Palm Sunday: The People and the Purpose of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday: The People and the Purpose of Palm Sunday

Opening Illustration:
Imagine for just one moment you were there.  Imagine that you were in Jerusalem.  You were one of an estimated crowd of 100,000 to 200,000 individuals.  You are in Jerusalem with your family to celebrate the Passover Feast.  Suddenly the crowd thickens at the entrance of Jerusalem.  Everyone begins to celebrate.  Palm branches fly overhead.  Shouts of “Hosanna in the highest” ring out from all directions.  You see clothing, coats and tunics, being flung onto the ground covering the streets.  

Could it be? Is Caesar entering Jerusalem during the high holy day of Judaism. 

Has Rome been conquered by another empire.  Is this new king coming to liberate the Jews?  

You peer through the thick crowd to see a man.  Not just any man.  You see a man wearing simple clothing.  He is riding a donkey.  He is closely followed by 12 men.  His associates.  His disciples.  

Suddenly music begins playing and the shouting turns to singing.  

Then, something happens to you.  Suddenly, almost instinctually, you join in the shouting and singing.  You hear the name “Jesus” discussed in the crowd but you have never heard of Jesus.  You know nothing about Him but they are calling this Jesus…KING.  

Jesus is a King?  

Any King must be better than Caesar.  So, why not join in with the crowd.  If Jesus is King then He must be coming to set you and your people free.  Why not shout?  Why not carry on?

Jesus was and is King.  We all know that today.  However, the people in the crowd did not realize what sort of King Jesus really was.  They were confused.  They thought that Jesus had come to loosen the bondage of oppression of the Romans.  They thought Jesus had come to make them physically free.  

Jesus’ Kingdom was not physical in nature but spiritual.  

The same people that are cheering for Jesus today are the very same ones who would cry out for his death in just a few short days.  Those that are singing His praise are the very same one who will cry out for His blood.  Those laying down palm branches and their coats will be the very same ones crying for Jesus to be whipped and stoned.  

The people didn’t get it.  They missed the point.  They were engaged in a religious celebration, conducting religious rites, praising God in a religious way, but they missed the point all together.  They all missed Jesus.  

People Are Often Faithful Then Fickle!

Background of Text:

In the year 27 A.D., about this time of year, the city of Jerusalem was bursting at the seams with religious pilgrims there for the annual Passover Festival. It has been estimated that some 2.5 million people were in or around Jerusalem.

That’s a lot of people in a very small place.  Yet, there was Jesus and His disciples, in the midst of the  people.  Remember, once Jesus enters the city, His Passion Week begins.  Jesus will cleanse the temple for a second time.  He will teach in the synagogues and He will continue to heal.  On Thursday, Jesus will be in the upper room with the Disciples.  There He will give them a parting example of service.  He will wash their feet.  

Everything Jesus is doing, including this entry into Jerusalem, is pointing Him to the cross and resurrection.  

Let’s read the text together this morning.  

Matthew 21:1-11 ESV
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Take The Palm Sunday Journey With Jesus!

I. Jesus Is Captivating vs. 10
Matthew 21:10 ESV
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”

A British TV show called "Primeval," surveyed 3,000 people asking them which dead person they would most like to meet.

The #1 pick got 33% of the vote.

So, who did one third of those polled choose?  Jesus.  

When Americans were asked by the Gallup pollsters what historical figure they would most like to spend a day with, nearly two out of three chose Jesus, including 37 percent of those who claimed no church affiliation or religious commitment. Jesus still intrigues folks.

Jesus is the most interesting, captivating person in history.  Some 2000 years after His death, people would love to talk to Him and ask Him questions.  They would love to be in His presence.  

Isn’t is strange that people who do not even confess Christ as Savior and Lord would still want to talk to Him.  They still want to meet Him.

The crowd in Jerusalem sure did show up in droves to see Jesus.  After all, why not?  Who wouldn’t want to see the man who had made the deaf to hear, the sick well, the dead alive, the blind to see, the disabled…abled.  Jesus did it all.  Jesus was even able to feed thousands with meager portions.  Jesus was both the magic pill cure all and a free meal ticket.  

Imagine the amount of sick and disabled people who were in that crowd hoping that Jesus would touch them and heal them from their diseases.  Imagine the poor starving children that found themselves in the crowd hoping that Jesus would bless them with their next meal.  Imagine the disappointed Jewish man who was sick of being subservient to Rome thinking that Jesus had finally shown up to set them free.  The crowd wanted Jesus.  They wanted Him now.  

Jesus is the singular human being in history.  

Time itself is split by His birthday.  

There has never been anyone more influential on human history than Jesus Christ.  

Every aspect of our lives have been touched by His fingertips.  



