Today, all around the world, it was a time of celebration as christians observed Palm Sunday. But instead of celebrating, I’ve personally been sad as I perceive a striking similarity between the biblical account of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the current state of so much of the “church world.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “ Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “ Who is this?” And the crowds said, “ This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee. (Matthew 21:6-11 ESV)
We know that this event fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament concerning the Messiah. Without a doubt, there were people in the crowd going before Him and after Him that truly believed in Him. And, like the twelve disciples, they didn’t understand that although He was indeed the Messiah King about to take His place in His Kingdom, it was in a far different sense than what they had imagined.
The part of the story that is heavy on my heart today is concerning the true believers and the crowd that gathered, waving palm branches and laying them down before Jesus as a sign of victory. Five days following, many in this crowd would be among those chanting, “Crucify Him!”
There is a picture here of the situation and mindset that is all too common in much of the Church today. The idea is that if we can just gather a crowd and get them caught up in the moment, with all of its excitement and emotion, and then if we can pass Jesus up and down the isles, and we can get them to respond in some way, then we can really feel like we’ve accomplished something.
I imagine if this happened today, there would have been a group of believers that woke up the next morning and printed something up in their bulletins about how they had the beginnings of a movement taking place on their city because of the great thing they accomplished for God. There would be several different groups attempting to take the credit for the great success of the day, proud of the fact that they not only gathered thousands together, but they had thousands singing and shouting and “excited for God.”
But those crowds were not truly worshipping Jesus. They were caught up in the moment, and they would be caught up in the next—five short days later.
But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:24-25 ESV)
I am not saying that we shouldn’t go out shouting that He is the one who has come to save us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get people to gather together in order to lift Jesus high. I also understand the principle of bringing a group into the realm of faith to see God move in their midst in powerful ways.
However, we must never forget that ministry is first unto the Lord and that it isn’t about hype and crowds. It’s about serving the Lord and making disciples. We should bring people together to present Christ as King before them, but we shouldn’t be under any illusion about what counts and how people truly change.
We can spend the rest of our lives gathering crowds that get caught up in the moment, or we can go make disciples.
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for twenty years, and is the proud father of two boys.