Summary: Everybody that first Palm Sunday misunderstood what was going on. Will we see the real Jesus or go along with the crowd & see Jesus like the latest political hero?
Palm Sunday - All the way
John 12: 12 - 19
Obviously when you made your way here today you knew that we would be thinking about Palm Sunday, so it is no surprise that our reading retells the story of that amazing day. I chose to focus though on John’s story because of the text we have today namely John 12:19 "So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
These religious leaders think that the whole world had gone after Jesus because of the size of the crowds surrounding them & waving their palms as Jesus entered the city. Yet despite all the numbers around that day no-one seems to have truly understood the enormity of what was unfolding before their eyes.
The Pharisees, who were of course alarmed because they could see the popular appeal of Jesus; so many people were all around Him it looked to them like the whole world come to acclaim Him as King, as a great political leader.
I suppose like me you have seen the images on your TV screens of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton & John McCain. The cheering crowds in these presidential primaries in the USA give us a clue as to what it must have looked like that to the Pharisees. It is no surprise at all that the religious & political leaders saw a very real threat.
But Jesus wasn’t another political all dressed up smartly in an Armani suit. Could the crowd really have misunderstood so much that they just see Jesus politically?
Well of course the answer on the whole is yes the Pharisees did see a political & religious threat, a direct challenging to their status & standing.
Of course it is fair to say that the Romans weren’t that bothered about religion. They tolerated all sorts of religious thought & expression, but when you get all political, when you become a religious zealot then you had real problems.
So at some point Pilate & the Romans must have felt that Jesus was indeed a political as well as a religious threat.
I think during what we now call Holy Week the crowd, the people must have begun to see Jesus as a political saviour too. Perhaps they saw this Jesus a lot like Obama in the USA is portraying himself as the man to rally the nation & bring about change for the better. Yes liberation from oppressive Roman occupation was the popular crowds real & present dream but it wasn’t Jesus’ – He was aiming at an altogether bigger target, the salvation of all people in every time & place.
There must have been people on that day who twigged & saw something of what was going on in regard to the Old Testament prophecy. Some held true to their faith & must have glimpsed that this Jesus might be the new David, yet the test of time shows that even their vision was too limited.
Thank heavens for the disciples then, they at least must have realized the significance of this entry into Jerusalem. Well I don’t think they did. Yes they had glimpses that Jesus was more – but it was only with hindsight that all the pieces were there. John 12:16 tells us this - At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him & that they had done these things to him." Only after the resurrection as they sat back & reflected on their life with Jesus did all the pennies drop into place.
We forget because we have followed the story so many times start to finish, back to front, that we imagine these first disciples have the same insight as we do, but clearly they didn’t fully understand . . . yet.
You see they too this Palm Sunday missed the awesome power of the events unfolding around them. They too are so caught up in palm waving to notice something far greater going on around them.
Yet I think that this is still true for so much of the Church & even more so for most of the world today. Easter just passes us by.
We get so much more excited about almost everything else really don’t we? We too have crowds that gather around at Christmas, baptisms, & other special days . . . yet Easter is almost a total non event. Yet crowds gather for short term solutions & relief at shopping centre’s & political rallies or on Spring breaks - the Lord must almost get déjà vu at our failure to understand the importance of the Easter!
The sad truth about the first amazing Palm Sunday was that the people followed Jesus in greater numbers than ever before but they were doing it for all the wrong reasons. Today they would be swelling the numbers at Tesco or the Bull Ring Shopping Centre today. Today they would be following Obama or McCain, Brown or Cameron.