What did Jesus think?

Palm Sabbath


Mark 11:11

2100 words


Please turn in the pew Bibles to the gospel of Mark, chapter 11 and follow along as I read verse 11.

“Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”

Amen. The word of God.  Thanks be to God.


Every year about this time, we sing a couple of songs about Palm Sabbath and remember the big parade.  As far as public acclaim is concerned, this was the high point of Jesus’ ministry.  There was no doubt in anybody’s mind about what Jesus was doing.  He was publicly fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9; he was proclaiming that he was messiah.   The people knew what he was doing.  That is why they spread their cloaks on the road.  That is why they waved palm branches.  They were welcoming the king to his capitol.  This was all very Old Testament.  In 2 Kings 9, when Elisha anointed Jehu to overthrow the oppressive dynasty of the house of Ahab, Jehu’s officers threw down their cloaks before him.  In 1 Maccabees when the Jews liberated Jerusalem from the Greeks, they waved palm branches in victorious celebration. 

And the crowd on Palm Sabbath was singing a psalm of thanksgiving.  "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

The crowd thought that Jesus was coming to reestablish the kingdom of David.  David had been the great military conqueror.  He established an empire that reached well beyond what we now call the Holy Land.  He brought Israel to its height of political and economic glory.

That is what the crowd on the first Palm Sabbath expected Messiah to do.  They expected Messiah to call down legions of angels, rout the legions of Rome, and reestablish an earthly Davidic empire.  That is what they thought Jesus was going to do. 

Now if they had been listening to Jesus, they would have known that Jesus never said anything like that at all.  But It is not surprising that they did not listen.  Even Christians today do not do a very good job of listening to Jesus.  We all ought to read the Sermon on the Mount more, and check our lives to see if we are listening to Jesus.

But to return to Palm Sabbath, the crowd was cheering and singing, but what was Jesus thinking?  V11 indicates that he was not impressed.  V11 says that having entered the city he had a look around and then said, It’s late, I think I will go back to Bethany.  In other words, the show is over, I am going to go back to the motel and get some sleep.

Jesus knew only too well what the cheers of the crowd were worth.  He knew that on Good Friday, the cheers would turn to demands for his crucifixion.  In Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of Jesus Christ, when the Jewish authorities bring Jesus before Pontus Pilate for trial, Pilate asks in puzzlement, “Is not this the same prophet whom you welcomed into the city five days ago?”  That sentence is not in the gospels, but it is an obvious question.  A Jerusalem crowd acclaimed Jesus on Palm Sabbath.  A Jerusalem crowd cried, “crucify him” on Good Friday.  Now it was probably not exactly the same crowd.  The crowd on Good Friday was to some extent “manufactured” by the Jewish authorities to put pressure on Pilate.  But there were certainly some there on Good Friday, who had previously hailed Jesus as Messiah on Palm Sabbath.  If you asked them why they changed their minds, they would probably say, He is not the Messiah we thought he was.  And they would be right, but Jesus never claimed to be their kind of Messiah.

What was Jesus thinking on Palm Sabbath?  Perhaps we get some inking of his thoughts from his interview with Pontius Pilate in the gospel of John.  

Pilate asks Jesus if he is king of the Jews.  In other words, is it true what the people proclaimed about him on Palm Sabbath?  Jesus replies, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here" (18:36).

Pilate was not happy with this reply.  He asks, "So you are a king?"  Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (37).

Jesus says, yes, I am a king, but not the kind of king you are thinking about.  I am a king with a purpose.  My purpose is to testify to the truth.  What truth is he talking about?  The truth that he was been expounding is that his kingdom is not of this world.  It is not of this order of things.  Citizens of his kingdom do not follow worldly ways of thinking. 

A worldly way of thinking was that the followers of Jesus would try to liberate him.  They would storm the prison and start some sort of rebellion.  Jesus says his followers will not do that, because his kingdom is not an ordinary, worldly kingdom.

Jesus teaches us a basic lesson.  We are not to depend much on worldly things, we are not to be much impressed with worldly acclaim.  We are to recognize that all these things pass away as quickly as the cheers of the crowd on Palm Sabbath. 

Let us take another example.  Today is April 9.  On another April 9, on April 9, 1959, NASA introduced America's first astronauts to the press.  It was the major media event of the year.  The United States was trailing the Soviet Union in the space race.  The government brought out the seven astronauts as our heroes who would save us from the Communist menace.  Incredible hype surrounded them.  They were the most famous Americans in the world.  My point is: Do you remember their names?  If you do, you are exceptional.  Most Americans today do not remember even one of those first astronauts.  How fleeting is fame. 

