The King has come! What is YOUR decision?
John 6 is an interesting study because it records the rise and fall of Jesus’ popularity. If you read it carefully you can see His popular acclaim rise and fall like a presidential approval rating!
The absolute height of Jesus’ popular appeal is found in John 6:14-15. Not surprisingly, it came after Jesus fed 5000 people. Give folks a filling free meal and they’re more likely to be your pal, right?
But here’s where it gets strange.
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Jesus had supernatural knowledge of what was on the minds of the people around Him. He knew that crowd of about 10,000 people were ready to drag Jesus along to Jerusalem, using FORCE to make Him their ruler.
This was not God’s plan, so Jesus disappeared and thereby thwarted this crowd that was becoming a mob. Now here’s the ironic thing: Jesus once fled from the people to avoid being made a king, but now He creates a crowd who openly acknowledge Him as king. Why this 180?
I believe this dramatic event served many purposes, one of which was to give God’s people one last chance to receive Him as their King. It was one last powerful demonstration of His true nature. It was a call to decision.
- There were divided opinions on the King.
First, there were the pilgrims who were coming into Jerusalem: they received Him. Who were these “pilgrims?” The Gospels make a clear distinction between the people who welcomed Jesus (the out-of-towners) and those who rejected Him (the residents of Jerusalem). A VERY GREAT MULTITUDE THAT HAD COME TO THE FEAST. People traveled to Jerusalem from all parts of the ancient world just to celebrate the Passover. THE MULTITUDES answer the residents of the city who asked who He was.
Why did they receive Him as King? They heard the WITNESS of the people who had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Miracles are referred to as “signs” because they are supernatural acts that verify the claims of people who say they are from God. They believed He was the Messiah, God’s Promised One, selected by God to save His people. This is indicated by the things they shouted. They believed Him to be a PROPHET, but of course, He was so much more. Even the CHILDREN among them offered praise to Jesus.
The second group takes in the religious leadership (including the Pharisees and scribes): they rejected Him. They realized their earlier attempts to entrap and discredit Jesus were too meager and ineffective. They feared the crowd coming into the city and the devotion they were expressing in this worshipful procession. They demanded Jesus stop the procession and tell the people to cease offering worship of Him. The religious leaders must have realized there was no way the Romans could not take notice of a gathering of this size and this loud. They feared reprisals from the Romans and riots by their own people. When they learned of the miracles Jesus was performing in the temple courts and heard their voices joined in worship, they BECAME INDIGNANT. (INDIGNANT means they pretended to have righteous anger but they were actually just wound up and anxious because they saw Jesus as a threat to the status quo.)
The third group we observe in this account: the people of the city of Jerusalem: they wondered about the Jesus guy and all the commotion He was causing. The residents of the CITY did not fail to notice all the commotion and asked who was riding into their city at the head of this noisy parade. They may have recognized Jesus and were asking, in effect, “Who does THIS GUY think he is?” It was a crabby kind of rhetorical question. However, as most of Jesus’ ministry was conducted in Galilee, a province several miles to the north, it is possible most people in Jerusalem would not know Jesus on sight.
The distinction between pilgrims and residents is important in the whole scheme of the Passion Week; it helps us understand how the “crowds” could welcome Jesus like this on Palm Sunday and call for His crucifixion on Good Friday. The answer is that they were two different groups of people. On Palm Sunday, the “crowds” were pilgrims; people coming to the city for Passover. It seems likely to me that some of them had come that year especially in the hopes of seeing Jesus. On Good Friday, the “crowd” was made up of residents of the city, people hand-picked and recruited by the religious leaders for their loyalty and obedience. Their job was to stage a near-riot to intimidate the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, into ordering Jesus’ crucifixion.
- The King had one opinion: He loved them all.
Jesus inspired their worship by fulfilling prophecy: that is the purpose behind the whole donkey-colt aspect of the story. There is a lot of information about Jesus’ choice of these animals that we’re not going to cover because we don’t have time. To summarize, all these details eventually contributed to the understanding that Jesus came to Jerusalem as a king. This is one of those occasions in the Gospels where Jesus acted deliberately to fulfill prophecy: most of the time He fulfilled prophecy without any input (i.e., His birth), or while doing things that had a more immediate focus (i.e., miracles of healing). For reasons I don’t know, the Jews of this time locked onto Zechariah 9 as a prophecy of the Messiah. It can be said that those who were there understood the actions of Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy and happily joined in. The Gospels tell us Jesus’ DISCIPLES DID NOT UNDERSTAND these things in the moment, but after Jesus ascended to heaven, they remembered this chain of events and understood its significance.
