Summary: Many of the people who shouted "Hallelujah!" as Jesus came into Jerusalem shouted "Crucify Him!" just a few days later.
“Don’t Let Blessings Turn To Curses”
Ralph Edwin Hill, Greenwood United Methodist Church
18 February 2001
As they drew near to Jerusalem, the disciples knew that something was up. After securing a donkey in a most unusual manner, they led Jesus and the donkey down the hill toward Jerusalem. Luke records that those who had seen Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching broke out in spontaneous praise. In the midst of their spontaneous shouting and singing could be heard the chorus “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven!” (soloist sings this for us)
And so began that last week of Jesus’ life among the people. We know from historical research that many people had confused and mistaken perceptions of Jesus’ mission as he entered Jerusalem. Living under Roman oppression, they were hoping their Messiah, their deliver, would rally support to evict the Romans and establish a holy Jewish government. Jesus wanted to give them eternal peace and joyful lifestyles, but they would not look beyond their desire for comfort and security here and now. When He did not fit the mold of their preconceived notions, the tone of their shouting changed dramatically.
The people were overtly jubilant as Jesus entered Jerusalem, but those vocal shouts of “Hallelujah!” and actions of waving the palms soon turned into shouts of “Crucify Him!” and actions of jabbing their fingers at Him. The very next verse shows the seeds of discontent being planted. Even as the people rejoiced and blessed Jesus, the religious leaders chastised them for their verbosity. Fearing they might lose control, the leaders told Jesus to order the people to stop their praise, to which he replied, (verse 40) “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Jesus and his followers were not the first to be ridiculed for their jubilation before God. When King David was leading the people into Jerusalem, there was great spiritual excitement that the ark of the Covenant was coming back to Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 6, beginning with verse 15, we read: “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.” Then it continues, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” How sad, that at a time of greatest joy, she chose to despise someone who was experiencing and expressing that holy joy. Her notion of the dignity of kingship absolutely did not allow the expression of holy joy that was coming from King David. (Scene from “God Is Good” of bass guitarist dancing before the Lord. Scene from “Shout to the Lord” of the worship leader dancing before the Lord.)
It was a time that should have been for blessing, but she chose to turn it into cursing. Hundreds of years later, as God incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth entered that same city, that same self-righteous attitude showed its ugly face again. Those who were found (not lost) in the joy of the moment came under judgment from those who had blocked themselves from experiencing and expressing the awesomeness of the living God and the profound joy of a relationship with that God. Paul describes them as people who are “…holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5)
I wondered with you last Sunday what kind of impression we who know Jesus leave with those who don’t know Him as their Savior. When they see and hear us, do they think “Wow, there must be something to this Christianity thing. The joy and peace in that person was amazing. I’d like to check it out.” Or would it be a less positive impression like “Well, if that’s what it’s like to be a Christian, then count me out.”
I remember Tex Sample sharing his early memories of a righteous person being like someone who had a steel rod running from the base of their spine to the top of their neck. Instead of seeing the joy and peace that Jesus modeled in His life, Tex saw only a sour attitude and judgmental nature in the “Christians” who surrounded him during his childhood.
Of course, while a stale and stagnant worship expression dishonors God and is a poor witness to others, the other poor witness comes from persons who are very positively expressive in worship on Sunday morning, but then present a very different picture during the week – like the people who shouted “Hallelujah!” as Jesus entered Jerusalem, only to shout “Crucify Him!” just a few days later. James counsels in his letter to the first-century Christians: “With it [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sister, this ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10) Our worship and our lifestyle should be a blessing to God, an encouragement for us, and a witness for those who don’t yet know Christ personally.