Reflecting on Palm Sunday and today (Holy Monday) I can't help but think about how quickly shouts of praise turned to shouts of "crucify him!". But why the change of heart? How can a people rejoice at the coming of their King on Sunday, and within days turn on him to the point of calling for his execution? I think scripture makes it fairly clear. The people didn't understand who Jesus was or what he truly came to do for them. The Jews looked at their oppression as one mainly of physical bondage. However, Jesus knew the real issue was mainly one of spiritual oppression. The crowds welcomed Jesus on Sunday, because in their minds he was going to liberate them from the oppression of the Roman's (much like Moses did from the Egyptians) but Christ didn't come to save them from men, but instead from the wrath of God because of their sin.
On Monday, the day after the streets were filled with people shouting, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest heaven!", Christ entered the temple and made efforts to cleanse it by turning over tables of the money changers and running the wicked people out of the doors. This was the first step Jesus took towards his own crucifixion. He knew full well that his efforts to "purify worship" would not be received well by the Pharisees or those who were looking for God's favor because of their efforts and righteousness. While just the day before these people were rejoicing in the "coming of the LORD," the reality is that their hearts were not open enough to see that God cares far more about the inward (condition of the heart) than he does the outward appearance of obedience. Jesus took intentional steps towards cleaning his Father's house, which had been turned into a den of robbers who were filled with greed and vein worship. Christ warned people to "wake up" and see that they were nowhere near where God desired them to be. He didn't want their sacrifices...he wanted them! He wanted their unadulterated affection not ritualistic practices of purification.
While more often than not, today's church celebrates Palm Sunday as a joyful event...today my heart is filled with sadness, because I see the truth. In many ways, the Church today still struggles with the same sin as the people so long ago. The reality for many of us is that if we would have been there, back on March 29th 33AD, we would have welcomed Christ to the city with shouts of praise...because of our selfish hopes and desires...and without the Holy Spirit, our passion for Christ's triumphant entry would just as quickly turned to shouts for his crucifixion, as his efforts to purify for himself a people began by telling us that we are sinners who need to turn away from our evil towards repentance.
Jesus knew the hearts of the people. He knew that they weren't truly seeking to honor God, but were instead looking to honor themselves. They didn't want Jesus...they wanted his blessings. But Jesus knew that the true blessing is and always was God, not the gifts that he gives. The people weren't satisfied with God, they wanted the gifts and not the giver. How quickly did they turn on the one they so eagerly praised on Palm Sunday? How quickly do people still turn from Jesus today, when they realize that he requires repentance and a contrite heart. When they figure out that Jesus didn't come to give us what we want, but instead what we need...namely himself. And sadly, for far too many people, this gift simply doesn't meet their expectations.
Jesus Knows What Is in Man (John 2:23-25)
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.