The thing to bear in mind about that first Palm Sunday

“The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know….” (Ephesians 1:18).

When they welcomed Jesus into the city on that Sunday, they did not know what they were doing.

In praising Him as the Son of David who comes in the name of the Lord, they said more than they knew. They professed more than they believed.

“Most of the multitude spread their garments in the road and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them in the road. And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’  (Matthew 21)

When they crucified Him on Friday, these people were still in the dark….

“And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him…. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-34).

Operating from ignorance. There’s a lot of that going around, in the church as well as without.

These people worshiped Him in ignorance, even though they got the words right.

They had no idea what they were saying, what it meant, and what to make of any of it.  Much is left unsaid in the story of Jesus’ last week, never more obvious than in His entry into the city atop the donkey as the crowds waved palm branches and hailed Him as the Son of God.  How did they know to do this? Did someone coach them?  Who took the lead and why?

The crowd around the cross had leaders who had rallied them to attend this crucifixion and coached them on what to cry.  At every point, “the chief priests and scribes” were out in front of the mob, showing them how it’s done.

The people didn’t know. They worshiped in ignorance and crucified Jesus out of the same darkness.

Ignorance and arrogance. A fatal combination.

We recall the experience of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.

After Paul healed a cripple in the city of Lystra, a crowd gathered and “they began calling Barnabas ‘Zeus’ and Paul ‘Hermes,’ because he was the chief speaker.” The priests brought animals forward and “wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.” We read that “with great difficulty (they) restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.”

But their devotion is based on ignorance.

A short time later, Jews from the towns where they’d just been preaching arrived and won over the multitudes. Now, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead” (Acts 14).

So much for the adoration of the multitude!  At one o’clock they were worshiping the missionaries and at two o’clock trying to kill them.

In both cases, they acted out of ignorance.

Our Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem a few days before going to the cross.  His tears flowed from the heartbreak over their rejection and His knowing what this was going to cost them. He thought of the coming destruction of the entire region under the Roman army, something that occurred in A.D. 70.  “And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!” He saw the coming seige of the city and the devastation accompanying it. And why would this be happening? “Because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)

The people knew a lot of things, but they did not know a) “the things which make for peace”–such things as humility and repentance and a knowledgeable devotion to the Son of God!–and b) “the time of (their) visitation,” that is, that today God walks among us in human form.

Ignorance is such a killer.

The prophet Hosea saw something similar happening in the 8th century before Christ, and said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

The knowledge the prophet called for, and the “knowing” which Jesus sought among God’s people, had nothing to do with a liberal arts education or college degrees, but was a spiritual knowledge.

As the Lord slowly moved up the hill from the Kidron creek and through the Eastern Gate and the crowds sang and shouted, there was knowledge a-plenty throughout these people. But sadly, it was a knowledge about God and not “of” Him, an intimacy with religion with its rules and regulations but not an informed intimacy with the Living God.  Of such people the Lord Jesus spoke when He envisioned a time at the last when He would say to a religious but misguided people, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”

That, my friends, is ignorance of the worst kind. The deadliest there is.

So, Christian worker. What do you know?

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