When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it was to the acclaim of the crowds. “Hosanna! Hosanna!” they cried. It must have been an inspiring sight to see for the disciples. “These people get it”, they must have thought. Now, finally, Jesus was getting the right recognition that he deserved. He is the coming King and his people have recognized it.
But that was Sunday. And as we all know, the crowds were screaming for his blood on Friday. How could they turn on him like that? How could it all go to hell so fast? Were they really that fickle? Can they really have changed their minds about him that quickly?
The answer is, “yes”, “no”, and “kinda.” I mean, to be fair, Jesus gets pretty aggressive in the Temple and the courts the next few days in his preaching, teaching, and condemnation of the religious practices of Israel at the time. So there’s some understandable shift in popular consciousness that can be accounted for.
But even with that, you begin to see that it’s not so much a matter of people being simply fickle, or changing their mind about Jesus, but rather coming to understand they hadn’t understood him in the first place.
Many had a Messiah box and had slid Jesus into that, without really checking the fit. They were excited that the liberation, salvation, the good life they had desired for so long was coming because Jesus was bringing it. But then they saw, they heard, they understood–he’s up to something else–he had a different vision. And so they changed their minds about Jesus precisely because they wouldn’t change their minds about the kind of kingdom that really mattered to them.
When they saw what Jesus was really about, they decided it was not in their rational, self-interest to identify with this sort of Messiahship. And so, they handed him over to be crucified by the Gentiles.
All this is fairly standard Palm Sunday sermon material, but as I was reflecting on it this morning, I began to think of our current social situation in the church. It’s easy for those of who care about the health of the Church to get discouraged about the how much the popular imagination of church-goers or self-identified Christians seems match worldly, distorted, fun-house visions of the kingdom, politics, and the good life.
Christians who chant Jesus’ name on Sunday seem to hand Jesus over to be crucified in a million different ways all throughout the week.
But the reality is, for 2,000 years the crowds have been chanting “Hosanna!” one day, and calling for Jesus’ crucifixion just a few days later. But Easter came all those years ago, despite the infidelity of the crowd.
Take heart this, then, this Palm Sunday. No matter the temporary woes of the Church today, the fickleness of the crowds, or the narrowness of their vision, the humble King who came riding on a donkey is even now seated at on the throne in glory, ruling the cosmos, salvation securely in hand. There is always hope, always resurrection life at work in the Church just around the corner.
Soli Deo Gloria