The Man Everyone Is Talking About

Heritage Presbyterian Church

March 28, 2021
Palm Sunday
Scripture reading – Mark 11: 1-11

We’ve all heard it before…dozens and dozens of times… described in detail in all four Gospels…the triumphant entry of Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  We all know the story by heart.  

So…since we do, let’s try a different perspective on the story from three eyewitnesses who might have been there on that amazing day.  First, we hear from Saul Marcias the Beggar:

[Saul Marcias]: Yeah…yeah…well, there I was, out in the streets of Jerusalem, looking for a great place to beg.  Since the big feast days were coming, I figured I would pick out a good spot near the Temple on the main road and wait for the people to pass by.  Sometimes they are a little extra generous on feast days, sometimes not so much, but tell that to my stomach!  Saul Marcias has gotta eat, no matter if it’s a feast day or not.

So anyway, I’m sitting there in my spot when all of a sudden I hear this noise, and it’s getting louder and louder.  I’d never heard anything like it before, so I stood up and walked down the main road a little ways.  Then I saw this crowd coming toward the Temple.  They were shouting and whooping it up!  They were laying their coats and cloaks on the road, and even pulling down palm branches to cover the rest of the road.

First thing I wondered was, “Who’s coming to town?”  I first thought it was might be King Herod, but then I laughed to myself.  Herod is so despised that he has to hire people to cheer for him – and they don’t do it very well.  No, this was a pretty joyful bunch of shouting.  Then I wondered if it was the Roman emperor; but that didn’t make any much sense either.  Why would the Roman emperor come to Jerusalem?  If he did, the soldiers would have lined both sides of the street.  

I was a little confused, so I asked a guy I was standing near.  He told me it was a prophet: Jesus of Nazareth.  I immediately thought, “What’s the big deal about a prophet?  None of the ones I ever saw or heard could do much except scream at the people and get in trouble with the Sanhedrin.”  So I asked the guy, “Who’s this Jesus of Nazareth?”  He looked me like I was crazy, and then he told me how Jesus had been healing and preaching all over Judea and Galilee for the past few years.  Now he was here in Jerusalem, and I began to wonder what that meant.

As he passed by, I was pretty impressed by the crowd, but I also noticed that Jesus wasn’t waving to the crowd; he wasn’t smiling either.  He was just riding along as the people kept shouting, “HOSANNA!”  I didn’t know what that meant, but I figured it had something to do with supporting him.

Then a funny thing happened…the parade ended at the Temple.  Jesus got off his donkey and looked around carefully at everything around the Temple.  Then he and his friends melted into the crowd and left.

Strange ending to a parade, even one for a prophet, if you ask me.

I’m going to keep my eyes open for trouble.  There is no way this could happen and then everything goes back to normal… especially since now this Jesus has become the man everyone is talking about.

Now let’s hear from Marcus Julius, the Roman Centurion.

[Marcus Julius]: I am the Centurion Marcus Julius, serving the Emperor of the Roman Empire here in this backwater province of the Empire.  If there is a more miserable, less honorable place to serve our mighty Emperor, I don’t want to know where it is.  Our local procurator, Pontius Pilate, is a strong man and he uses us properly and well.  But these Hebrews…these Judeans…they are a troublesome lot.  In all the other provinces that Rome has conquered, we strike deals, we work together, we get business done.  Sometimes, we even learn from one another, thus making both parties even stronger and more successful.  

Not so with these people of Judea.  They don’t want us here.  The only people here who will deal with us are that local stooge – King Herod – and the Judeans’ religious officials.  I mock the word “officials” it because we find ourselves bending to their rules when we need to meet and discuss our mutual interests.  This is NOT how the Roman Empire was built!  Yet every single day it is a battle over how we will get our jobs done.  I know the Emperor needs us here, and I am proud of my men and the job we are doing, but I wish I could serve in another place…I am getting too old for this.

Just today, there was yet another surprise here in Jerusalem.  This city is their religious center, a place where they claim their god is in residence.  That’s fine with me…other places have their own gods and their own rules too, so it’s no concern of mine.  But in Jerusalem, it seems that their so-called “Temple of the Lord God” is just a place for trouble to start.  

Here is what happened: my men were patrolling the streets, but keeping a low profile.  It was yet another festival for the Judeans – how many they have!  I knew they would have plenty of visitors, so there was no need to provoke trouble.  We just needed to make appearances now and then to remind everyone that we were around.  

Suddenly I hear this noise.  It sounded similar to whenever the Emperor rides through the streets of Rome – such a thrilling sight that I’ve seen many times.  But instead of shouts of respect as we do for our Emperor, this crowd was yelling their heads off with joy.  To make matters even more confusing, the Judeans were taking off their outer garments and laying them on the road for this one man to ride over on his young colt.  As if that weren’t enough, they were even pulling down palm branches and laying them on the road too.  I alerted my men to remain at their posts but to keep their eyes open for trouble.

