I spent this past week preparing for our Palm Sunday’s message. Much of my time was spent reading the different gospel accounts in order to get a fresh picture of what was going on that day. Each writer adds different nuances that help us to see the Passover celebration for what it truly was.
In John 12:12-18, we read, “The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first, his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him.“
A crowd had come to meet Jesus because they had seen him call Lazarus out of the tomb. They kept talking about him and this miracle. But the Pharisees said to each other, “There is nothing that can be done! Everyone in the world is following Jesus.”
This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It is a day in which we reflect upon Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. To help us see what was going on, I wanted to look at the crowd that was present that particular day. As we look at the people there, we can see ourselves in how they reacted.
I think there were five distinctive groups of people present during the triumphal entry. There were those who were the committed, the confused, the pretenders, the curious and those who opposed Him.
The first group we want to look at is those who were committed. Through the eyes of Matthew. In 21:6-7, he records, “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.”
A committed follower of Christ is one who follows Jesus leadership without questioning. A committed follower recognizes Jesus as Lord. In their lives, we see an obedience to go where led. They understand Jesus mission of bringing a lost and dying world to new life in Him. Committed followers give willingly of themselves for the cause of Christ. We see in their lives a focus towards the needs of others. A committed follower acts as an extension, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
The second group we will look at is the confused. Matthew goes on in verses 10-11: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The confused don’t recognize Jesus for who He truly is. They may see Jesus as a good man, a prophet or a wise man. The confused don’t understand God’s plan for their life. They may confess that Jesus is Lord, but yet believe that their works and not God’s grace will save them. Unfortunately our churches are full of people who fit this mold. The confused often have the wrong intentions. Many of those present that day, thought that Jesus was coming to overthrow the Roman government and take political control of the country. Many people are the same today, they may see God as their sugar daddy or the golden ticket to heaven, but not as their reason for living and not as their Savior and Lord.
Another group we see in the crowd are those we might call, “pretenders.” John records in 12:37, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”
Pretenders are often around checking things out, but have no real commitment to Jesus. They want to be seen, but will not surrender control of their lives. We see this many times in those who come out of habit or routine. Some people come to church to get someone off their back or just to ease their conscience, but ultimately they are going through the motions. For them, it is about duty and image. These people are spiritually blind knowing very little about Jesus Christ or His plan for their lives. Pretenders are easily influenced by the actions of others. They will take the path of least resistance and will let the approval of others dictate their level of commitment. The church in Laodicea would be a church of pretenders, they had the name, they went through the motions, but their lives and hearts were lukewarm at best. The message to the pretenders sadly is they make God sick.
John talks about the next group in verses 17-18. “Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him.”
Many people are curious about Jesus. It was the same back then. They heard about the miracles, the feeding of the 5000, the healings and probably thought of Jesus along much the same lines as the circus or a magic show. Their minds were permeated with a wonder about what amazing thing Jesus would do next. The curious are neither committed or opposed. They may have heard some interesting things about Jesus, and just want to find out for themselves. They are seeking amazing experiences both emotional and paranormal. They are not necessarily looking for truth, just what feels right for the moment.
Finally, we find see those who opposed Jesus. Many of them were the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day. In Luke 19:37-39, we read, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
John’s description is just as graphic. In 12:42b-43, it reads: “But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
The opposition seeks to promote its own interests. Those in opposition to Jesus are consumed with seeking the attention of people. They oppose a commitment to Christ because commitment requires change. Commitment requires the focus to be on Jesus and not themselves. An opponent seeks to destroy the message of Jesus Christ. They actively seek to destroy those who would promote Jesus Christ in their lives.
The question now becomes very simple: “Which one are you?”
Jesus had compassion for the people. Luke records in 19:41-42, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
No matter which face is yours, Jesus loves you. He gave His life for you and He rose again that you might have eternal life. As Jesus went through the crowd He saw each and every face, He knew each and every story. Jesus sees your face today and He knows your story. So my question for each of us is this, “Will you allow Him to be the Lord and Savior of your life?”