Summary: When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He received a hero’s welcome. People everywhere were cheering. But then something happened. The cheering stopped.
Gene A. Smith, an American historian, authored a book entitled, “When The Cheering Stopped.” The book told of Woodrow Wilson, and the events surrounding WW1. Upon the end of the war, people were optimistic. They believed that the last war had been fought. The dream was that the world had at last been made safe, and the way had been paved for democracy and freedom everywhere.
When Woodrow Wilson paid his first visit to Europe, he was greeted by large crowds, and he was cheered every place he went. In many people’s eyes he was more popular than the greatest war heroes throughout the land. He was viewed as an icon of hope.
In all, the cheering lasted for about a year. Then it began to stop. The political leaders throughout Europe were interested more in their own agendas than a lasting peace, and the people slowly lost hope. On the home front, Wilson met opposition in the Senate, and his league of nations was never ratified. Under tremendous stress, his health began to fail. In the next election, his party lost. Woodrow Wilson, who almost two years earlier was heralded as a hero, came to his last days as a broken and defeated man.
History is filled with examples of people who started out humbly, rose to great popularity, and came to the end of their life in utter humiliation.
In our text today, we see such an example. Jesus, the son of a carpenter, educated in Nazareth, one who gained favor with men, one who was cheered and praised, would soon be mocked, scorned, and cast aside by the same ones who did the cheering.
On that Palm Sunday as Jesus approached Jerusalem, there were several things that He was aware of. He knew the conditions surrounding the people, and He knew the condition of the people’s heart.
The Jews found themselves under heavy Roman oppression. There were heavy taxes, restrictions, numerous executions by means of crucifixion, and Jesus knew all about those things. But He knew their heart.
The Jews were in search of someone. They desired a king, a conqueror, someone to set them free. They had seen the mighty works of this man Jesus. They were witness to Him restoring sight to the blind. They saw the evidence of Him healing the lame. They saw Him feed the multitude with a little boy’s lunch, and had leftovers to spare. They heard about Him raising Lazarus from the dead. They listened to Him teach with authority. Surely, with power and authority like that, Jesus was without a doubt the one who would set them free. So, Jesus came to Jerusalem, and the crowds began to cheer.
The timing was right. It was approaching the Passover feast. That was symbolic of the event where the death angel passed over Egypt, and Pharaoh let God’s children go. And now, just maybe now, Jesus would somehow lead them from the restraints and cruel treatment they received from the Roman government.
Jesus knew their heart. He knew their desires.
The Roman soldiers knew something as well. These soldiers knew that it was Passover. They realized that it was traditionally a time that brought about skirmishes and violent reactions. They had not forgotten that several years earlier, Theodus of Jordan had ridden into Jerusalem with a similar greeting. They remembered how he promised to do the miracles of Elijah, and how he led a fairly large revolt. The soldiers remembered how that Theodus, along with over 400 of his followers was slain, and the head of Theodus was hung on the garrison wall. They knew Passover could bring trouble, and so they were ready.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the crowds waved palm branches, a long-standing symbol of Jewish nationalism. They shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Cheering, praising, exalting…but then something happened. The cheering stopped.
Jesus didn’t gather any troops. He didn’t lead a revolt. He didn’t do what they expected. Instead, He drove the moneychangers out of the temple. He paid tribute to Caesar. He taught that giving out of poverty is worth more than giving out of abundance. He taught that in order to be great, you must be a servant. Jesus did everything the people didn’t want, and so the cheering stopped.
It’s amazing that when things go our way, when God does what we want, when Jesus rises to our cause; it’s easy to cheer. But what about when He doesn’t do these things? What happens when you face oppression? What happens when you experience troubles? Too often, the cheering comes to a stop. Words of adoration and praise quickly fade when you face life as it really is.
Sometimes God does give us what we want, but you better believe; He always gives us what we need. It’s just that sometimes we experience a little problem. Often our wants and desires blur our vision to our real needs. The same thing happened to the crowds that lined the Streets to cheer Jesus. There were some things that they didn’t see, but Jesus did. Look again at verses 41-44.