Summary: The adoration of the Palm Sunday crowd turned out to be an illusion. How about us?
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
April 5th, 2009
(Read Mark 11: 1-10)
Whenever we approach the matter of preaching about Palm Sunday, there is a certain sadness involved. This is because we have already read and heard how the story ends. You and I know that the cheering crowds of Sunday turned into the jeering crowds of Friday who cried “Crucify Him!” We know that the same people who gushed out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” as the week began, cried “Away with Him!” as the same week grew old and weary.
It would have been easy for the disciples to imagine that Jesus, riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, was indeed about to become the new Earthly king of a reborn Judah. Surely the same mighty power that the Lord had used to calm a raging sea and to raise dead people to life, would now kick the Romans out of the holy city. Surely the Master would put the Sanhedrin into a tail spin as well, greatly diminishing their power to boss ordinary people around. The 12 were feeling very good on Palm Sunday, as it seemed that the whole city was honoring Jesus’ right to the throne of David.
When Monday morning came, the first thing Jesus did was to clear the Temple of all the moneychangers and merchants. He literally drove them out by force. This did not win friends in high places. In the meantime Jesus cursed a fig tree and it died. Then our Lord did a series of teachings which cast the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Scribes as fools, political animals, and hypocrites. It got to the point that no one dared to ask him any questions, but he still poured out condemning words concerning the teachers of God’s Law.
Surely the disciples’ hearts were sinking as their master systematically alienated the entire power block of Jewish society. After giving frightening teachings about the end of the age, Jesus next ate in the home of a leper of all things, and then allowed an unknown woman to anoint him with very expensive perfume. This was offensive to many who were watching. They must have thought that he was out of his mind when he announced that she had been anointing him for his burial. Then he announced that she and her deed would always be remembered. It was at this point, that Judas chose to betray Jesus.
Then, on Thursday evening, Jesus even made the disciples upset as he ate the Passover meal with them. He explained that the bread and the drink foreshadowed the sacrifice of his own body and blood. Then He turned to Peter and bluntly announced that the talkative disciple would, three times, deny even knowing Him.
After His arrest, Jesus, while referring to himself as the Son of Man, which the Jews knew was a reference to himself being the Messiah, told the High Priest that He would be seated at the Father’s right hand, and would come back to Earth riding the clouds of Heaven, which the Sanhedrin knew to mean the glory cloud of God; the same cloud column that long ago had led Israel through the wilderness.
Just as soon as the very angry and jealous Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death for saying this, during their illegal nighttime trial, Peter was asked about Jesus and began his denials.
Very early the next morning, these leaders of the Jews took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor to try to obtain a death warrant. It was there that the crowd viciously turned against the Lord, and asked for his crucifixion, while also asking for the murderer Barabbas to go free.
Pilate first tried to squirm out of responsibility by getting the local king Herod to handle the matter. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, who then, very famously washed his hands, declared his own innocence in this matter, and then turned Jesus over to be crucified, though he knew Jesus did not deserve this.
Events after this point in the timeline of the Savior, will be dealt with on Friday night. It is now time for us to consider the Illusion of Palm Sunday.
Why did the crowd turn against Jesus? Why did they proclaim Him to be the Messiah (Son of David) on Sunday, and worthy of death on Friday?
Was it not because He did not meet their expectations? He did not do things the way they wished. He was not what they desired the Messiah to be.
• He turned out to be much more concerned with the heart condition and inner motives of the leaders of the Jews, than he was with removing the Roman oppressor.
• He proved to be more concerned that the people repent of sin and live upright lives than he was with restoring the kingdom to Israel.