Last Sunday, which Christians throughout the world observed as Palm Sunday, became one of the most momentous weeks in history. It was the day Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem. His multitude of disciples welcomed him into the city with palm branches, singing “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord—Hosanna in the highest!”
They also hailed Jesus as “the King of the Jews.” Most of those who welcomed Him mistook Him for something else. They had followed Him closely everywhere he had gone, and honored, respected and adored Him for all the wonderful things He had done—all the miracles He performed to help people, especially those in deep distress.
The people were particularly captivated by the way Jesus used power. Yes, He was the most powerful person that ever walked this earth, but unlike the rest of us human beings, Jesus had not used one ounce of all that power on Himself! He used it on other people—helping them in their several distresses and needs.
For the multitude, He was the ideal Leader—powerful, but compassionate and caring. And because Israel was at the time governed by the Roman Emperor Caesar’s Governor, Pontius Pilate, the multitude was convinced that Jesus had come to throw out Pilate and take over as the King of the Jews. In all of his preaching and teaching He had administered to them, they never really understood that His was not a political mission but a spiritually redeeming one.
He had come, He had told them repeatedly, to bring about a spiritual regeneration in the human race. They never understood what He had said, that “My kingdom is not of this world.” Many in the multitude must have been taken aback by Jesus riding a simple donkey, not a white horse.
Nor did they understand what he did when he got into the temple—whipped the money changers and sellers out and overturned their tables. “My house,” he told them in anger, “is the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”
This helps us remember that Jesus was one of the most FOCUSED persons that ever lived. He never became carried away with all the praises and adoration He received. See what He told His chief disciple, Simon Peter, when Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He, Jesus, was to be killed. Peter promptly told Him, “Don’t talk like that. No one will ever kill you in this place!”
Jesus immediately and decisively rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” Why was Christ so harsh? Because He would not allow Peter—or anyone else—to flatter Him off His track. He never forgot why He came to the earth—to die that humankind would be saved from sin and to open the door of Heaven to all believers.
That is FOCUS. In keeping eternally and rigidly focused, Jesus never allowed power to entrap him; as it does so many of us human beings; nor did He allow any of the people’s praises to preempt him from keeping on tract with His Messianic mission—saving the world from sin and showing the way to salvation.
Alas, when Peter, in a determined display of loyalty, tried to resist Jesus’ arrest, Peter took his sword and struck off a soldier’s ear! Christ immediately put the man’s ear back and told Peter, “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.”
One other thing that Jesus did before His crucifixion was to take his disciples to the edge of the Garden of Gethsemane and told them to wait for Him at the entrance while He went afar to pray. There He taught us all to take prayer seriously in anything we undertake.
He knew the troubling and tragic events He was to face, so He needed time with the Heavenly Father in preparation for what was to come. It was during that moment that He told His Father, “If it is possible, take this cup from me. But not my will, but thine be done.”
There was Jesus’ moment of total surrender to His Father’s will. The payoff was divine! After Judas’ betrayal, Jesus was led before Pilate who, after interrogation, confessed that he “found no fault in this Man.”
But the multitude responded with their resounding cry, “Crucify Him!” On the cross, Christ’s first words encapsulated (summed up) his total mission: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Today, it behooves all Christians to go to their churches to hear all the other words of the Cross.
Each word is a lesson for us all, as we prepare for what is to come early on Sunday morning, when we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Each word, yes, is a lesson for us all as each of us carries our own cross in this wretched, but hopeful, earthly sojourn.