All four Gospels speak about Palm Sunday, the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of prophecy that had been spoken hundreds of years earlier. A crowd of people had laid their cloaks on the road to make a path for Jesus’ entrance. Others cut palm branches, symbols of victory in that day. The palm branches would be waved, signaling Christ’s victory, alright, His perceived victory over the Roman government that had oppressed the Jewish people for quite some time. Folks thought, “Surely the Man who had raised Lazarus from the dead had the goods to overthrow Rome.” So, they waved their palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna” which means “Save us” or “Save us now.”
I guess there were people who had not yet heard of Jesus, and this demonstration raised a lot of questions for them. Matthew 21:10 reports: 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
“The prophet?” That phrase reveals that the praise of Palm Sunday wasn’t in worship for the Messiah, but it was in response to the miracles of Jesus. His popularity had swelled, not because of Who He really was, but because of what He had proven He could do. The crowd had freedom from Rome on their mind, but Jesus was fixed on providing freedom from sin. The crowd saw a government as their enemy, but Jesus was planning to battle Satan. The crowd believed if they could escape Rome’s grip they could live in peace. Jesus, however, had come to help us escape death’s grip, enabling us to live in peace forever, without fear of death. The palms waved in praise were in prediction of an earthly victory. We know the victory Jesus secured was much larger than the temporary overturning of an earthly government or a carnal religious system. The kind of victory Jesus secured was one that could never be undone.
Often, however, a lot of people want Jesus on their terms, don’t they? They want to praise and worship the Jesus who will do their bidding, who will perform according to their expectations. And it wasn’t long before public opinion shifted. We’ve all been witnesses to how easily culture can be manipulated, haven’t we? And on the heels of the high praise of Palm Sunday, right after Jesus cursed the fig tree for not being fruitful, representing Israel’s lack of spiritual fruit, representing their dead spiritual condition, it was on. Jesus’ authority was questioned, rumors and innuendo spread. There were back alley meetings, emails were sent, and a smear campaign began to convince the crowd they had been wrong about Jesus’ motives. Long before Jesus appeared before any Roman authority for trial, He was put through the ringer by the religious leaders. (Matthew 21 and following chapters) None of Jesus’ answers satisfied them. They only became more infuriated. They had had enough. In Matthew 26 they decided He had to be killed and quickly. And they maneuvered and conspired and got one of Jesus’ disciples to turn on Him. And Matthew 26:47 says that those sent to arrest Jesus were sent by the chief priests and the elders of the people. The damage was done. Jesus’ character was now so questionable in such a short amount of time that another crowd, perhaps populated with some of the same Palm Sunday praises, would condemn Him to death.
Last week I outlined some of the ways that Jesus is the Way from John 14 and John 15. Today, I want to focus on the second descriptor Jesus used to declare who He was. He said He was the truth. This attribute came into view for sure during the last week of Jesus’ life as He dialogued with the religious leaders under tremendous pressure and then as He stood before Pilate in John 18.
John 18:28-40-Jesus Before Pilate 28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world IS TO TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH. EVERYONE ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH LISTENS TO ME.” (Read that last sentence with me.)
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Allow me two quick observations. Note that Jesus didn’t say, “Those who aren’t for me are against Me.” No, He said, “Those who are against Me are against the truth because I am the truth! So, observation one is: Those who reject Jesus reject the truth. Observation two is simply Pilate’s response to it all. After Jesus said He had come to testify to the truth and that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him, Pilate retorted, “What is truth?” And then…he walked away!
His response, though perhaps one of sarcasm, speaks with cutting clarity across the ages and is relevant for our day. I’ve simply concluded that a growing number of people don’t want to hear or deal with the truth. Like Pilate, they’d rather walk away. Are you on the side of truth? Because to be on the side of truth is to be a follower of Jesus. It means sticking around and dealing with any hard issues, any heart problems that Jesus wants to address. It means you recognize Him as the final authority and that your opinion takes a backseat to all Jesus has declared. We cannot wave our palm branches in praise and then want to tell Jesus how it’s going to be, friends. We cannot wave our hands in worship as if we were waving some kind of magic wand to get Jesus to perform according to our expectations. No, He is the Truth, so He sets the standards and calls the plays. We are to line up with Him.