This weekend we celebration Palm Sunday, the day of Christ's "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem. The gospel accounts of this event highlight the exuberance of the common people who recognized Jesus as their political Messiah who should help to throw off their Roman oppressors. That was the hope of many on that day — so much so that it gave the Jewish authorities grave concerns about the possibility of a revolution that would curtail their own power over the people.
That fervor did not last long. It was only a few short days later that some of those who hailed Jesus as king were convinced he was a criminal deserving death as they cried out, "Crucify him!" The people were just that fickle. They changed their minds almost overnight.
Those who did flip on this issue no doubt were heavily influenced by the authorities of the time who were conspiring to get rid of Jesus and eliminate the threat he posed to their own power. No matter the motivation, the quickness with which they changed their tune was breathtaking.
And so it is when is comes to those who have rejected their Christian faith or at least have cooled in their enthusiasm. There are those who have seriously considered Christianity, experienced the positive dimensions of the fellowship of a local church, entered into worship and even service in a congregation, but at some point they seem to run out of any heart-felt commitment to God or the people of God. In their fickleness they are on to something else.
Some have been convinced that traditional religion is just not believable given high profile authorities who chip away at the credibility of the faith whether in academia, business or entertainment.
Others have had negative experiences in the church or with individual Christians that have soured them on continuing in association with them.
Still others have simply found interests that have occupied their time and energy and the regular expressions of faith. Church attendance and hanging out often with a particular group of people just does not fit into their schedules.
So there are those who in their fickleness have turned away from Christianity. But it is in this coming week — Holy Week — which offers a chance for people to reconsider their faith because of the compelling nature of this drama:
- The honor that Christ was offered by the common people on Palm Sunday was for a reason. This was the culmination of three and a half years of public ministry and the goodness, the kindness and the power of Jesus as a teacher and miracle worker was renown.
- The fellowship that Jesus experienced at the last supper with his disciples was an intense expression of love with the washing of their feet, sharing in a meal, and instituting the elements of communion that continues to be celebrated to this day.
- The humble sacrifice that Jesus entered into involved living out the meaning of those elements of communion by sacrificing his body and shedding his blood to atone for the sins of the world. This was not a simple exchange of one life for others, it was a prolonged and tortured death that he was willing to go through.
- The ultimate vindication that came through the resurrection of Easter Sunday morning is the highlight of the week. After waiting for parts of three days, in power Jesus came back from the dead. That resurrection is the great validating historical event that cannot be refuted. In reality, the very fact that the Church still exists today is proof that Jesus did rise from the dead. If he had not, that scattered group of discouraged, disheartened and disillusioned disciples would never have been heard from again.
All of this puts Jesus in a proper perspective. He, the founder of the Christian faith, lived a life of love and sacrifice and died a death of love and sacrifice as well. In the end he overcame death and promises the same fate to those who believe and follow him.
Holy Week can be a time for Christians and non-Christians to replace fickleness with by a serious consideration of what Jesus, the main actor in the drama, accomplished in life and in death.