Matthew 21:1-11

Who today considers Jesus to be their king? Who today considers Jesus to be the most important person in their life? Because it’s very easy to forget that Jesus is king.

As a consequence, one of the most encouraging and uplifting stories in the bible has to be about the events of Palm Sunday. Indeed, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem would have been a sight to see. There would have been all the colour, noise, and excitement. And it may well have been one of those events where many would say, “I wish I’d been there.” Because Jesus not only paraded into Jerusalem as a king, but he was accepted as king too. And there were a lot of people there.

Apart from the disciples, there was a large crowd who had gathered from the surrounding countryside. And they not only spread their cloaks on the road but cut down tree branches for the donkeys to walk on. It seemed that everyone was excited about their king coming to Jerusalem. And they weren’t afraid to let everyone know.

Then when they arrived at Jerusalem, the whole city came out to see Jesus. It must have been quite a spectacle.

That was the first Palm Sunday. And yet a little over four days later, Jesus was arrested, abandoned by his disciples . . . And where was the crowd? Well, bit by bit over the next four days they had all just turned away.

There was a series of incidents that had turned things sour. There was a confrontation with the religious leaders in the Temple that same Palm Sunday. The next day there were more problems with the leaders in the Temple. Later on, in the week, others had become involved, trying to trick Jesus with their questions, trying to get him to say something that would leave him open to accusation. And by the Thursday a plot had been organised to dispose of him, with one of his disciples agreeing to betray him.

So come Thursday night, when Judas and the large crowd had come to arrest Jesus, his closest disciples had fled, and he was alone. And obviously lots of other things also happened too. Because come early Friday morning when the crowd were given a choice of whom to save—Jesus or Barabbas—it was Jesus who was given the thumbs down. Jesus had to go.

In just over four days, then, the singing and the praising had gone. The triumphal entry had been forgotten, and even the most convinced believer had deserted. And that rather puts a different light on the events of the first Palm Sunday.

Now, of course, the motivation for abandoning Jesus would have been varied. Judas had probably been disappointed that Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah that he was looking for. The disciples had probably been in fear of their lives. Indeed, they may have thought that if they hung around, that they might be crucified too. And the crowd? Well, who knows what they thought? Maybe a bit of group pressure to conform? We’ll never know. But what we do know is that it took only four days for the people to turn from being followers of their king, to ones who willingly sanctioned his death.

And as I thought about that, it made me think, “What sort of believer am I? Am I a four-day believer only, or is my faith much more meaningful than that? If push comes to shove, and I was placed in a position where my faith was challenged, and my life was threatened, would I buckle under like those at the first Easter or would I remain standing tall and firm?”

Palm Sunday and the week before Easter, to me, then, is a challenge about how seriously I take my faith. It’s a reminder of those glorious days, when everyman and his dog seemed to sing Jesus’s praises (religious leaders excepted). But it’s also a reminder that only four days later, Jesus was completely abandoned.

But that’s me. What about you? Just where do you stand? How strong is your faith in Jesus our king?

Posted: 22nd March 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis