Summary: Palm Sunday
Close, But No Cigar"
Rev. Bruce Goettsche . . . April 5, 1998 (Palm Sunday)
Each year as I look at the familiar stories like the Triumphal Entry, I look for something I haven’t seen before. Sometimes I gain new insight. Sometimes I affirm what I have long believed. This year I saw something that gave me a whole new perspective on Palm Sunday. I have always viewed the events of Palm Sunday as a day of triumph. This was the one time, it seemed, that Jesus received the praise and the honor that was due Him. But this year I’ve come to wonder whether I have read the situation correctly.
The reaction of Jesus when approaching Jerusalem on this day of celebration has troubled me for years. Instead of waving to the crowds and signing a few autographs, Jesus weeps over the city. He says, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes." Does this sound like someone who is caught up in the adulation of the crowd? Does this sound like someone enjoying the day . . . or someone saddened by the day? Something more is going on.
I am sure that the disciples counted this particular day as one of the high points (before the resurrection, of course) of Jesus’ ministry on earth. I suspect on Palm Sunday evening they talked with great excitement as they relived the "rush" they experienced that day. "Did you see that old man? He had tears in his eyes." Or, "Wasn’t it incredible how the children joined in?" But I wonder if Jesus sat quietly in the corner . . . maybe still with tears in His eyes. The disciples may have thought He was moved by the actions of the crowd. I think it was something else.
Jesus said that they (the inhabitants of Jerusalem) did not know what would bring them peace. Jesus is surrounded with people declaring that He is Messiah yet He says they don’t understand where their peace could be found. Does that strike you as odd?
Look at our text. There were people out on the road for a number of different reasons that day.
some praised God for the miracles they had seen (v. 37) (especially the miracle of Lazarus - John 11) It’s possible that they were hoping to see something spectacular happen. Perhaps they were praising Him for what He could do (for them?) and not for who He is.
some of the people were there trying to keep the crowd from cheering....antagonists, not supporters (v. 39)
some were there out of curiosity (John 12:18) These people wanted to see what all the excitement was about.
some cheered because they were true followers and recognized the true nature of the Messiah.
Jesus saw through the hoopla. He understood that many of these people were close to the truth but did not embrace it. In the carnival business you would say they were "close, but no cigar". It is important that we listen carefully.
THERE IS A CORRECTIVE TO HEAR
There is more to Discipleship Than Enthusiasm
The people on the road to Jerusalem that day were by all means enthusiastic. They tore down branches, they put their coats on the ground for the donkey to walk on, they cheered, shouted and jumped up and down. There was a great deal of energy expended that day but being energetic is not the same as following Jesus.
I was at a Christian concert in Burlington a while back and I admit that I was troubled. During the concert everyone was having a great time. They screamed, they danced, they hopped up and down, they put their arms around each other and swayed back and forth. But as I looked around I wondered if people were responding to the Lord . . . or the message of the words . . . or whether they were just having a good time. At one point the artist sang a quiet reflective song. Some left to go to the bathroom or get refreshments. Others continued to scream and joke with friends. It seemed like the only thing missing was reverence.
Now the reason this bothers me is that we are calling these kinds of events "outreach". We rejoice that a thousand or more people got together to hear a Christian concert. But maybe we should be weeping. . . like Jesus at the gates of Jerusalem. Getting people together is not the same thing as reaching them with the gospel. When I cry at a movie or come out of an event humming a tune . . . is that a religious experience? When I’m at a sporting event and I jump up and down and cheer . . . is this necessarily honoring to God?