The church I grew up in celebrates Holy Week with a Palm Sunday celebration and then a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday combined evening service and of course, Easter service on Sunday morning. I can remember walking into the church in the choir as a child carrying palm branches and singing about Jesus being king as we read about today in John 12 when he enters Jerusalem. This section in my Bible is appropriately called “The Triumphant Entry,” as the people shouted “Hosanna” and called Jesus” the King of Israel.” Later in the week, in our combined Maundy Thursday/Good Friday service, we would turn off the lights at the end. There was a spotlight on a large, wooden cross in the front and sitting in dead silence, someone came the microphone yelling “Crucify him..Crucify him!” Then, there was a wooden block being hit with a hammer 3 times loudly to represent the nails being driven into Jesus’ feet and both hands. I cringed with each strike of the block. We then sat in the dark with no one saying a word or moving for a few minutes which felt like an hour! Whoa! The lights came on and that was everyone’s cue to file out in silence. People would talk in the lobby, but the buzz, cheerfulness, and mood was a little different than the normal Sunday service.
On Easter Sunday, it was a time for celebration and the buzz and cheerfulness was back again. The palms were back, lilies were all around the church, a white sash hung on the cross to represent us being washed clean of our sins, and the sun seemed to always be shining on Easter morning. He is risen!
It was perplexing to me growing up, and still is today, that Jesus was adorned as a king by a crowd and then just a few days later another crowd, with maybe some of the same people, shouted for him to be crucified.
Often in our life, we can feel like we are on top of the world. Maybe we get a big promotion, secure a big client, have someone praise us for a job well done, family relationships are great, and everything seems to be going our way. And then out of nowhere a job is lost, a client leaves you, a falling out with a family member occurs, you are criticized by a boss, you have an unexpected financial hardship, or even a divorce. Where does your identity come from in these low moments? I don’t know about you, but I feel it is hard not to lose confidence in myself during these challenging times because I can mistakenly get puffed up when others are telling me good job, and I put my self-worth and happiness based on what others are saying when things are going well. It is then equally as bad as it was good and my self-worth and confidence can decrease when others are critical of me or when nothing seems to be going right.
We don’t know Jesus’ thoughts on Palm Sunday as he was being praised like a king, but something tells me based off his humbleness and servant leadership throughout his lifetime that he was not puffed up and proud. During his toughest times on the cross, his focus was not on himself, but on others as he said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus did not put his identity and worth in what others thought about him. He knew who he truly was, and most importantly, whose he was.
When things are going well, let’s remember to give glory and praise to him and not be prideful and think it’s by our own doing. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..” When things aren’t going so well, let’s not be discouraged by what others think, and let’s remind ourselves that we are living for an audience of one. Let’s remember who we are and whose we are. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If we look in the mirror and we’ve made mistakes we are not proud of (and we all have), let’s be thankful instead of sad. This is why Jesus came and died on the cross. Our identity is in him and in his unconditional love for us. Let’s hold fast, for we know what is coming, the sunshine and celebration of Easter morning! He is risen…he is risen indeed!