As I read the story of Palm Sunday, I was struck by a thought. The same people who were shouting, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were shouting, “Crucify him!” five days later. It seems impossible for people to be so fickle. But the next thought was even more concerning than the first. This triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was shortly after He had raised Lazarus from the dead in nearby Bethany. Now everyone had heard of the rabbi from Galilee who healed the sick and even raised the dead. What a swing of emotions these people had when challenged with a different opinion of Christ!
I once heard a Pastor say that it matters not at all who other people say that Jesus is, instead it matters most who I say that Jesus is. The Pharisees and Scribes had decided that Jesus was a heretic. At that point, everyone else had to decide who Jesus was for themselves. Matthew 16:13-20 records Peter's declaration of Jesus as God's Christ: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah [the Christ], the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter [which means Rock] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
There is a danger and trap for many of us, for we shout, “Hosanna!” when things go well--when our children are obedient and it’s been weeks since a major conflict with our spouse. Then we see Jesus as the King of kings and the Savior of all our circumstances. But then, when circumstances deteriorate, we doubt who he is and question his very character. We are tempted to turn our back, ashamed of the cross, and the man on it. Maybe your children have been rebellious, or disappointments in life have come, or perhaps a new and convenient “doctrine” is attempting to change the definition of who Jesus is. Yet, we must not change how we identify with Christ based on our feelings or circumstances or trendy “doctrines,” because if we do, we are no better than the fickle crowd on Palm Sunday.
As long as it was about what Jesus could do to make their lives better, they offered "Hosanna!” But as soon as it became about what they could do for Him, it was either silence or “Crucify Him!” Even our silence can discredit our Lord as we stand by, not saying a word. Silence questions His character and makes him nothing more than a Sugar Daddy. And when the sugar is gone, we no longer wish to identify with Him.
How willing am I to follow God's leading when it requires taking up my cross and follow him? Can we commit our families to be like those of which the prophet speaks:
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).”
Jesus told us that there were costs to discipleship. Are you able to profess that God is love even when life's circumstances are challenging?
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra