Summary: A look at the various people in the crowd on Palm Sunday
(I began this message with the triumphal entry scene from Jesus Christ SuperStar 2000)
I don’t know how you feel about the Musical Jesus Christ Super Star, but for me that is probably the scene that best depicts what happened on that Palm Sunday so many years ago. The crowd pushing in trying to get a glimpse of the one who is rumoured to be the Messiah, the one who would deliver Israel from her bondage and into freedom. And caught up in the excitement they begin to praise God because of who they see and what they imagine that he will be able to do for them and for their country. Now granted, the scene probably would have been a little different then the way it was portrayed in the 2000 version of SuperStar but the emotions would have been very similar. From the excitement of the crowd to the animosity of the religious leaders and the torment of Judas.
A few things that we need to note as we look at what happened that day as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
1) This was planned. Remember in the first part of the scripture that Karen read? Luke 19: 29- 31 As they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. 30 “Go into that village over there,” he told them, “and as you enter it, you will see a colt tied there that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”
Now we might be tempted to add a whole range of mystical application here, that maybe this was a miracle or a step of faith on Jesus behalf, you know, just do and it will happen. Chances are that Jesus knew the man and had arranged in advance for the donkey to be there. The words “The Lord needs it” were probably a password so the man would know that he was giving the donkey to the right people. I mean he’d feel kind of silly had the two disciples shown up and he had to tell them, I gave the donkey to two other guys who were here about an hour ago.
We know that Jesus had friends in Bethany, that’s where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived and so it’s not that far of a reach to see that Jesus had already put steps in place for his entrance to Jerusalem. Which would lead me to suspect that if it were alright for Jesus to do preparation and not always wait until the last minute and then call on God in panic that there might be a lesson there for us as well.
If we look at the other gospels we discover a few more details about the colt that they brought back for Christ to ride. In Mark we are told that the colt had never been ridden before, and in Matthew we are told that it was the colt of a donkey. Now that may not mean a whole lot to you and me but to the people of Jerusalem it meant a great deal, and just in case they missed it Matthew reaches back into the Old Testament and pulls out a reference from the prophet Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.
Jesus knew that the religious leaders were out to get him and yet instead of slinking into the city under the cover of darkness he rides triumphantly in a manner that is bound to reveal him as messiah. William Barclay who wrote the Daily Study Bible Commentaries made this statement “Jesus entered Jerusalem in a way that deliberately set himself in the centre of the stage and deliberately riveted every eye upon himself. All through his last days there is in his every action a kind of magnificent and sublime defiance; and here he begins the last act with a flinging down of the gauntlet, a deliberate challenge to the authorities to do their worst.”
If that is indeed what he was trying to do he certainly succeeded. But what about the people in the crowd that day? We know that less then a week later they weren’t shouting hosanna, as a matter of fact some of the very people who wanted to see him crowned on Palm Sunday wanted to see him crucified on Good Friday. So who was in the crowd that day, who was it shouting to God in praise, who was it waving palm branches and laying their coats on the ground in front of Jesus. Would it surprise you to hear they were the same people who make up the church today? Very little has changed about human nature in the past 2000 years. So who was there?