Palm Sunday ambivalence

Last year I called Palm Sunday "bittersweet." This year I'm ambivalent about the whole celebration. Here's part of the story from Mark's Gospel (11:8-10):
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”


“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”


“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
My ambivalence is with this: the celebration is misguided. These same people change their tune in a matter of days. "Hosanna" turns into "crucify him!" (Mk. 15:13-14). When Jesus doesn't look and sound like the king they expect, adulation shifts to condemnation. A mob-mentality has a powerful effect, no doubt. “Everyone deserted” Jesus in the days following Palm Sunday, even his closest friends (Mk. 14:50).

Makes me wonder, how often is our faithfulness to Jesus caught up in a sort of mob-mentality akin to Palm Sunday and Passion Week? Are we able to admit it when this is in fact the case? Just a few questions arising from my Palm Sunday ambivalence...

4 comments:

Kirk Symon said...

The stories of Passion Week provide us with a series of jarring contrasts.

On Sunday, Jesus' followers and those who had witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus were proclaiming Him to be the One who comes "in the Name of the Lord" and they testified of the wonderful miracles he had performed. These were largely the country folk coming to Jerusalem for Passover. These were the "uneducated" people that the "Teachers" despised.

The educated Pharisees and Sadducees on the other hand were plotting to get rid of Him because He didn't play by their rules AND they plotted to kill Lazarus as well because he was causing the people to believe in Jesus.

On Friday, the Rulers and the Teachers drummed up a mob, most likely jaded residents of Jerusalem, to denounce Jesus and condemn Him to death. There were many who did not agree with this and cried for him on the sides of the road, or from a distance. But, they did not interfere with this injustice, because they feared the power of the Rulers.

None of them understood that this betrayal and crucifixion was exactly what God planned from the beginning, for our salvation. Here was the Sin offering being slain by the ones who needed to be forgiven - US, all of us.

We have all failed God and we will continue to do so as long as we live in these bodies. If we had been there on Friday, we would have failed Him as well, one way or another.

But on Good Friday, God did not fail us. He voluntarily laid down His own life to take away our sin, forever, and then rose from the dead on Sunday to declare His Salvation is now available for all of us.

Holy Week confronts us with pictures of just how helpless and hopeless and faithless we are on our own. But it also shows how much God loves us, in spite of our failures, and how far He was willing to go to save "a retch like me".

Instead of focusing on how bad we have been in the past, and continue to be, we should be focusing on the boundless grace of God, that He revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Stop struggling and start praising Him.

David Warkentin said...

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for the outline of the "jarring contrasts" of the Passion week story. I'm thankful as well that God's grace overcomes the human inability to respond to God on our own.

I'm a little a confused, I'll admit, with your last statement: "stop struggling and start praising Him." It seems to oversimplify the "jarring contrasts" you outline earlier. God's grace offers transformation, no doubt, but what do you say to the Christian who suffers abuse? Or has depression? Or arrogance? Or doubts? I think the messiness of passion week brings hope to the dark experiences we continue to have. For me, struggling is integral to honest faithfulness. A faith, that like Peter, is able to see God's work despite our constant denials.

Kirk Symons said...

Hi David,

Sorry for the abrupt ending there. It was late and I had too many thoughts in my head.

The point I was trying to get at with "Stop struggling and start praising Him" is that many Christians struggle with feelings of guilt and failure for the past, or for their current state, as they approach Easter. They are focused on their sins and not on Jesus. They continue to beg Jesus to forgive their sins over and over, or worse, they feel that He won't forgive them and they live defeated lives, trying to find some way to make themselves feel "holier" so that they can pray to Jesus.

At the cross, Jesus died Once for all sin, for all people, for all time. Every sin that we have done, or will do in our lives, was in the future when He went to that cross. He HAS forgiven us all of our sins. "It is finished" Hallelujah !

Now, we can come to Him confidently for cleansing and correction and guidance, through His Holy Spirit. There is no need for fear. He loves us more than we can ever understand. He has shown that to us at the cross.

Now, we are called to "fix our eyes upon Jesus" and to praise Him for His infinite grace and then let Him cleans us from all sin and make us into His image, as we yield ourselves to the promptings of His Holy Spirit.

Praise Him always. Hallelujah !

HE IS RISEN !


In response to your point about suffering.

Life here is a struggle and I have suffered through a number of the issue you mentioned above. I only got through those dark times because I KNOW that Jesus is alive and has spoken to my heart through His Spirit from time to time.

Reading and meditating on the scriptures every day, even for a few minutes, is the best way to open your heart to Him. I believe the Word because I have heard His "voice" speak to me through His Spirit as He has applied His word to my heart.

Even during the times when I did not hear Him for long periods, I knew that He did before and believed that He would speak to me again. And He does.

No matter what trials or tragedies come our way, I believe that I will stand before Him in the end, because He has promised this to me in His Word. He has promised this to all believers.

Hallelujah !

David Warkentin said...

Thanks for the clarification Kirk - glad to hear God's grace has helped you in your journey.

He has risen indeed!

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