That was why Jesus was not impressed with the acclaim he received on Palm Sabbath.  He knew what it was worth.  It was worth nothing.

So much for fame, what about fortune?  Most people think that having a pile of cash would solve most of their problems.  In fact, having more money often exaggerates our problems.  Most people think that winning the lottery is the American dream. In fact, it more often the American nightmare.

Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey lottery twice, in 1985 and 1986.  She won $5.4 million.  Today she is broke.  She gave some away, she lost a lot playing slot machines in Atlantic City.  She does not seem to know where it went, but the money is gone.

William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988.  Then the nightmare began.  A former girlfriend successfully sued him for part of his winnings.  A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him.  The brother hoped to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in couple of risky business ventures that failed to make money.  Within a year of winning the lottery, William "Bud" Post was $1 million in debt.  He eventually declared bankruptcy.   Today he lives on his social security and food stamps.

Ken Proxmire was a machinist who won $1 million in the Michigan lottery.  He moved to California and went into the car business with his brothers.  Within five years, he had filed for bankruptcy.

Willie Hurt of Lansing, Michigan won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later he was broke and charged with murder.  His lawyer says William Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.

(see 8 Lottery Winners Who Lost Their Millions at http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Savinganddebt/Savemoney/P99649.asp)

We could go on and on.  The lesson is money does not solve problems.  Money causes problems.  To suddenly receive a lot of money is a recipe for disaster for many people. 

So what do we have?  Fame does not last.  Fortune does not solve our problems.  Jesus knew this.  That is why he was not much impressed with either one.  People who seek such things think in worldly ways and his kingdom is not of this world.

Worldly ways of thinking, worldly attitudes, deceive us and cause us to be blind to the truth.  Thus we spend a lot of our time thinking about things of little or no importance.

This even happens in church.  In church, some people spend a lot of time trying to ferret out the details of the end of time.  Who will be the Antichrist?  What will the Tribulation be like?  Will there be a Rapture of the church and if so, when?  Those are all worldly questions based on worldly attitudes.  Instead or worrying about such things, we would be better off examining our lives to see if we are fit to meet Jesus when he comes, in whatever form he comes.  When Jesus returns, the only thing I need to worry about is:  Am I doing what he told me to be doing?  If I am doing that I am OK.  If I am not doing that, whatever I might know or speculate about the end of time is so much trivia.  

We need a shift of attitude.  We should spend more time listening to the Bible and less time giving heed to the opinions of various media personalities.  The Bible speaks to us about almighty, ever-loving God, and that is what is important.  Without God, no one understands rightly, no one judges rightly.

We have all kinds of self-help folks today who make a living giving advice.  I will not name names, because I do not listen to any of them, I listen to God’s word.   God has given us this bible to fit us for God’s kingdom.  So, live by it. 

Today, we have information poured out on us by the ton.  This is called the Information Age, or the Information Revolution.  According to a 2003 study done at the University of California Berkeley, [http://www.sims.berkeley.edu:8000/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/execsum.htm] new information stored on paper, film, magnetic, and optical media approximately doubled in the three year period from 1999 to 2002.   By paper storage, they mean anything printed on paper—office documents, newspapers, letters, books.  Film storage is actually in decline.  Everything is moving toward magnetic storage in computers or toward optical storage—which is CD’s and DVD’s.  but the Berkeley study says when you put all that together, in that three year period, our information doubled.  Now no one says that all this new information is thrilling or vital or even interesting.  It is still information.

People who are worried about our unprecedented access to information call it an information glut or information overload, and they point out that easy access to a great quantity of information is not the same as easy access to the information you need when you need it.

Jesus says that the first information we need we have in paper form, and we have it on film and on tape and on cd.  It is called the Bible.  The Bible is the most important information we have, because the Bible shows us a different way of thinking.  Is worldly fame important?  On Palm Sabbath Jesus received his fifteen minutes of fame.  His reaction was: ho hum,  what is for supper?  Because Jesus knew that worldly fame and worldly fortune is trivial.   And thinking in worldly ways is trivial.  We belong to a kingdom not of this world.  We need to develop the attitudes of that kingdom 

That is what the Bibles shows us--Kingdom attitudes.  when we believe in Jesus, we believe in his kingdom, and Jesus calls us to prepare for citizenship in that kingdom.   We need to work on our kingdom attitudes.  Read your Bible then, and live by what you read.  It does not do any good to read it if you don’t apply it.  You can know every verse in the Bible.  That does not mean a thing if you do not apply it to your life.  Read then and heed then.  Amen.



If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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Last modified  08/19/06