Jesus received their worship because it really was due Him. We shouldn’t let the fact that Jesus started this whole chain of events deter us from getting the real point of this statement. His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was part of God’s plan and therefore inevitable. But it was also something He deserved. Jesus deserved to be honored this way.
– Because of who He was: King and Creator.
– Because of what He did: throughout His ministry, including that very day in Jerusalem, Jesus healed and taught in the power of God.
Would the STONES have really raised a cheer? I guess we’ll never know. Habakkuk 2:11 uses a similar image. There the STONES of a WALL would CRY OUT against injustice perpetrated against the poor.
When the texts say Jesus LOOKED AROUND AT ALL THINGS, we’re to picture a leader surveying his followers or a king inspecting his holdings. Jesus was checking to make sure all was in readiness for the important events that were to occur in the days ahead.
Jesus rebuked their falsehood. Jesus responded verbally on two of the three occasions the religious leaders confronted Him during His Triumphal Entry. To their demand that Jesus quiet His disciples, Jesus said that if they didn’t worship Him in this way, the STONES beneath their feet would raise up the cry! This may sound flip, but I think this is meant to show that God chose this day to be Jesus’ day to enter Jerusalem in triumph. It was so inevitable that the STONES sound forth praise if the people failed to do so.
Later, Jesus quoted Scripture in response to their passive-aggressive protest. He paraphrased Psalm 8:2. This is the approach Jesus used in rebuking Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).
One important effect of this event is that it forced the hand of the Jewish religious authorities. This was a very public event and it was in their backyard, so to speak. They’d already been plotting to kill Jesus, but these events at this time made them push up their timetable and seek Jesus’ death in a hurry. It’s certain they would NOT have picked the Passover as the time to do this, not the annual time when the population of the city swelled to 1000 times its usual size. Historically, the city was a powder keg and they saw Jesus as a lit match. So they were suddenly very motivated.
Jesus warned them about their future sorrows. I picture Jesus stopping just down slope from the summit of Mount of Olives. Even as the CROWD surged around Him and kept on partying and celebrating, Jesus looked at the city through tears and predicted the demise of the city and the intense suffering of her people.
This prophecy was fulfilled in AD 72 when the Romans sacked the city and reduced it to rubble. The Siege of Jerusalem began in AD 70, when the city was surrounded, trapping inside people who’d come to celebrate the Passover.
The reason? “BECAUSE YOU DID NOT KNOW THE TIME OF YOUR VISITATION.” In other words, the people of the city rejected Him as their King.
In the Gospels there were two other occasions when Jesus WEPT over the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). This shows the tenderness of Jesus’ heart for the City of God and her people.
Jesus healed their hurts. That Jesus went immediately to the temple courts was obviously also part of His plan for the day. How wonderful it is that the acclaimed King of the Jews stopped to bless His people. It gives us insight into Jesus’ character that His ministry of healing continued up to the last days of His life. It is a good reminder of what He was about, that His mission was not just the cross, but to save people along the way as well.
The King has come! What is YOUR decision?
This day we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, calling it “Palm Sunday.” The event itself is called the “Triumphal Entry.” Think about that for a moment. That’s a BIG EVENT. A big event like that goes by the name “Triumphal Entry” is NOT something to be overlooked. It was loud, splashy, and in the face of the authorities of Jerusalem. More than any other single event, it is what propels Jesus to the cross.
It is the kind of event that demands a decision. The residents of Jerusalem asked, “Who is this?” The Triumphal Entry demanded an answer to that very question. Today we’ve seen that the pilgrims welcomed Jesus as King, Prophet, and Messiah. He is all those things and many more.
The people of the city were confounded. They wondered what all the fuss was about.
The religious leaders decided Jesus was a danger to an order that gave them wealth and power. He needed to go.
It turns out that today is a day of decision for you too. Who is Jesus? Being confounded is not an option. You must decide to accept or reject Jesus as your king. In order to live, you must honor Him as the pilgrims did on that day, even with your life.