Time’s right for decision: Are you with Christ or not?
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Matthew 21:1-11 – Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
“This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
“The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Editor’s note: This is part one of a Journey to the Cross devotion from April 5 on Palm Sunday through April 12 on Easter. It includes a scripture reading from the gospels as we walk with Jesus. Please join me each morning when a new devotion is posted.
Journey to the Cross – No. 1 – April 5, 2020
In November 2016, the city of Chicago celebrated the Chicago Cubs, who won World Series for the first time since 1908. The estimated crowd of 5 million made it the world’s seventh most attended event.
That amount of congregated people doesn’t seem realistic in our coronavirus world of 6-foot social distancing.
For me, the Cubs winning the World Series was a big deal. I’ve been a Cubs fan after attending my first game at Wrigley Field as a 5-year-old.
Were there people who showed up for the celebration that day who weren’t Cubs fans? People that wanted a day off work, a reason to drink and party or simply to be part of history. Of course, there were.
Obviously, the celebration meant more to people with lifelong interest and devotion than it would for those with casual participation.
The same is true for those casual observers on Palm Sunday.
That’s one of the tragedies of Palm Sunday.
Some people’s participation was nearly void. There’s no real risk in standing by the road watching a parade go by and shouting.
Christ’s calling to us begs for more than a verbal response.
But on that day, there was something wrong.
It was a triumphant procession, but it was hollow.
There was an undercurrent moving through the crowd, in the minds of the disciples, into the heart of Jesus.
Just who are the people who come to see Jesus as he triumphantly enters Jerusalem? Some are true believers.
Others are passersby, caught in the excitement – "Who’s this coming down? You say he's against the Romans? Well, then, I'm for him!"
John 12 states that those who witnessed Lazarus called from the tomb and raised from the dead spread the word. People showed up on Palm Sunday because they heard what Jesus did and wanted to meet him.
In Luke, it says they joyfully began to praise God for the miracles they had seen. Matthew says the whole city stirred and said: “Who is this?”
They just want to bask, for a moment, in the unexplainable curiosity.
Whatever happens next for Jesus is of little importance to them.
This is not a real victory of any lasting duration.
There’s a great veil which falls over this episode. It’s a tragic one.
Palm Sunday reminds us of this fact. It stands as a great divider.
It separates us into two groups, people who either simply have opinions about what a charismatic miracle-worker Jesus was or those who dare to make the decision and devote their hearts and lives to Him.
It separates us into either those who follow public opinion and go along with the crowd, or those who are willing to leave the safety of the masses and walk through the gates of the city alongside Christ.
Keep in mind, many of these people who are shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David" on Palm Sunday will be yelling, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" before the week is through.
Palm Sunday always confronts us with a choice.
As we think about Jesus, and the people who greet Him, remember this: don’t let your participation in the life of Christ come back void.
Many of those people simply turned out to see Jesus go by lacked sincerity, only wanting to witness a spectacle.
But what were these people doing? Did they really care who this person was and what His message was all about?
By this time many of Jesus’s disciples had fallen away.
In John 6, after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tells them that His flesh is real food and his blood real drink and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood remains in Him.
They did not understand, and Jesus acknowledges that he knew from the beginning who believes and who will betray Him.
Verse 66 states “from that time, many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”
One year, Jill sent away our old family VHS tapes to be made into DVDs. There was a section of our son Anton’s 10th birthday.
His present that day was a pet hamster named Peanut.
On the tape, his hamster struggles walking in one of those portable balls on the carpet, falling end over end. Anton then put him back on the wheel in his cage and the hamster moved furiously.
I texted Anton after watching the video. He said he felt bad about Peanut’s struggles walking in the ball, but one time he felt much worse.
He said he took a flash picture of Peanut up close with a disposable camera, and Anton said that Peanut was blinded. Anton said: “He was never the same afterwards … always bumping into stuff.”
Jerusalem, like Peanut, had been through the wringer many times. And many of those people there must have been void of any real feeling, blinded by what they had seen and heard from so many others.
Sound familiar? Are we blind in our own current situation, looking at every possible angle other than through the lens of Jesus Christ?
One of the reasons the people in Jerusalem react to Jesus the way they did was that they could NOT accept what He had been saying.
They were looking for a new king who would free them from Rome. They want that kind of kingdom and its glory.
But Jesus speaks of God's kingdom, a kingdom within them.
Stanley Jones, a great Methodist missionary, told of being in South Africa on a preaching mission. The pastor who traveled with him said:
"You preach a troublesome gospel. We preach a kingdom in heaven hereafter that upsets nothing now. But you preach a kingdom NOW on earth and that upsets everything."
People are happy to cement in their minds what they think God and Christ should be for them and want little to do with changing it.
People are happy to live their life the way they want to, profess faith in Jesus and be rewarded with a heavenly home.
But the story changes when living for His kingdom now means changing the way you do things, being obedient to His teachings and loving, serving and sacrificing for others – even the ones you don’t like.
It requires the complete giving of your life to Him.
Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 16: 24-25: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
On this Palm Sunday are you willing to let Christ’s kingdom live in you?
Don’t be a mere spectator in Christ’s kingdom which produces nothing, but allow your active participation to bear fruit for the world to see.
Brad Zimanek is the Associate Pastor at Mulder Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. He worked in sports journalism for 32 years prior to answering the call to full-time ministry.