Social Policies.




Even our interpersonal relationships are governed in part by His Words.  Do we not operate under the Golden Rule that was delivered to us by Jesus.  

Matthew 7:12 ESV
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Friends, Palm Sunday proves that people are hungry for Jesus.  They want Him.  They may not know why, but no one can say that Jesus is not special.  Jesus is unique.  He is unusual.  

Even liberal leaning Huffington Post says this about Jesus.  

“He’s a man with a ton of titles — Prince of Peace, Son of God, Shepherd of Souls — but now Jesus has one more: the biggest name in human history. Ever.”

Whether people like him or detest him, they can't help calling his name. Almost every movie made in America, except the G-rated ones, profanes the holy name of Jesus. Think of pagan, secular script writer can produce a manuscript without including the name of Jesus. People either worship him or curse him, but it seems that no one can ignore him.

Is it any wonder that the book about Jesus continues to be the # 1 best-seller? Jesus had such charisma that people would sit three days straight, without food, just to hear his riveting words. Today no one will wait that long, except maybe for tickets to the Super Bowl or some rock concert.

Jesus was a fascinating, unpredictable character. He displayed a wide range of emotions: compassion for a dying leper, exuberance over his disciples' success, a warm hospitality that callously disregarded racial and cultural boundaries. But he could burn with anger toward cold-hearted legalists. Jesus had inexhaustible patience with individuals but no patience at all with institutions or injustice. No wonder he still mystifies and intrigues people across the world.

John 1:18 ESV
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

Take The Palm Sunday Journey With Jesus!

I. Jesus Is Captivating vs. 10
II. Jesus Is Confusing vs. vs. 11
Matthew 21:11 ESV
10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

For the record, this is not the first time that people misunderstood Jesus.  Not by a long shot.  Go back to Matthew 16:13-14.  

Matthew 16:13-14 ESV
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

Even today people cannot seem to quite figure Him out.  For some, it seems that we are trying to make the name of Jesus palatable, or domesticated.  We want to tame Him or make Him look like us, sound like us.  We want to turn Jesus into an American as if Jesus would affiliate Himself with anything other than His own Kingdom.  

For some of us, Jesus is a 1960’s hippy. We have made Him our homeboy. He waves the peace sign and would not hurt anything or anyone.  But, you know, Jesus was not crucified for saying, "Let the little children come unto me." No, some of his most dangerous enemies hated him because he physically assaulted the money-changers in the temple, saying, "Get out of here, you bunch of crooks."

Hollywood’s portrayal of Jesus is often very interesting and misguided.  Jesus has an English accent. Jesus has blue eyes.  For some reason Jesus, although living in the mid east and spent an incredible amount of time outside, looks like a pale weak ghost.  In reality, Jesus was utterly exuberant and frighteningly courageous. He enjoyed parties and loved to hang out with children.

Friends, the crowds were wrong and continue to be wrong about Jesus and the purpose for His arrival to planet Earth. 

Jesus did not come to make us rich, famous, politically viable, successful, happy, or healthy.  His was not a social Gospel.  His teaching was not the Prosperity Gospel.  He did not come to be the spokesperson for the Republican or Democrat Party.  He did not come to be trotted onstage or give a blessing to anyone’s agenda or company’s mission statement.  

Jesus came to establish God’s Kingdom.  He came displaying total obedience to the Father.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  He came to tell us the truth about salvation. 

John 18:37 ESV
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Question: Do You Want To Meet Jesus?

Do me a favor this morning.  Raise your hand if you would like to meet Jesus?  Imagine for a second that I could actually make that happen. That I could simple tell Jesus to come and He would come.  How many of you would welcome that and think that is cool?  

Good, most of you raised your hands.  Perhaps you raised your hand this morning because you truly would like to meet Him.  Perhaps you raised your hands because everyone else did. Maybe you raised them because you are in the church and it seemed like the right thing to do.  Some of you raised your hands and then realized that you are baptist and quickly put them down.  

I used to think that I would love to meet Jesus too.  Don’t get me wrong, I do.  Yet, I know that in meeting Jesus, Jesus already knows me.  Everything about me.  Frankly, that terrifies me.  You should be terrified as well.  

I was reading a blog the other day by David Gunderson.  Gunderson asked the same question.  “Would I Like Jesus If I Met Him?”  Listen to what he says.

Would I like Jesus if I met Him, here, today?  I don’t know.  I know that I’d love to meet my ultra-nice conception of Jesus with His perfect smile and soothing words and non-judgmental tone.  I know I’d like to be the child on His lap, the adulteress being forgiven, the Mary being affirmed for sitting at His feet.  But I wouldn’t want to be a compromised political ruler or an argumentative Jewish intellectual or an out-of-line disciple.  And I wouldn’t want to be me.

