This Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (which we usually call “Palm Sunday,” because the crowd welcomed Him by spreading palm branches in His path). Those who greeted Jesus were convinced He was the Messiah, or “anointed one,” sent by God to establish His Kingdom on earth.
So, why did the crowds turn against Jesus so quickly? One week they welcomed Him, and the next week they demanded He be crucified.
Billy Graham’s response to this question in his My Answer column can offer some comfort:
No events in human history were more important than Jesus’ death and resurrection, and yet many people (even Christians) never take time to study them.
It must have been a dramatic sight as Jesus approached Jerusalem on a donkey (which was a sign of His humility). The Bible says that “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices … ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 19:37-38). Even those who weren’t part of that welcoming crowd listened eagerly to His teaching during the next few days.
But not everyone in Jerusalem welcomed Him; the very next verse says that “the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’” But soon many turned against Jesus and demanded His death: “‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’” (Matthew 27:22).
These weren’t necessarily the same people who had welcomed Him—but the reversal is still striking. Were they disappointed because He refused to establish an earthly political kingdom? Probably. But Jesus didn’t come to set up a new political system. He came instead to change our hearts and save us from our sins by His death and resurrection. He declared during that last week, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight. … My kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). This deeply disappointed those who hoped He would throw out the hated Roman occupiers. They may also have disliked His demand that they repent.
Where would you have been on that first Palm Sunday? Among the disciples who welcomed Him—or among the skeptical crowds? It’s easy to condemn those who condemned Jesus—but would we have acted any differently? We too are sinners, and we too have rebelled against God.
But the central message of Easter is that God still loves us, and because of Christ we can be forgiven. He came for one reason: “Christ died for sins once for all … to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). May you welcome Him into your life during this holy season.