Summary: A sermon for Palm Sunday based on Matthew’s account. (Adapted from an outline by Ross Fransico and John Scotford)
Sermon for 3/20/2005
Applaud or Plod?
Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled “When the Cheering Stopped.” It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WW1. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.
On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their French war heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy.
The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. IT turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the US Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as a great hero, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man. It is a sad story, but one that is not unfamiliar.
A. How I got the idea for this sermon? I got it from Arlee Stanley, from the desk that he gave the church. Couldn’t close the draw. Took out the stuff behind it and there were sermon notes from a preacher named Ross Francisco. In that pile there was a sermon on Palm Sunday, April 10, 1960. It mentions that in his notes he took many of his thoughts from a preacher named John Scotford.
B. Jesus went through something very similar to Woodrow Wilson. Jesus was going to the Passover in Jerusalem and this is the scene we see in Matthew 21:1-11. Read this section.
C. This is what we celebrate on Palm Sunday.
D. One of the things of greatest interest of that day is: Who were the people present on that day? Where were they going? Where had they been? What were their hopes and fears?
E. They were not all alike, and were not in the city of Jerusalem for the same purpose. We can divide them into two groups: The applauders and the plodders.
Thesis: Do we applaud or plod? Let’s discuss these two groups.
I. The Plodders
A. A small company of humble folk.
B. There clothes were well worn and dated with dirt and dust. They spoke with a Galilean accent. They approached the city of Jerusalem with timidity, fearing lest the Jerusalem folk made fun of them.
C. Only when they caught a glimpse of Jesus did their hopes sore. He was their hope and stay. It was because of him that they were here. It was something of blind loyalty instead of reasoning that had brought them here. These were his disciples. The 12 were there but also others who stuck by Jesus on and off again and some women who supported his ministry.
D. These were the remnant of those who had turned aside from following him. Many had left him because they had not understood his mission or his mind.
E. But this battered band for reasons probably they did not understand, remained faithful friends, and they could not find it within their power to leave him. He had cast a spell over their hearts, and when he started to Jerusalem, even if it meant death, they could not find it in their hearts to turn back. Their minds may have said, NO, but their feet would not turn back.
F. They just humbly kept plodding along with Jesus. Why, they were not quite certain. They were the plodders that stuck with Jesus.
G. Their hearts were filled with both fear and hope. Yes, hope mingled with fear. Maybe this was their day! Maybe this was their day of triumph! Possible moments of glory lay before them! They were not sure. Jesus had talked about death and a cross but maybe this was the time that Jesus was going to grab the reigns and take control.
II. The Applauders.
A. Most were in Jerusalem for a different reason.
B. It was the Passover, the most important religious observance of the Jews. There were 2 million people in and around Jerusalem.
C. These people had come to Jerusalem decked out in their best clothes. They had come to see and to be seen. They came with the sacrifice (food) and with a party attitude.
D. These pilgrims to Jerusalem were also looking for someone to lead them to break the power of Rome. At this time, there were religious zealots who would gladly follow someone to drive out the Gentile rulers. This is why the city of Jerusalem during the Passover had almost a whole legion of Roman soldiers to keep the peace. The Roman governor was present in Jerusalem to make sure things went smoothly and that there were not disturbances.