Sure, it’s not just His kindness that’s attractive.  I’d like to meet Him in His perfect righteousness, too, but I’d prefer that it be a long line of other people being compared to Him.  Otherwise it would be beyond awkward (for me).  It would be devastating.

Yes, I’m convinced that He’s a heroic radical for flipping tables in the temple, and I love His denunciations of the religious hypocrites.  But I’d be foolish to think that He wouldn’t flip over some of my tables if He showed up today.  And that would be embarrassing.  And I don’t like to be embarrassed.  Don’t you know that I’m respected, that I’m weighty and influential?  Everyone knows I’m not hypocritical.  In need of a tune-up and some tweaking, always, but never an overhaul.  Sure, dust the table, reorganize a few things, and send a tainted coin or two flying, but no need to overturn the whole set-up.  Yeah, there are obviously some tables on my right and left that need to be flipped, but this one just needs a couple adjustments.  Flip someone else’s tables, thank you.

Friends, the crowd missed it.  

Jesus came to do something different, something unexpected.  He came not to bring sanctuary to our sin but salvation to our hearts.  This is a violent act against our humanity.  Our dead souls rebel against Jesus’ life giving breath. Jesus questions the authority of our flesh and this altercation harms our view of our own sovereignty, our own thoughts and our chosen direction for life.  Jesus is a dream shatterer.  He turns our world’s upside-down.  He sets fire to the things that we deem important.  He casts out our idols and re-shifts our priorities.  Jesus sheds light on the lie that stuff, material possessions, earthy connections set us free.  Rather, they are shackles and distractions that turn our eyes away from life towards death.  

Friend, meeting Jesus is the most difficult gut wrenching thing that we can ever do.  It is horrible and beautiful at the same time.  I went back this week and reread some stories of when Jesus met new people.  Each story, Jesus table flipped their lives.  For the person meeting Jesus, it was an experience that they can never forget.  

Jesus met this crowd and He tabled flipped them in a week.  

How many of you still want to meet Him?  Braves ones like me say “yes”.  

Why?  Because Jesus loves us.  He cares for us and shows us mercy.  Praise God.  

Take The Palm Sunday Journey With Jesus!

I. Jesus Is Captivating vs. 10
II. Jesus Is Confusing vs. vs. 11
III. Jesus Is Conquering…One Heart At A Time vs. 9
Matthew 21:9 ESV
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

Let’s go back to Matthew 16 and finish reading the story.

Matthew 16:13-17 ESV
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 

Something strange happens in this moment.  Peter, through the revealing of the Holy Spirit, catches a glimpse of who Jesus is.  Peter, for the very first time in recorded human history claims that Jesus is the Son of the Living God.  One person on one journey with Jesus.  

He wins the world, one heart at a time. He will never be elected by a popular majority. No dictator will ever install him as Lord of all. Each of us in the privacy of our own hearts and souls must decide who he is.

In a sociology of religion class at the University of Virginia, the professor asked the students in the first class to tell about their religious background and commitments. One young woman named Barb said she was a Christian. The professor asked, "What tradition of the Christian faith do you identify with? The northern European or English pietism or another?" The student did not understand his question. Finally she said, "Sir, I don't know exactly what you mean; I just know I love Jesus." Right there in a classroom, Jesus was declared to be king and perhaps attracted more followers.

One of my favorite golfers is Tom Lehman. He often says, "I think of myself as a Christian who plays golf, not as a golfer who is a Christian."

What about you? Are you first a Christian and then secondarily a banker or a teacher or a salesperson or a Republican or a white person or a husband or a mother? Is the word "Christian" your most important adjective? When you declare "Jesus is Lord!", have you revealed the essential you?

In his classic novel, "The Robe," Lloyd C. Douglas has a character called Marcellus, who has become enamored of Jesus. In letters to his fiancée Diana in Rome, he tells her about Jesus' teachings, his miracles, his crucifixion, and then about his resurrection. Finally he informs her that he has decided to become a disciple of Jesus. In her letter of response, Diana says, "What I fear is that this Jesus character might affect you. The story of his life is beautiful. Let it remain so. We don't have to do anything about it, do we?"

Oh yes, we do, Diana. This Jesus is still marching down the streets of the world calling people to decision. Jesus is the unidentified king who has no crown to wear or kingdom to command...until one person at a time declares by faith, "Jesus is Lord for me. He will reign in my life."
Maybe Jesus has walked the streets of your life for a long time, seeking a heart to rule, a soul to save, a life to transform. Maybe today you will crown him King!

Mark 16:15 ESV
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Will You Crown Jesus As King Today?


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