A lot of people came when they heard that Jesus was there. They also wanted to see Lazarus, because Jesus had raised him from the dead. The next day a large crowd was in Jerusalem for Passover When they heard that Jesus was coming for the festival, they took palm branches and went out to greet him. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. God bless the king of Israel.”
The news of Lazarus being raised from the dead was pretty incredible and people were intrigued to get a look, both at the man who once was dead, and at the man who made it happen.
Can you imagine meeting a man, who was walking around and eating with his friends, after being dead for 4 days? Even his sisters were worried he was going to stink...can you imagine the curiosities of strangers? What would he look like? What would he smell like? Would he be healthy or sick? Look like life or look like death warmed over? I'm pretty sure folks would have been lining up to see him. And there was Jesus too....he'd be pretty cool to meet...after all he could bring people back from the dead.
As folks gathered for the Passover, I’m sure this story about Lazarus was then mixed and shared with the other stories…the ones of the other miracles…miracles of food, of healing, and of forgiveness. And it seems that people started to take hold of the hope and possibility of Jesus. They wanted to believe. They wanted him to be something special and if others were behind
him, maybe they should be too.
So they ran to the streets, they picked up their palm branches, and they welcomed Jesus into the city. They celebrated him as a king. They shouted the ancient words of scripture: “Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Holy is the one who is like David, who comes from his line, so that we might be led and saved from the Romans. Hosanna! Save us Jesus!” The people were excited and they were ready.
Now, when we hear the story of the people on Palm Sunday, we often focus on them…what they did, and then how their tune changed later in the week. But today I want us to look at Jesus. What was he experiencing that day? Do you wonder if Jesus thought that maybe his story wouldn’t have to be what he believed would come to pass—that maybe the people did get it? After all they were in the streets shouting Hosanna! And blessed be the one who comes in theme of the Lord. Maybe they did see him for who he was—for what he’d come to do among them—for what God was doing. I would think with celebration and acclamation Jesus probably enjoyed the moment—hopeful and joyful for the way people were responding to God’s work among them.
But we know things didn’t stay so exuberant—not everyone was so joyful. At the end of the day, the celebration of the palms was more hype and mob mentality than it was faithfulness and trust in God.
That’s the bitter truth about people—we can be so flippant. We do what sounds good, what feels good, what’s popular. But we don’t always invest ourselves first. the crowds weren’t dedicated to Jesus. Maybe they’d heard a story or two or maybe they came to use him—to see what he could do for them—but those were just surface things. They didn’t know him. They didn’t get his work, his life, his ministry. The people did want God to do something....they wanted God to do what God had done before...to send a victor, a king, a conquerer who could take the Romans head on and kick them out of the promised land. They wanted someone to restore what was, to bring back the past.
But God doesn't go back to fix the past, God redeems it in the present and breathes new life into the future. If we want to encounter God, we have to let go of what was, maybe with celebration or maybe with lament, but release our grip on the past so that we can move freely into the future God has designed.
But the people weren't ready to let go. They knew what they wanted from the past. They knew what God had done before and so they looked for that. Maybe Jesus could be like the former prophets...maybe he would restore Israel. But Jesus wasn't there for the past, he was there for the present and the future. He was focused on redeeming the present to free people to move into the future. He was God at work among the people...just not like they anticipated, not like they remembered. And so it was a challenge to see Jesus for who he really was, for what his ministry was for. And the people didn't know him, they were committed and
so they were easily turned against him.
But Jesus didn’t turn with them. That’s the part that’s divine—even though the people were selfish, myopic, and uncommitted—Jesus wasn’t. Jesus was loyal, invested, and dedicated to the bitter end—not for his sake but for theirs. He really did want the story to be different. He wanted people to invest in God, to see God at work among them, and to have hope when the world was against them. And so he continued on…he pressed forward into the worst days of his life so he could change the worst days of our lives with hope, joy, and mercy.