Then I saw the strangest thing: the man at the center of it all was just riding and not reacting to the crowd at all!  He didn’t look to the left or the right; he didn’t smile or wave; in fact, he seemed to barely even be aware of what was going on around him.  What a curious sight!  I immediately took hold of a Judean who was near me and asked him about this man.  He told me that this was Jesus from Nazareth, a village north of Jerusalem in the province of Galilee.  Then I was told Jesus was a prophet.  I didn’t know that word, and so I asked why the crowd was so ecstatic at his arrival in Jerusalem.  The man explained to me that prophets speak to their god, and that this prophet was here to lead the people.

That disturbed me greatly, but I saw no arms in the hands of his supporters.  I saw no shields.  I saw no military means of any kind.  I only saw a frenzied crowd of Judean supporters cheering and shouting a strange word that sounded like, “Hosanna.”  If this man is a leader, it is only for this motley rabble.  I will search the meaning of that word later.

I wondered why Herod or the Judeans’ religious officials didn’t stop this parade.  For now, I will make out my report to Pilate, but I suspect I will not be the only centurion to do so today.  It will certainly bear some notice since now this is the man everyone is talking about.

Finally, we have the eyewitness account of a Pharisee named Pelegius.

[Pelegius]: I knew that sooner or later, we were going to have trouble with this Jesus who arrived in Jerusalem today.  From what I have heard from my fellow Pharisees, he is a teacher of some skill and a healer of many.  People say he is a prophet of the Most High God, but he does not seem to speak for the people; his words are strange and go against everything we have struggled to do just to keep peace with the Romans.  We don’t need his type of trouble, but it seems we have it anyway.

I remember when the Baptist began baptizing the people in the Jordan just outside of town.  When some of us went to see exactly what John was doing, he shouted at us and called us a “brood of vipers.”  That showed a complete lack of respect – which did no good at all.  We were simply investigating and hoping to have a conversation with John.  Instead, his words were embarrassing to hear and troubled the people.  In the end, he was doing no real harm, and he wasn’t in Jerusalem.  Also, John’s father, Zechariah, had been a high priest of high repute about 30 years ago, so nothing good would come from arresting John.

Still…John’s words seem to predict the arrival of this Jesus to Judea and Galilee.  When he was in the countryside, he healed and taught, and I even heard he could cast out demons.  The various stories we were told certainly sounded interesting, but I sensed trouble would come if he decided to visit Jerusalem.

And now he had entered the city and mocked the prophecies from the Book of the Law!

First, he rode in on a young colt or a young donkey.  That is how the prophet Zechariah predicted it would happen when the Messiah appeared.  He even came from the Mount of Olives just outside of town – again where the Messiah would appear from.  This so-called prophet seemed to know Zechariah pretty well.

Then the people began to lay down their coats and cloaks on the road before him – and even cut down palm branches to cover the road.  This is very similar to the accounts I have read of King David entering Jerusalem back in his times.  And some of the people even called him, “Son of David!”    How dare they mock our greatest king by naming this obvious imposter with the same title!

And if that were not enough, then they began to shout, “Hosanna!”  Right out of King David’s psalms!  Some of us shouted to Jesus, “Teacher!  Do you hear what they are shouting?  Rebuke your disciples immediately!”  

Incredibly, this Jesus responded by remarking, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out.”

I knew at this point there was nothing we could do at that time to stop this.  It would eventually disperse or the Roman soldiers would help them disperse (and no one wanted that to happen).  I told my fellow members of the Sanhedrin, “The world has gone after him” – but it was for that day only.  Sooner or later, Jesus would challenge us and that would be the end of his presence in Jerusalem, or anywhere else in Judea.

But there were two things that trouble me now…two things I noticed during this entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem…

First, as he was riding in on the donkey, Jesus’ expression never changed.  He didn’t smile or wave; he didn’t seem excited at all; he didn’t even make eye contact with anyone in the crowd.  Why didn’t he seem to even notice the crowd around him?  His followers certainly noticed it all – but not Jesus.

Second, once the procession reached the Temple, Jesus got down and began to walk around the Temple grounds, and even the outer courts as he were looking for something.  He seemed to be studying everything that he saw.  His disciples were helping to disperse the crowd, which gave him time to do this.  But I wonder what he was looking at – or what he was looking for.

No matter, I suppose.  For now, all of us will have to keep a very close eye on Jesus and his followers…

Because he has become the man everyone is talking about.

Friends…as each of us ponders the events of Holy Week that begin with the procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, let us all picture in our minds what it must have been like, all the events that occurred, all the people who were involved, and all the ways our Savior Jesus Christ loved us and obeyed his Father.