PALM SUNDAY MESSAGE: “It’s Sunday…But Friday’s Comin’”
As a pastor and a preacher I’ve developed my own top ten of the messages I’ve heard preached by other men and women. One of my favorites, and it may be number one on my list, is Tony Campolo’s “Its Friday…But Sunday’s Comin’.” Dr. Tony Campolo tells the story of a little preaching competition that he had with his pastor during services at the church where he attends. Dr. Campolo tells how he preached the perfect sermon, perfect in every way. He had taken the congregation to the heights of glory and the depths of despair. And as he sat down beside his pastor, Dr. Campolo patted him on the knee and simply said, “Top that.” The older black pastor looked at him and said, “Boy, watch the master.”
It was a simple sermon, starting softly; building in volume and intensity until the entire congregation was completely involved, repeating the phrases in unison. The sermon went something like this.
It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord and they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.
By the end of the message the old preacher was simply calling out, “It’s Friday” and whole congregation was responding, “Sunday’s coming!”
You heard the Palm Sunday story before and maybe you thought like I did that this is the exact opposite of the story of Good Friday. Because this was Sunday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday’s coming.
All the people were waving palms, throwing their cloaks, coats, wraps and Ralph Lauren sweaters on the pathway before Christ. It looked like someone had emptied the St. Paulies shed into the streets. People were cheering, “Hosanna, hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The crowds ran to the palm trees and cut fronds from them and laid them before Jesus as he approached on a foal of a donkey. “Yeah, Jesus. You’re the messiah. Yeah, Jesus. We saw you raise the dead. Yeah, Jesus. You’ve come to save us. Hosanna. Hosanna.”
But that was Sunday and Friday’s coming.
On Friday that same group of people would stand and scream, “Crucify him! Crucify him! That same group of people that yelled Hosanna would five days later scream out for his blood. They would scream out that he be nailed to a cross. Does that surprise you? Does that shock you? If you were a disciple like Peter, James, or John or the other nine wouldn’t you be surprised, possibly shocked, certainly dismayed and discouraged?
They shouldn’t have been and neither should we because Jesus warned them and Mark recorded it in chapter 4 of his gospel. Jesus was teaching his disciples through parables, which are word pictures designed to teach a point. Mark writes in 4:3-9:
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus warned them that this is the way it would be. He told them who He was. He revealed He was the messiah, the Christ. He cast out the seed that Messiah had come. He did miracles to prove it. But some people were like the hard ground in the pathway of a garden. These people were so hard, so calloused and so bitter to the truth that it would bounce off of them. The seed would lay on the surface waiting for Satan to sweep in and do everything he can to steal it away before it germinates, takes root and grows. In the crowd that formed around Jesus’ triumphant entry there were Jewish religious leaders, Pharisees, who looked at what was going on, then weaseled their way up to Jesus and said, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” These men hated him and they knew that if Jesus continued to live he would bring the powers of Rome down on their heads and with that their comfortable lifestyle, power and prestige would be gone.
I can envision the Pharisees standing and watching. They knew they had to do something or Jesus would bring destruction on their way of life. You can almost hear Satan whispering in their ears with his venomous, sulphuric scented voice, “It’s Sunday…but Friday’s coming.”
There was another group who stood screaming, “Hosanna, Hosanna” on Palm Sunday. These were the ones that had watched and listened to Jesus. Some were even there when Jesus called Lazarus from grave. They watched as the stone was rolled away and the dead man came forth from his grave clothes. They may have seen him make dinner for everyone out five loaves and three fish. A few may have been to the wedding where he turned water into wine. They were shouting were great fervency, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
These people though were like the seeds that fell amongst the rocks. They sprouted quickly. They saw a miracle here and miracle there and believed this was what the ministry of Jesus was all about. They jumped on the bandwagon quickly but once the heat of the hot sun, the pressure of the Pharisees came upon them they withered. The religious leaders pressed hard upon their congregations. They lobbied and cajoled and threatened those they were there to pastor. Yes, on Sunday these folks screamed for Jesus the King and then on Friday they screamed for him to be crucified. Yes, I can almost hear the Pharisees saying to their congregations, “it’s Sunday…But Friday’s coming.” Yes, on Friday you will not scream out Hosanna. On Friday you will not throw your coats at his feet. On Friday you scream “crucify him” and they will rip his coat from his bloody and back and cast lots to see who would get it. It’s Sunday now, congregation but on Friday you will do our bidding. It’s Sunday but Friday’s coming.
