Summary: Disappointed with Jesus- Who was Jesus for... (Material adapted from Mickey Anders at: http://www.lectionary.org/Sermons/NT/01-Matt/Matt-21.01-11-WhoIsThis-Anders.htm)
Ever played the game where go up behind someone and cover their eyes with our hands and ask, “Quess who I am?”
Read Matthew 21:7-10
When Jesus came that Palm Sunday, he seems to be playing a game, "Guess who I am." Vs. 10- Who is this?
I believe this question helps us understand the fickle reactions of the people present at that first Palm Sunday. The most obvious question from Palm Sunday is, "How could the same people who yelled, 'Hosanna!' on Sunday turn around and yell 'Crucify Him!' on Friday?" The cheers turned into jeers in an alarmingly short time.
How do we solve this mystery? I think we solve it by looking at how the people responded that that question, "Who is this?" Everybody was looking for something different in Jesus, and most were disappointed in who he really was.
Thesis: Who was Jesus for...
Who was Jesus for the crowds?
They wanted a Miracle Jesus. They probably loved the fact that he taught in parables that were easier to understand than the obscure reasoning they heard from the Pharisees. They were attracted to him because he was a vigorous, dynamic leader. They liked it when he put the Pharisees in their place. But of all the qualities of Jesus that the crowds loved, they loved him best as a miracle man. The crowds thronged around him when they saw him healing the lame, the blind and the sick. And they clamored for more.
“Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.” Luke 11:16, NIV. And they must have been especially disappointed on the seven occasions in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus performed a miracle, then told them to tell no one about it. The crowds wanted a Miracle Jesus, but he disappointed them.
Who was Jesus for the Pharisees?
They wanted a Ritual Jesus. They thought the most important matter of religion was to be found, not in how they believed or prayed, but in how they dressed and washed and ate. Their greatest fear was that their whole culture would be absorbed into the culture of the Hellenistic world. So they emphasized the thousand little details that kept them distinctly Jewish. These every day rituals were the way they could keep themselves pure and unique. But Jesus came preaching that the real way to God was through having faith in God and maintaining a high ethical standard. In fact, Jesus often broke the rules that the Pharisees had set up. He broke their laws for the Sabbath, ate with the unclean, and defied their laws of purification. The Pharisees wanted a Ritual Jesus, but he disappointed them.
Who was Jesus for the Zealots?
They wanted a Military Jesus. The Zealots were the radical nationalists who were ready to use force, even terrorism, to overthrow the oppressive hand of the Roman government. One of Jesus disciples was called Simon the Zealot. The Jewish patriots were always on the edge of rebellion. These followers expected Jesus to take up a sword and call his followers to arms at any moment. They clearly wanted Jesus to be the leader of their resistance movement. When Jesus came to Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple by force, they must have whispered to one another to gather the troops.
In Luke's description of this time, he observes, “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” Luke 19:11, NIV. But Jesus said to "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s." He said, ““All who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52, NIV. The Zealots wanted a Military Jesus, but He disappointed them.
Who was Jesus for the Disciples?
They wanted a Victorious Jesus. They began following Jesus when the crowds were thronging around him. Their heads were full of self-seeking dreams. They wondered aloud which of them would be allowed to sit at his right hand when he came into his kingdom. They were thinking of the prizes, not the costs. It must have been a heady time to be one of the chosen twelve. These men were the true believers. Simon Peter spoke for them all when he boldly proclaimed at Caesarea Philippi, "Thou are the Christ!" They expected Jesus to be accepted quickly by every Jewish person. He would be greater than David. But Jesus kept up his negative talk about his death. He kept hinting that persecution would be their lot, not glory. Jesus vision was of a Suffering Servant. And he made clear that following him meant taking up a cross. The Disciples wanted a victorious Messiah, but Jesus disappointed them.