When you live in the greater Nashville area, it doesn’t take long until you see a celebrity in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or out and about in “normal” life. Nashville and her surrounding bedroom communities overflow with musicians. It’s hard not to see them around.
At least that’s what I have been told. I may have seen some—I just don’t know it. I don’t follow country music. So I may have had lunch next to a country music star, and I would never have known.
It’s hard to get excited about seeing someone when you don’t know who they are. To me, the biggest country star would just be another man or woman in the express checkout line in front of me with too many items in his or her basket. Yup, I may have rolled my eyes at a celebrity.
That is the problem the people of Israel had 2,000 years ago and this week’s session, The Triumphal Entry (Unit 20, Session 1), illustrates it.
On the surface, Jesus entering into Jerusalem seems like a high point of His ministry. People lined the streets and placed clothing and palm branches down as Jesus entered riding on a colt. They cried “Hosanna!” – a clear statement of their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah and as their king. It has the look and feel of the final scene of a Hollywood blockbuster. After a long struggle, the Hero is finally accepted by the people.
But if you keep reading the Gospel accounts, you see that something is wrong. Just a few days after this, the people turned on Jesus and called for His crucifixion. Why? What happened to the adoration and acceptance they freely heaped on Him during the Triumphal Entry?
The problem was the people didn’t recognize Jesus for who He really is. Similar to how I have perhaps interacted with a country music mega star, all the while unaware of his or her identity, so too did the people of Israel fail to see who Jesus truly was. They saw Jesus as a deliverer alright—as a deliverer from Roman occupation and tyranny. Their shouts of hosanna welcomed Jesus as a human king. As a human leader. As a military or political foe of Rome. They were thinking in worldly terms. The assumption was most likely that this was the time—finally—for Jesus to stand up before the people all gathered in Jerusalem and talk about how they could join together to topple Rome.
But that didn’t happen.
And that is why they turned on Him so quickly. Jesus failed to meet their expectations. He failed to fulfill the role they had crafted for Him to play. And so they were glad to join in the leaders’ plan to get rid of Him just a few days later.
But what about us? It is easy for us to shake our heads in disappointment at the crowd that gathered that day. But to be fair, we have the fuller story. Like them, we can look back at Zechariah 9:9 and see how Jesus was fulfilling that Messianic Prophecy, but we also have Revelation 19:11. We see how the Triumphal Entry looked back and presented Jesus as the suffering servant, but it also looks ahead to when Jesus will return as conquering King—the One who didn’t defeat the enemy state of Rome, but the enemy of sin and death.
So we are more able to see Jesus for who He truly is, and because of that, we also have a higher degree of responsibility. But again, we have to ask if we do. Unfortunately, I think there are plenty of times when we don’t. We too can see Jesus through the wrong lens. We can fail to identify Him as He truly is. We can contort Jesus into the image that we want Him to be. We can shed the parts of who He is—usually the parts concerning His justice, exclusiveness, etc.—and mold Him into a more palatable image for us to accept and share. And when we do that, we do the very same thing of the people in Jerusalem that day 2,000 years ago.
This week, help your kids understand that we are invited to trust in Jesus for who He truly is—not who we want Him to be. Encourage them to let God work in their hearts so that they love Jesus—truly love Him—for who He is.
How have you seen people reshape Jesus into someone else? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the April 9, 2017 session (Unit 20, Session 1) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.