Skip to main content

Devotional for Palm Sunday 2018 based upon Mark 11: 1-11

Several years ago a book was written by a well-known American historian entitled, When the Cheering Stopped. It told the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following World War I. When the war was over, Wilson was an international hero. There was a spirit of great optimism both at home and abroad. And people actually believed that “the war to end all wars” had been fought and that the world had been made safe for democracy.

The cheering lasted for about a year. But then it gradually began to stop. The political leaders in Europe were more concerned about their own agendas than about a lasting peace. At home Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the U. S. Senate. His League of Nations was never ratified. Under the strain of it all, his health began to break. He suffered a stroke. And in the next election his party was defeated. The cheering had stopped.

The same thing happened to Jesus. When He first came upon the scene, He was an overnight sensation. When He tried to get off to be alone, the people would follow Him. The masses lined the streets whenever He would come into town. Great crowds came to hear Him preach. On Palm Sunday they waved palm branches, spread their coats on the road, and shouted, “Hosanna!” “Jesus, save us now!” But the cheering soon stopped, as the tide turned against Him.

Why did the cheering stop? Why did the crowds turn against Him? How could the shouts of “Hosanna!” on Sunday become cries of “Crucify him!” on Friday. In five days it all fell apart. Why? Why did the cheering stop?

I believe that one reason why the cheering stopped is because JESUS BEGAN TO TALK MORE AND MORE ABOUT COMMITMENT. Prior to this time, His message had been mainly about grace. When the five thousand were hungry, He fed them. When they brought their sick, He healed them. When a woman was caught in adultery and was about to be stoned, He came to her rescue.

But now He seems to be saying, “The time for miracles is over. The time for commitment has come.” In all four Gospels – after Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday – there is not another miracle recorded as being done for the people. And this is especially significant because near half of the Gospels are devoted to the seven last days of Jesus’ life. But you will find no miracles recorded in those chapters, but there is a persistent call for commitment.

Jesus was no longer talking about grace. He was now talking about commitment. The commitment that should result from accepting God’s grace. So the cheering began to stop.

And then, second, I believe that the cheering began to stop because JESUS DARED TO SUGGEST THAT ALL PEOPLE ARE WORTHY OF LOVE. After Palm Sunday Jesus went into the Temple and drove the money changers out. The Gospel writer Matthew tells us that after the Temple had been cleansed, the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He cured them. He brought into the place of worship those whom we would refer to today as “those people.” And then the chief priests and scribes not only saw the amazing things He was doing, they also heard children crying out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The children’s shouting bugged the Pharisees, so they told Jesus to make those children stop. Time and again it was the powerless in society who recognized Jesus as Messiah, while those in power resisted Him.

Why did the cheering stop? Second, because JESUS OPENED THE DOORS OF THE CHURCH TO EVERYONE. It angered people then, and it will anger people today.

And then, third, I believe the cheering stopped because JESUS BEGAN TO TALK MORE AND MORE ABOUT A CROSS. In the early part of His ministry, He talked about the Kingdom of God. People really liked it when He talked about the Kingdom of God. Especially because they were expecting to have prominent positions in that Kingdom. But increasingly Jesus began to talk about sacrifice – about giving and giving up your life.

A young boy, in a Little League baseball game, got up to the plate. He looked over to the coach, who gave him the signal to hit a sacrifice bunt. The young boy then proceeded to take three big swings and strike out. After he got back to the bench, the coach asked him, “Didn’t you see me give you a signal to sacrifice?” “Yes,” the boy replied, “but I did not think that you really meant it.”

And isn’t that so often what we say to God? “I have heard all Your talk about sacrifice. But I thought You were just kidding. I did not think You really meant it.”

The cross says emphatically, He means it. On this Palm Sunday, when Jesus talks about sacrifice, may we know that He means it. And may our cheering never stop.

Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE