As I mentioned last week, for me Palm Sunday feels very strange.
On one hand, there is rejoicing that the King has come. And that is true. The one and only King is there! They were right to party that day, and so should we!
But on the other hand, right in the middle of the party, that king is weeping. And then to make matters even more weird he starts saying some very dark things. Look at Luke 19:43-44. It’s like Stephen King wrote this stuff. Straight out of some horror nightmare. Really, Jesus, you couldn’t wait to bring that part up about children being dashed upon rocks? But guess what? Maybe no surprise here…Jesus’ oracle of destruction is right on the money.
He is right on the money a few days later when the adoring crowds became murderous. Even his own disciples were fickle. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and all but John ran away.
Also, in the not too distant future, about 40 years later in 70 AD, this oracle would be fulfilled when Rome decimated Jerusalem and the temple.
So we have this very bizarre thing going on that day. In the hype of it all, the people are all about proclaiming him king. But all it took was a few days, some confrontation from the establishment, and the people so quickly change their tune.
As much as I feel angry about the night and day change from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, if I am honest with myself, it strikes me as so down to earth, so real. A true picture of how fickle we all can be.
Excited about Jesus and his mission one moment, wimping out the next.
So while we are right to praise the Lord on Palm Sunday because he is the King, we need to hear Jesus’ words with humility. We the faithful can quickly become the fainthearted.
But we don’t want to be fickle! In all of us there is an ongoing battle of motivations where the selfless and the selfish are at war. You know the feeling. We desire to be faithful to Jesus, but we know that we can be weak, fickle and sometimes faithless.
Is there anything this passage can teach us to help us remain faithful? There most certainly is. In fact, there is something right in the middle of the celebration that is so awesome. Look at verse 37: “…the disciples rejoiced in loud voices because of the miracles they had seen…” They looked back at the past three years and they remembered the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the King.
What can we learn from their example?
Step 1 – Be people that remember.
Like the disciples, we must be a people who remember what God has done in our lives. When we remember his faithfulness, we are strengthened to make that emotional turn in our lives where we are able to weather the difficulties. We need to open up space and time in our lives where we actually remember.
But how do we actually do this?
Step 2 – Make a habit of remembering. A daily text, email, list on your mirror. A practice where people remember together the good works of the Lord, for the purpose of maintaining that attitude of trust, allegiance and praise.
Start the day remembering! Before you turn on the phone, the TV, the computer, make it a practice to remember.
Do you need to remember even more frequently than that?
For example, you know your day. You know the areas in life, the times, the groups of people where you are tempted to turn away from the Lord. Could be in the break room at the office when your co-workers start gossiping? Could be in the cafeteria at school when your friends start talking? Maybe a family member that you really struggle with. Maybe a person at church who really struggle with.
Do you need to start a preemptive practice of remembering that Jesus is King of your life?
Let Jesus’ oracle be a caution for us: there is a danger in not remembering. This is the difference between the two crowds. The Palm Sunday crowd is praising God, we are told, in verse 37 because of all the miracles they had seen. The Good Friday crowd must have gotten amnesia or something. They are loud too, but they are condemning. When faced with a difficult situation they forgot not only what happened a few days before when they were ready to crown Jesus king, they also forgot all that he had done in the previous three years.
On Palm Sunday they are not afraid of the powerful religious establishment. On Good Friday, they go right along with the lies and murderous threats of that same establishment.
On Palm Sunday the crowd is more than willing to proclaim a new king in the face of the Roman rulers who did not take kindly to that kind of uprising. On Good Friday, they cower before the Roman rulers.
When faced with the junk and pressures of life, when pain and stress is right in our face, we can forget that we were praising God just yesterday. We can forget the miracles he has done in our lives.
One author, commenting on Jesus’ oracle in verses 43-44 says this: “The reason for the destruction is simple—’you did not know the time of your visitation.’ Messiah has come and Israel has said no. Opportunity for peace has come, but the nation has opted for destruction—a destruction that will not be permanent, as later scripture…makes clear. Still, this soon-to-come destruction will be devastating. …Israel’s house will be desolate. A first-century Auschwitz awaits it. Unlike the twentieth-century version, where repulsive ethnic hatred brought death, the Jewish nation of the first century brought catastrophe on itself. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus blamed the nationalists, the Zealots, for the nation’s demise, but Jesus has a different answer. By rejecting him, Israel has chosen the way of judgment. It has missed the day and the moment.”
The author concludes with a warning we all would do well to heed: “What was true of the Jewish nation can also be true of individuals. To miss Jesus is to miss the time of visitation and face accountability before God.”
So let’s remember God’s mighty acts today! Do you believe that Jesus is alive and active and at work in your life? When we don’t see that right in front of our eyes, let us not lose heart. Let us be a people who actively remember. He is actively involved in our lives and in our world.
Let us write them down and talk about them and praise the Lord for them. Let those mighty acts motivate us to praise him as King, because he alone is the one true King.
But let us be humble and teachable, admitting to one another and to the Lord how quickly we forget, lest we, the Palm Sunday crowd, become the Good Friday crowd.
What will you do to make a habit of remembering God’s faithfulness in your life?
I would encourage you to remember the miracles he did in your life in days long past as well as in more recent days.
A charm bracelet of remembrance?
A shelf in your house of remembrance?
Artistic magnets of remembrance on your fridge?
How will you remember?