All the Right Things for the Wrong Reason: Palm Sunday Revisited (Matthew 21:1-11)

Click here to read Matthew 21:1-11.

Who are we worshipping, when we gather on Sunday? When we sing the songs, hear the word of God read and ponder its meaning, when we say our prayers, make our offering, and say “Amen!” who are we worshipping? It is a question not only for our worship services, but for every facet of our lives.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem to acts of worship that would rival even the most dynamic of worship services (Matthew 21:1-11). Multitudes of pilgrims poured into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast, making expectations for the Messiah to come very high. When Jesus rode through the Mount Olives and into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people did not miss the symbolism (Zechariah 9:9; 14:4). They recognized him as their long-awaited Messiah. They chanted words from a familiar Passover Psalm that had become a plea for God to send the Messiah (Psalm 118:25). “Hosanna!” they shouted, meaning, “Save us, Lord!”

Recognizing their Messiah, the people began worshiping and paying homage to Jesus. They laid their cloaks and freshly-cut Palm branches on the ground before him. It was a royal reception. In our day, the red carpet would be rolled out, soldiers would line-up single-file on each side, the Jerusalem brass band would begin to play, ceremonial army drills would be conducted, and handshakes and respectful gestures would be offered to this royal dignitary, as he made his way to an awaiting motorcade. It was a reception fit for a king!

Yet, that same crowd that came to worship their Messiah with shouts of “Hosanna!” would – only days later – cry out “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22). Why this dramatic change of heart? Why were they so quick to turn on him?

Why? Because, Jesus challenged their preconceived notions of God, the Messiah, salvation, and the people of God; they despised his brand of salvation. They wanted salvation from Roman dominion. They wanted their land restored and under their own control. They wanted to reclaim their national sovereignty. Jesus did not fit the mold. Instead, he came to conquer sin, death, and the devil. He came to turn over tables. They did not want this seemingly topsy-turvy Messiah.

Palm Sunday has always been an ironic Sunday. The people did all the right things, but for the wrong reasons.

Where do you look for salvation? Health? Wealth? Relationships? A style of worship? A church building? These things can be good. But, if we place our ultimate hope in them, our hope is misplaced. Jesus is our hope. Who do you worship?

Looking for more?

Click here to read Matthew 27:11-26.

Click here to read Zechariah 9:9.

Click here to read Zechariah 14:4.

Click here to read Psalm 118:25-29.




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