Who is Jesus for the crowds? They want a Miracle Jesus. They are attracted to him because He is a vigorous, dynamic leader. However, of all the qualities of Jesus that the crowds love, they love Him best as a miracle man. They must have been especially disappointed on the seven occasions in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus performed a miracle, then told them to tell no one about it. The crowds want a Miracle Jesus, but He so often seems to disappoints them by not making a fuss.
Who is Jesus for the Pharisees? They want a Ritual Jesus. They think the most important matter of religion is found, not in how they believe or pray, but in how they dress and wash and eat. However, Jesus comes preaching that the real way to God is through having faith in the Almighty and maintaining a high ethical standard in life. In fact, Jesus breaks the Sabbath, eats with the unclean, and defies the laws of purification. The Pharisees want a Ritual Jesus, but He disappoints them by not toeing their line.
Who is Jesus for the Zealots? They want a Military Jesus. These radical nationalists are ready to use force, even terrorism, to overthrow the Roman government. They expect Jesus to take up a sword and call His followers to arms at any moment. Yet, Jesus says to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." He also says, "All who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” The Zealots want a Military Jesus, but He disappoints them by being a peacemaker instead of a warrior.
Who is Jesus for the Disciples? They want a Victorious Jesus. They began following Jesus when the crowds were thronging around Him. Their heads were full of self-seeking dreams, of success of their missions. They wondered aloud which of them would be allowed to sit at His right hand when He comes into His kingdom. Nevertheless, Jesus keeps up His negative talk about his death and hinting that persecution will be their lot, not glory. Also, He makes clear that following Him means taking up a cross. The Disciples want a victorious Messiah, but Jesus disappoints them by leading them to a different path.
When we look closely at the dynamics of that Palm Sunday, we are not really surprised at the Friday outcome. On the surface, it seems as though the Triumphal Entry was a grand celebration, but underneath we find the seeds of the crucifixion lying among the palms. He came for the people, but on God's terms.
Who is Jesus for us? Are we looking for a Savior? The real meaning of Holy Week, as well as the meaning of His whole life, ministry, death and resurrection, is that He came and died for us, as noted in the Gospel of John: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
It really doesn't matter what the crowds were looking for. It doesn't matter what the Pharisees or the Zealots or the Disciples were looking for. The real meaning of Palm Sunday is between us and God. What kind of Jesus are we looking for? We still ask the question, "Who is this Jesus?" And our own answer to that question makes all the difference.