There was a third group mixed into the crowd. They ran to the streets stripping off their coats, grabbing palms and throwing them at Jesus feet but they were like the seeds that fell among the thorns. The thorns or pressures of life grew up and choked them out. On Sunday they yelled, “Hosanna, hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But that was Sunday.
On Monday, the bills from the new Passover outfits for the kids and that great new bonnet for mom came in the mail. How was he going to pay them all and the mortgage and still buy food? Then on Tuesday, a Pharisee priest stopped by and said if they continued to follow this Jesus they would be excommunicated and shunned by their beloved fellowship. They would have no friends. They would have no center to their spiritual and social lives. They would be like outcasts. Then on Wednesday, as the family walked through the marketplace to get the supplies they needed for the Passover meal, they were ridiculed and mocked. They were called Jesus Freaks and people wouldn’t wait on them. Finally, by Thursday when the good lady’s husband came home early from work and said he had lost his job because his wife was at the Palm Sunday rally yelling out” Hosanna, Hosanna,” she lost her cool. She couldn’t take the pressure anymore. She was distraught. So when Friday came she was at the front of the crowd teaching her children a new phrase, no longer was she yelling Hosanna but “Crucify him!” I can almost hear the leaders in the community whispering behind the cheering crowds as Jesus rode down the street on the back of a donkey, “it’s Sunday…but Friday’s coming.”
But in that crowd there were people who heard the word and it transformed their lives. It not only transformed their lives on Sunday when they sincerely yelled, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” It transformed their lives on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday. They saw hope and a future. They found relief and salvation in this man who was the Messiah. Then on Friday they saw him judged and tried before Pontius Pilate. On Friday they saw soldiers beat him with a whip and press a crown of thorns into his head until blood rolled like tiny rivers down his face. On Friday they saw him carry his heavy cross through town and up a hill known as Golgotha or the Skull. On Friday they saw soldiers rip his bloody garment from his body and cast lots for it. On Friday they watched as he was nailed to a cross. On Friday they watched him die a cruel death. On Friday their lives had been ruined. On Friday their faith had been stripped away from thenm. On Friday their trust and belief was rocked as they watched him placed into a tomb. On Friday they wept great, bitter tears as the stone was rolled in front of it.
Yes, they were crushed on Friday. Hope was lost on Friday. Everything they screamed for on Palm Sunday was true but now their faith was pierced by the three nails and dashed on the sharp edges of his stony grave. On Palm Sunday they believed he was the Lord. On Palm Sunday they believed he came in the name of the Lord. On Palm Sunday they believed He was the Messiah. On Palm Sunday they believed everything they yelled as they cast palms at his feet. On Palm Sunday they believed it all as they stripped off their coats and threw them down for him to cross. But that was Sunday. Now, Friday had come and Friday it seemed as if it had all ended. Hope was lost.
They stood around in dark rooms and hidden alleys talking and listening to one another ask, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Another would ask, “Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?” Another would ask through a tear soaked voice, “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” Yes, that was Friday. On Friday it seemed as if it were all finished.
Then like the soft wind or was it a gentle breeze, a voice, somewhere from the sky or maybe from the corner or maybe from within, but it was a voice. A voice as powerful and as soothing as if it came from God himself. It was as if the voice of God whispered—
“It’s Friday…But Sunday’s coming.”