Summary: Jesus is the ever-present King who rode along the palm laden road to the Cross of Calvary in order to bear our shame. He came to declare he’s the way, the truth, and life, and he’s calling us to change our perception of him towards God’s eternal light.
Let’s start our time this morning with an interesting, Palm Sunday, brain tease. Listen to this account, and picture in your mind “the one” I am going to speak about. Okay, here we go…
The crowds cheered and waved their hands. Many stood upon their tip-toes hoping to catch a glimpse of their deliverer as he processed by. “He’s the one! echoed throughout the streets. Many praised his name with hands and fists held high. Was it true? Had “the one” finally come some as some truly dreamed? Many hoped; and many believed. Many perceived he was a new kind of leader who was sent to set the captives free.
Still, others scoffed and snarled; they simply refused to believe. “Look how the whole world has fallen for him!” they clamored like gongs ringing loudly in the ears. Still, what could they do, but shout even louder against “the one.” They stridently decried, “He’s nothing but a heretic. He is not ‘the one’ who will bring the light and deliver us from our prolonged fright.”
Okay, let me ask you. Who’s “this one” of whom I speak? Many of you might answer, “Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the King.” And while your answer most certainly could be right; “the one” I spoke of was not Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. Instead, the one in this story was elected two years ago, millions of whom thought would lead this nation into the dawn’s morning light.
You know, perceptions and expectations are interesting things. They have a way of distorting the truth of God’s reality. There’s a famous saying about perception, it goes like this: “Your perception is your reality, until someone changes your perception.” Dovetailing on this, author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dye has often said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
This morning I thought it would be fitting to see how the people who gathered along the streets that first, Palm Sunday perceived Jesus in different ways. So, with that, let’s not waste any time. Let’s just dig in to God Holy Word. Please open your bibles to the Gospel according to John.
Let’s read together again John 12:12-13, and verses 17-18.
Now, some with the crowds perceived Jesus to be a new socio-political, military hero type whom they believed God ordained to lead a coup against the ruling establishment. They shouted “Hosanna,” all the while showing their adulation by waving palm branches before Jesus as he rode on by. They raised their voices and proclaimed the words of the Psalmist, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”
Historians tell us the palm branch served as a national symbol in Judea, and used to welcome Judaism’s heroes returning from battle. Interestingly enough, things really aren’t too different today in our nation. When our heroes return from war, we like to show them our respect by waving hand-held American flags. We throw confetti, and shout and cheer praises of admiration — just as the crowds did then in their own kind of way.
Still, Jesus hadn’t led a military campaign against Rome. Instead, he performed miracles and signs for many to see. He loved, shared the truth of God’s kingdom, and made available God’s grace and favor for everyone to receive. He embodied a tender side of compassion and mercy that was attractive to almost all. He said “follow me,” and in essence, I will bring hope and change for all.
It’s interesting how the people perceived Jesus, wasn’t it? They saw him as a new, Charismatic king who would save and lead the masses from their despair. They saw in him as the hope for a better world, and the one who could truly save them from their despair. Still, they knew he hadn’t served in the military, nor was he in league with the ruling class. Nevertheless, the crowds perceived he was something beyond special, a something that had never been seen, heard, or felt.
You know, ironically, a similar type of thing has happened in our day and age. Our president was heralded as a new type of leader who many believed had come to save the day. In a very, distorted kind of way, thousands greeted him with reverence during his inaugural parade. Thousands-upon-thousands cheered and waved, practically uttering words like, “this one is going to save.”
Still, no one other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can cannot save humanity from sin’s prolonged night. And, unlike Christ Jesus, our nation’s leader can’t perform miracles, sings or wonders, or even for that fact bring anything new. My point here is to show that many today like to perceive a reality that certainly isn’t true.