Are You Waving?
We all shout and cheer for our favorite sports team or hero. Whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, bocce, or curling, we all urge on our teams. Winners or losers, we cheer for our team and remain loyal fans—or do we?
This is Holy Week; in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ, the most important week of the year. But just like today’s sports fans, this is a time when we saw people change teams quickly. Just like the “fan” who changes loyalties after a few seasons of losing, we know some of the same crowd who shouted Hosanna, Hosanna were the same ones who encouraged the religious leaders to crucify Christ. How does this attitude of being a loyal fan one day and a harsh critic the next speak to us today?
Let’s take a look at Scripture and see how this event plays out. In the gospel of Mark, the story of Palm Sunday is shared this way (Mark 11: 1-11, CEB):
When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task, saying to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.’”
They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some people standing around said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone. They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.
One of the things I have always encouraged people to do is to try to see themselves in the scenes of the Bible as they unfold. Picture yourself as part of that Palm Sunday crowd. Do you watch as the disciples untie the colt? Do you pick up a palm branch or throw down your cloak in praise of the one who challenges the religious leaders? Do you run alongside of the procession, following Jesus to the temple?
In this reading from Mark, it was many people who did this. In John’s Gospel, it is the crowd who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. In Luke’s Gospel, it is a whole multitude of those who had witnessed Jesus’ miracles who did the shouting. From Matthew, we learn that it was very large crowds. But the most important point might be that none of the gospels said that all the people joined in. Just like our world today, not everyone believes in the words of Jesus. Would you have been part of the cheering crowd or would you have been one of the questioning observers on the sidelines?
It’s easy a couple of thousand years later to say we would be right out front cheering and shouting for Jesus—but what if there were armed guards keeping a list of who was for this Jesus person and who wasn’t? What if the very people who were challenging Jesus were people you admired? What if your family asked you to not get involved? What if your employer was standing next to you, discouraging you from getting mixed up with this troublemaker?
We make that choice every day of our lives. We might not always recognize it but it happens in little ways every day; we are challenged to walk the talk we talk. We are challenged to pick up the palm branch or stay silent on the sidelines. We are challenged to be more than just good church-going, pew-warming people who talk a good talk on Sunday but fail to live it out the rest of the week. In subtle ways, we are asked to be part of that shouting Palm Sunday procession, cheering on our Jesus and what he stands for. We either stand with Jesus—or we stand against him. The world is always watching in which part of the procession we participate.
The world is watching to see if we are any different than the rest of the world. The great theologian John Cougar Mellencamp shared these words in one of his songs:
“You've got to stand for something, Or you're gonna fall for anything.” In other words, from a theology perspective, are you standing for Jesus or accepting whatever new “theology” is presented?
Today, we know that Jesus is Lord and Savior. We know that he is God and the only way to salvation. Are you willing to stand up for Jesus Christ in your everyday life, no matter what the world may think? As we go through this week, consider where you would have been on the street that day. Were you one of his loyal fans—or did your loyalty fail when the going got tough? Where are you today? Are you one of the loyal supporters of Jesus or do you cave when the going gets tough?
Consider where you walk in today’s world. Do you support Jesus or doubt his word? Are you a palm waver—or waving farewell?
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