This week is Palm Sunday, and we will look Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We'll also look at what might have happened that week to cause the crowds to change their chant from Hosanna to Crucify Him. And what it means for us.
This message is based on a reading from Luke 19:28-40. To read it now, click here.
I was rereading a book from Max Lucado this past week called The Final Week of Jesus. I love the way Max Lucado writes. In the introduction, He says,
_It’s early in the final week. The props and players for Friday’s drama are in position. Six-inch spikes are in the bin. A crossbeam leans against a shed wall. Thorn limbs are wrapped around a trellis awaiting the weaving of a soldier’s fingers.
Today is Palm Sunday, the day of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The beginning of that final week. Jesus is heralded as a King, fully supported by the crowds that have gathered to welcome him to the city. Every thing that happens on this day was prophesied in Old Testament passages.
The arrival to Jerusalem, riding a colt was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The cloaks on the road was a sign of respect that was reserved for kings. In 2 Kings 9 we see this the first time. Verses 1-3 reads, “Elisha the prophet had summoned a member of the group of prophets. ‘Get ready to go to Ramoth-gilead,’ he told him. ‘Take this vial of olive oil with you, and find Jehu son of Jehoshaphat and grandson of Nimshi. Call him into a back room away from his friends, and pour the oil over his head. Say to him, ‘this is what the Lord says: I anoint you to be the king over Israel.’”
The prophet does this, and Jehu returns to his officers and friends, who are questioning him to find out why the prophet called him aside. We’ll pick up with verse 12, “Jehu said, ‘Here is what he told me: I anoint you king over Israel.’ They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. They blew the trumpet and shouted, ‘Jehu is king!’”
Here in our passage this morning, we have Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. And we have the people taking their cloaks and spreading them out in front of him, yelling, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Essentially, they are yelling, “Jesus is King!”
But I think that Jesus did an interesting thing when he arrived in Jerusalem. On his entry into the city, he is heralded as a king. But upon entering the city, where does he go? Does he go to a palace? Does he go somewhere symbolic of civil rule? No. He goes to the temple, a place symbolic of religious rule. Mark’s telling of this account says that Jesus entered Jerusalem and went on to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Later, when Jesus meets with Pilate, he is asked if he is a king, and Jesus replies his kingdom is not of this world.
As I looked at this passage this last week, I became very aware of some the contrasts that occur in the coming week, Jesus’ final week. I thought of this journey into Jerusalem, with the crowds around. And then I thought of another journey, ending just 10-12 miles south of Jerusalem. About 33 years prior to this, a couple named Joseph and Mary, arrived into the town of Bethlehem, also riding on a donkey. At that time, Bethlehem was a very crowded city, with many visitors in town for the census. Joseph walked beside a donkey carrying Mary, who was very pregnant. The baby soon to be delivered, of course, was Jesus, the one making this journey. Only on that journey, nobody noticed their arrival.
Now, some 33 years later, we have Jesus, arriving in Jerusalem riding a donkey, once again entering into a very crowded city, not because of a census this time, but because it’s Passover week. A time for Jews throughout the land to make a pilgrimage to the temple and to make an annual sacrifice. This time, riding into the city, everybody notices. People are lining the streets, laying their cloaks on the road, waving Palm branches, Praising God. Shouting Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.
Matthew’s account says that the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” In Luke’s account, we see some of the Pharisees in the crowd telling Jesus to rebuke his disciples, not the twelve mind you, but the thousands lining the streets. They were making such a commotion, that the Pharisees wanted to try to stop it.
I wonder why? Were they afraid of the authority that Jesus showed? Were they afraid of the people, the crowds, Jesus certainly drew big crowds? Were they trying to protect Jesus? If so, from who? From the high priest? From the Romans? Shouting out that Jesus was king would have certainly drawn some unwanted attention from the Romans.
Another contrast I noticed was the crowds on this day, shouting Hosannas, and the crowds at the end of the week yelling crucify him, crucify him. I wondered what happened during the week that caused such a drastic change in heart. I wonder if some of those on the street today, on Sunday, were in that crowd the following Friday morning.
Jesus certainly didn’t make many friends this last week in Jerusalem. On Monday, his first full day in the city, he will go into the temple. This was Passover time, one of the times that the Jews would offer sacrifices. The priests had quite a game going. Sacrifices were supposed to be free of any blemish. The priests had to inspect the animals prior to sacrifice, to make sure they were free from blemish. And if they found any imperfections, they would refuse to sacrifice the animal.
What would these poor people do? Fortunately, the priest just happened to have one that they could buy, one that would be more fitting for the sacrifice. What would happen to the old animals, the ones with the blemishes? I presume the priests could take them off the person’s hands, probably to resell to the next poor soul that came in to offer a sacrifice.
This was a practice that was very lucrative for the priests, but certainly not very fair for those who came to make sacrifice. And it was a practice that Jesus opposed, turning the tables of the money changers, freeing some the animals, shouting out against those who were cheating the ones who tried so hard to follow the religious law.
The next day was Tuesday, Jesus is back in the temple, this time quietly teaching most of the day, until fairly late in the afternoon, when he delivers his “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees” address. He certainly didn’t make many friends from this, either. He spoke out loudly and deliberately against the religious leaders of the day.
According to Matthew and Mark’s account, he then went to the home of Simon the Leper, where he dined with Simon, and Mary, and most likely Lazarus and Martha were there, along with the disciples. It’s after they eat, while they are still reclining at the table, when Jesus is anointed with the very expensive jar of perfume. The disciples were offended by this, Judas in particular, he saw it as a terrible waste. So much so that it was later this very night when Judas strikes the deal with the chief priests to betray Jesus.
Wednesday was apparently a quiet day; we don’t hear anything from scriptures. Thursday was the day they celebrated the Passover in the upper room, what we remember today as Maundy Thursday. Late Thursday evening, they leave the upper room and go to the Mount of Olives where they spend time in prayer, then Jesus is arrested.
It was a fairly busy week. But I certainly don’t see any reason the crowds might rebel against Jesus, though the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees would have been pretty upset with Him.
So what happened to change the crowds, shouting hosanna one week, and crucify him the next. I suppose there might be several possible answers to that question. But the one that I am going to give you this morning is one that may be hardest of all to accept. I think that the biggest reason why the crowds changed their chant was because of something that happened long ago. Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
Mankind, who was created in God’s image, who was created pure and free from sin, became a slave to sin. And because of this, they needed a savior. The animal sacrifices could only go so far to cover that sin. The people needed more. They needed a sacrifice that would do more than just cover that sin. They needed a sacrifice that would free them from their bondage to sin. We needed a sacrifice that would free us from our sin.
Because, honestly, most of us don’t do much better at pleasing God than Adam and Eve did when they ate that fruit. There are some aspects in our lives, in every one of us, that God doesn’t approve of. Just as Adam and Eve sinned then, we sin today. Just as Adam and Eve needed a sacrifice, we need a sacrifice today. Jesus was that sacrifice.
They shouted crucify him on Friday because they had to, they didn’t have a choice, they were all players in what Max Lucado called the divine plan. And I think that’s why they welcomed him with palm branches on Sunday, too. I doubt they understood exactly why, but they gave him a royal greeting. A greeting fit for a king. They shouted hosannas. They laid their cloaks on the ground before Him. They shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the lord.”
And when the Pharisees tried to get them to stop, Jesus replied, even the stones would cry out. If the people failed to cry out, all of nature would have cried out. Even the stones would have cried out. He couldn’t quiet this crowd. They were going to shout their praises. How about you today, are you shouting your praises? Hosanna! Praise the king who came in the name of the Lord? He is our savior.