“Turmoil Sunday”

Kurt Jacobson
5 min readApr 2, 2023

April 2, 2023

Matthew 21:1–11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” ***

As a kid I enjoyed Saturday morning TV. One of my favorite shows was Scooby Doo. Each week Scooby and the gang of Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy solved mysteries about supposed supernatural creatures through a series of antics and missteps. Little did I know then that the birth of “Scooby-Doo” wasn’t just by chance. It was a response to the political and social turmoil during the 1960s.

In the mid 1960’s there was an effort underway, led by parents, to challenge TV networks to produce shows for kids that had less violence. Parents believed children were already hearing and seeing enough turmoil caused by the Vietnam War, the protests over Civil Rights and the assassinations of JFK and MLK Jr.

Not long after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 did something happen. President Johnson, by executive order appointed a National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. Earlier, as Attorney General, Kennedy had advocated with the FCC for more regulation of children’s TV programming.

From this commission, “Scooby-Doo” was born to relieve children from the fears of turmoil and unrest.

Does it seem like this is a good time for the formation of a new Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence? Across the world on this Palm Sunday there is turmoil. We see it in Nashville, Syria, Ukraine, and Haiti. The city of Jerusalem is again in turmoil. Perhaps you know some turmoil in your life right now.

This day could be renamed “Turmoil Sunday.” Turmoil was the state of the day as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Matthew tells us: “When (Jesus) entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’” Jesus and turmoil seem to go together.

Of course, our attention on Palm Sunday is not generally on turmoil. We sing our hosannas with the hope that Jesus will bring peace and calm, unity to the world, answers to our questions and solutions to our problems.

But this story of Palm Sunday, of Jesus riding a donkey and the crowds cheering and waving branches has always been about his mission and its intersection with the tumult in Jerusalem.

“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil.”

It was a springtime Sunday in about the year 30 A.D. The holy city was crowded with pilgrims who had come for the annual Passover celebration.

Jesus warned His disciples that trouble was ahead. There was harsh conflict between Jesus and Jerusalem’s religious leaders. He told the disciples he would soon be put to death, and after three days He would rise again.

Throughout his life, teaching and behavior, Jesus caused turmoil with the religious establishment. Palm Sunday would be no exception. On the day of his entrance to Jerusalem the whole city is in turmoil. Waving palms and shouting “Hosanna” did not hide or relieve the turmoil. Instead, they become the symbols that would shake and agitate Jerusalem, disclosing its unrest.

Immediately after Jesus enters Jerusalem, he goes to the temple bringing more turmoil. He drives out those who were buying and selling the way to God. He overturns the tables and chairs of those who acted as gatekeepers to God.

Most of the people did not understand what kind of king Jesus would be. They expected their Messiah to be a great political and military leader who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. But Jesus had said many times he was not that kind of Messiah. And therein lies the tumult.

Turmoil, in the Greek language of the New Testament translates to “shake” — equivalent to earthquake. Matthew describes seismic events that shake the world. The earthquake wrought by Holy Week, however, is not the end but a new beginning. The tremblers of this week will forever change who we are and the life we live.

Think about it what is coming this week. Judas’ betrayal will reveal the fault line in all of us. On Thursday we will tremble at the intimacy of touching and washing each other’s feet. On Friday the earth will quake as the cross kills the Servant King. The silence of Saturday will cause the gates of hell to shudder, only to burst open Sunday with the shaking guard who stood at the tomb when the angel rolled the stone away.

Holy Week is one earthquake after another. Earthquakes are destructive. Foundations crumble and the structures on which we live are left in ruin and rubble. That’s how Jerusalem experiences Jesus’ entry and that’s why this day could be called “Turmoil Sunday.”

So let me ask you this. What parts of your life need some Jesus kind of turmoil? What needs to be shaken awake and back to life? What are old ways of thinking, seeing, and acting that need to crumble and fall?

Somewhere in each of us we need the triumphant turmoil of Christ. It is the devastation of everything in us that keeps us from being fully alive, fully ourselves, and fully God’s. It is earthquakes that create space and place for a new foundation, a new structure, and a new life.

The turmoil of this day is also the triumph. The triumph of Palm Sunday is not in the donkey, the hosannas, or the palms. It is Christ’s earth shaking entry into this world and this human life. It is a triumph that will continue to be revealed throughout this week. It is a triumph that happens whenever and wherever Jesus is present.



Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.