Summary: That first day of Jesus’ last week was a day of mixed emotions. There were cheers and jeers and tears. We won’t understand what happened unless we see all three.
Day by Day with Jesus Series
Cheers, Jeers, and Tears
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Everybody loves a parade. Most parades are celebrations. Big celebrations call for big parades. Some of you will remember the big parade welcoming the troops home from WWII. I remember the big parade down Michigan Avenue in Chicago when the Bears won the Super Bowl, the Bulls won the NBA championship, and last year when the White Sox won the World Series. I am looking forward to the really big one when the Cubs win it all. That’s a parade worth waiting for.
None of us is old enough to remember the first big modern parade. On October 29, 1927, New York City welcomed Charles Lindbergh home after his solo flight across the Atlantic. 750,000 lbs. of ticker tape covered the streets. But the Lindberg parade was dwarfed by the giant celebration on March 1, 1962. Three thousand four-hundred seventy four tons of confetti rained down on a seven mile stretch of New York City. It was all to welcome John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth.
Who of us will forget the parade down Main Street two years ago? Chilly weather couldn’t cool the enthusiasm of a small town welcoming its state championship basketball team back home. Things like that don’t happen in Vandalia very often. It deserved a parade.
I’ll never forget President Kennedy’s funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue. The horse drawn caisson followed by a rider less horse left a lasting impression. Everyone was moved by the young widow and two small children following close behind. No one called it a parade. But it was! Jesus’ last week began with a parade. We call it the Triumphal Entry. Palm Sunday marks the event. But this too was a parade of a different sort. Back to that in a moment.
For the next eight weeks, I am going to walk you through the daily journal of Jesus’ last week. The Bible recognizes the importance of these events. Matthew devotes eight of his twenty-eight chapters to the last week of Jesus’ thirty-three year life. Mark, six of sixteen chapters; Luke, six of twenty-four. John uses almost half of his gospel to tell the story of Passion Week.
As we trace the events of Jesus’ last week, I hope you become more and more convinced that these events matter to you. They changed history. They can also change your life. These events are about more than what happened then. They are also about you and me. Peter sums it up when he writes, “For Christ died for sins once and for, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Pt 3:18). YOU! This is Jesus’ story. But it is also yours!
On the surface, it certainly looked like a welcoming party for a victorious hero. But not everyone was happy. That first day of Jesus’ last week was a day of mixed emotions. There were cheers and jeers and tears. We won’t understand what happened unless we see all three.
[Two minute clip from the Jesus Movie, Scenes 42-43]
First, the Cheers. Jerusalem was already crowded for the Passover Feast. A hundred thousand people or better were in the city. That was six times the normal population. Passover was the biggest event of the Jewish faith. It marked the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt and their march to the Promised Land. But this Passover was different. Jesus was in town. For three years, Jesus had traveled across Israel teaching and performing amazing miracles. He had been in Jerusalem before. This time it was different. He knew it. He had been telling his disciples that something big was about to happen. The word had spread. Expectations were at a fever pitch.
Jesus has two of his men borrow an unbroken young donkey for him to ride into the city. That in itself was strange enough. The procession began as Jesus and his group crested a hill called the Mount of Olives just east of the city. The hilltop stood two hundred feet above the temple compound of the capital city. A road snaked its way down the hill through the olive groves and headed directly into the Eastern Gate of the City.
Crowds gathered along the route. They began to lay coats and palm branches across the path, rolling out their version of the proverbial red carpet. Cheers rang out. “Hosanna,” they cried. The words meant “Jehovah Saves.” That cry and the song that could be heard “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” came from Psalm 118. Others shouted out “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” How fitting that words almost identical to the angel’s song at Jesus’ birth should also herald the beginning of his last week.