Holy week meditations
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By Jordan Chamblee, staff writer

March 2018 – The account of Palm Sunday is familiar to most Christians. It is easy to envision the strange sight of a seemingly simple man riding a young donkey up the hill into the city of Jerusalem, surrounded by a sea of people waving, cheering, and laying palm branches on the road before Him (Matthew 21:1-10). Sunday school felt boards taught generations to imagine Jesus smiling down at the people as they celebrate His coming. If the story had ended there, it would have been a happy one.

What might the story have been if the people of Jerusalem had realized what was actually happening that day outside the gate? Would they have wept for Him or lashed out in anger? Just a few pages over we get our answer: The same people who hailed Him as Messiah demanded His death.

Beyond the celebration of Palm Sunday is a sobering revelation of the heart of mankind.

The bent of man’s heart
“The Palm Sunday ‘Hosannas,’ which turned into the Good Friday ‘Crucify Him,’ demonstrate that human nature is naturally oriented around the self,” said Dr. Ray Rooney, editor of AFA’s blog site The Stand (afa.net/the-stand). “The people of Jerusalem were ecstatic when they thought Jesus had arrived to loose them from the bonds of Roman oppression.

“However, when it became clear that the Jewish leaders were not impressed with Christ, and that the freedom He offered was spiritual rather than political and temporal, their ‘me first’ mentality prompted them to appease those who wanted Him crucified.”

Time has not changed anything. Churches today can be filled with people praising Christ as their savior from poverty, sickness, discomfort, and even boredom – from anything but sin. From Jerusalem to the churches of modern America, human hearts are still bent the same way unless fundamental changes take place.

“The reality of Christ’s mission was best stated by John the Baptist when he said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30),” said Rooney. “Until that issue is settled in each soul by repentance, self remains lord.”

The bridge to hope
The reality of Palm Sunday may not be as happy as it seemed on the surface, but Christians can draw great hope from it.

“The hope of Palm Sunday is that God is faithful,” said Rooney. “Jesus was so committed to faithfulness that even though He saw Good Friday and all the suffering it would bring to the Godhead, He was faithful to fulfill the words of the prophets and the will of the Father.”

The faithfulness of Jesus Christ is sure and solid in spite of the sinful nature of man’s hearts. This Palm Sunday, reflect on the steadfast love of Jesus Christ who rode through a sea of self-worshipping hearts toward death on a waiting cross. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Worship that's pure
“There are two signs that our reasons for worshiping Jesus are pure,” said Rooney. “One, we are persecuted for worshiping Him. Matthew 5:10-11 says, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.’

“Two, we receive divine affirmation, the witness of the Spirit. As Romans 8:16-17 states, ‘The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him.”  undefined
by Teddy James, staff writer

It is easy for modern Christians to view these crowds in accusatory wonder as they herald their new king on Sunday and beg for His crucifixion a few days later.

Do believers in the 21st century reflect that same weak, wavering faith?

The paths of men
“The people who crowded the path that day are not that different from us today,” AFA vice president Ed Vitagliano told AFAJ. “Much like us, they were more concerned about improving their current situations than knowing and embracing the truths of God.”

Bert Harper, AFA director of marriage and family, said this becomes clear when examining the crowds’ motivations.

“There were at least two crowds present during that Passover week,” Harper told AFAJ, “the ‘Hosanna’ crowd wanted Jesus to be their political king. The Pharisees wanted Jesus killed.”

Both crowds created their idea of who God was, and what He was doing; both were disappointed and turned on Him when they realized He was doing something different from what they desired.

Vitagliano said this was nothing new for God’s people, “The Israelites grumbled as God delivered them from Egypt because they had to work harder gathering straw. They grumbled through the desert because God was not doing what they thought He should, much less how He should do it. We are guilty of that as well.”

The promises of God
Throughout the Old Testament, God promised a Messiah who would deliver His people. But while first century Jews expected deliverance from an oppressive political power, God provided deliverance from the oppressive power of sin.

“When the plan of salvation was unfolding before their eyes,” Harper said, “the people weren’t just disappointed in the method God chose; they became disappointed in God.”

“Good Friday was the darkest day of human history,” Vitagliano said. “And just as God was faithful to deliver through His Suffering Servant, He was also faithful to not let Him ‘see decay’” (Psalm 16:10).

Before Jesus’ incarnation, there were many promises made about God. Religious leaders promised a political leader. They promised an easier life. They promised an end to external oppression.

God did not hold Himself to man-made promises or expectations. But He perfectly held to promises He made about Himself. He proved Himself faithful to His Word, not what others said about it. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Promises that deliver
Twisting Scripture to make promises about God is a practice still going on today. It shows just how little man changes throughout the centuries. While it is an undeniable example of man’s faithlessness, it is also an undeniable example of God’s faithfulness.

“As a pastor of 30 years,” Harper said, “I always struggled against people saying Jesus would make life easier or better. Life with Jesus is better because He is in it, but that does not make it easier. I would constantly bring people back to Scripture to compare that empty bill of goods with the honest words of God in Scripture.”

“We must confess,” Vitagliano said. “Confession is not only acknowledging we are wrong, but that God is right. We must confess our inability to save ourselves, and look to what Jesus did on the cross. His death and resurrection give us hope. Just as He was faithful in His death on the cross, He will be faithful in His resurrected life.”  undefined