I'm writing this on what's called "holy Saturday"- the day between Good Friday and Easter. This would've been a dark, dark day for the early followers of Jesus. After all, they didn't appear to comprehend the possibility of what would happen tomorrow.
That being said, I was reflecting on the events we commemorate this "holy Week" and went back to its traditional beginning point: Palm Sunday. This, as we all know, remembers one of the highs in Jesus' life and is therefore celebrated with gusto all over the world. It seems from the biblical accounts that the people who lauded Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem that day were at the least self-deceived into believing that event marked the inception of a new Kingdom and an new King. For that jubilant population there was a perception that the old had passed and the new had come. They at least felt reborn.
There was hope that day that everything had, or was changing. They could be more politically engaged as their King would no doubt expect them to "vote out" the godless Roman regime and install leaders that would reflect their values. The religious landscape would be affected, but not dramatically. After all, religion was part of their culture and attending weekly events to remind them that God existed and expected them to live according to the Commandments was a part of the routine. Big holidays and seasonal emphases were in place. The entry of King Jesus would simply make those rituals more meaningful and less lifeless.
Unfortunately, Palm Sunday was deceiving them into a belief that was incomplete. The crowds that embraced Jesus as their King that Sunday wanted to believe this was not only a beginning, but in a way, also an end. They enjoyed crowning their King and undoubtedly were prepared to pledge him their nationalistic loyalty. They left no room for additional insight into this King and his expectations not only of them that day, but for the entire world living elsewhere who did not have a palm branch to wave or a place in the crowd. There were people yet to be born for whom this King's agenda was in place.
What more could there be but living in the glow of a coronation?
For many if not most Christians in today's Americanized Christian culture, Palm Sunday is all there is and for them, it is enough. We live in the deception that recognizing and accepting Jesus as our King fulfills the formula for eternal life. Celebrating a new perspective is all that God ever wanted from humanity, right? We are glad to be on board and we shout "Hosanna" with zeal, knowing we are on the right team now.
And Jesus accepts it. He doesn't condemn their misguided understanding of him and his mission. He receives their praises without additional words that would complete the picture. After all, he had already spent a few years teaching about God, challenging the entrenchment of religion that had prevented them from living as God's people. No, Jesus let the palms sway and the voices swell.
Christians, like the Jews on that day, allow the initial entry of King Jesus into their understanding to be an end rather than a step toward what is really hoped for by God. We live our lives in the warmth of a pleasant memory that can be marked on a calendar signifying when we recognized Jesus as Lord and received that understanding in a way that would hopefully alter their thoughts and decisions about their life and world. We accepted Jesus into our hearts.
Anything after that- no matter how confusing, disruptive, or apparently heretical- is sacrificed to the deception of Palm Sunday.
NEXT: Why no more Palm Sundays?