victory and a crown at the last day, as written in this passage.
I am reminded of the hymn “Palms of Victory” which picks up this same theme of the faithful sojourner who receives palms of victory at the end of the faithful journey. It appears in a couple of different versions.
Here’s one from the Wolf Folklore Collection, sung by Orville McInturff.
[Palms of Victory as sung by Orville McInturff]
I saw a blood-washed traveler,
In garments white as snow,
While traveling through the highway
Where heavenly breezes blow.
I saw him in the conflict,
When all around was strife,
And wicked men and devils
Convened to take his life.
I saw him cast in prison,
A dungeon dark as night,
And yet I heard him shouting:
“The burden is so light.”
Chorus: Then palms of victory,
Crowns of glory,
Palms of victory
I shall bear.
And this is a more “gospelly” version (listen from about 1:00 in):
Whether you like this music or not–may you be found faithful on the day of the Lord’s returning.