The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
I have long been fascinated with this scene which is often referred to as The Triumphal Entry. We commemorate this event in the life of Christ with a day we call Palm Sunday which, of course, is named for the palm branches strewn before Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem. It was a joyous occasion as Jesus was lauded as a conquering hero riding on the back of a small donkey. However, it took less than a week for many from that same crowd to turn completely from praising Jesus to calling for His death. How quickly their shouts of joyous “Hosanna” changed to the hostile chant, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” So, we ask, how and why did those people change their opinion of Jesus so quickly?
1- Satan’s failed plan involved a mob mentality
Did you ever watch the old cowboy movies when the mob would turn on the good guy and want him hanged? Of course, since he was the good guy who wore the white hat he would ultimately be proven right and set free from his penalty in just the nick of time. Today, we frequently see the mob mentality at work as the new coach on a college or pro team is welcomed and praised as he takes charge of his new team. Then one day after a series of losses those words of praise turn to words of “fire the bum!” The same is true in the political arena. A new president takes office with high approval ratings but before long the cheers turn to jeers as his popularity takes a nose dive. No doubt, our generation is much like those who were lauding Jesus’ praises on that first Palm Sunday. Just as it happened then it could just as easily happen today. In fact, with today’s 24 hour news, rabid commentary, and social media, it would probably only take us a few hours to turn against Jesus.
2- Satan’s failed plan played on the human desire for acceptance
Many people subscribe to the “what’s in” way of decision making. Surely, if it is popular it must be right. Or, so they think. There have been periods within my lifetime in which it has been fashionable to be a Christian and church membership boomed. There have also been times when the reverse was true as in recent years when there has been a decline in acceptance of the traditional Christian church. We go the way of the crowd because we want to fit in. We long for acceptance. Of course, there is great danger in following the crowd especially when the crowd is wrong. There were though a handful of faithful followers who did not turn against the Lord. Their relationship was not based on popularity but on God’s truth as revealed in Jesus.
3- Satan’s failed plan capitalized on false human expectations
Many of the people lining the streets and joining in the praise fest were those who were expecting Jesus to be a great earthly king who would lead them back into prominence as a nation and deliver them from their servitude to Rome. In verse 13, we see they shouted, “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Their expectation was that Jesus would be a great military leader and king like David. Indeed Jesus was their king but their expectation of how He would lead His people was way off the mark. Consequently, they turned on Jesus.
4- Satan’s failed plan was doomed from the beginning
The 3 previous scenarios provided fertile ground for the manipulative work of the devil. He could effectively use their mob mentality, the dynamic of going along with the crowd, and their ignorant expectations of Jesus for pushing the crowd toward his goal. This was his greatest time of opportunity. In Luke’s gospel we are told that when Satan failed to achieve his objective by tempting Jesus, and “he left him until an opportune time.” (Lk 4:13) The devil was hard at work seeking to divert Jesus from God’s plan for man’s redemption. Satan turned Judas against Jesus, sought to sift Peter as wheat (Lk 22:31), and then he worked in the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting crowd, the Jewish leaders, and Roman authorities to accomplish his evil purposes. Satan’s sinister plan led to a cross at Golgotha, but what looked to be certain victory actually resulted in Satan’s defeat. Satan’s plan played right into God’s plan for our reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ.
5- Satan’s failed plan is always trumped by God’s unfailing plan
God allowed Satan to have his way but only to the point of accomplishing the divine objective for our redemption. God’s way will always be victorious. The praise offered to Jesus on the first Palm Sunday was a small representation of that which was to come as Jesus won the victory of victories. As King of Kings and Lord of Lords Jesus is worthy of all praise now and forever. God’s good always triumphs over Satan’s evil. God is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnipresent (present everywhere simultaneously). Satan is none of those things. The Deceiver had been working behind the scenes to set the stage for Jesus’ destruction and Palm Sunday served as his launching pad from which his plan rapidly unfolded. No matter how well conceived his plan, he was not then nor will he ever be able to stand against the power of Almighty God.
There is a very personal lesson to be learned from this incredible drama in which good triumphed over evil. When your life is filled with uncertainty and the weight of difficulties is holding you down remember that God has a higher plan. His plan for good in your life will triumph over all that the enemy may throw your way. You should never forget that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) You should never give up because you “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28) Praise God for the victory!
For more on this topic, check out this article: Are You Ready for Life’s Ultimate Battle?
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.