faithful or faithless?

Memories washed over me as I watched the children waving their palm branches as they walked down the aisle toward the front of our church as part of our Palm Sunday celebration. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was one of those waving palm branches and shouting hosana – but I guess it’s been a minute after all. Still, it is one of my clearest memories, commemorating a significant event in Jesus’s earthly life, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The scene was a joyful one, described in Mark 11:7-10 in this way,

“When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, He sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’ ”

Luke 19:38 records the rejoicing crowds as shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

It seems the people were in high spirits that day as they lined the road to watch Jesus pass by on His way into Jerusalem. Their hosannas were filled with the high hopes they had for Jesus, as they welcomed their long-awaited king. It is so easy for me to picture this joyous scene and to enter into its reenactment on Palm Sunday.

Not so easy, however, is picturing the scene that took place only a few days later. The same people that had shouted “Hosanna” with such joy, were now shouting with anger and hatred, something quite different at the very same man, Jesus. They were shouting, “Crucify Him!” How could this be?

Jesus had been falsely accused and arrested, but being found innocent, Pilate wanted to release Jesus rather than put Him to death by crucifixion. However, the angry mob, made up of yesterday’s Hosanna heralders, would have none of it. I read what happens next in Mark –

” ‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. ‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. ‘Crucify Him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has He committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify Him!’ Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:9-15)

These were the same people who just days before had been shouting “Hosanna to the king!” Now they were shouting “Crucify Him!” I guess James was right when he said, “Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” What had happened in those few short days? Had they lost faith, when things appeared to be going south for their deliverer? So they jumped ship – fearing they would go down too. Even Peter denied that he knew Jesus – three times! And indeed their worst fears were realized. Jesus was crucified and laid in a tomb. It appeared to be over. So much for the dream – the dream had died with the death of their Deliverer. BUT . . .

“If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”

The disciples dispersed and went into hiding. Jesus’s body lay in a tomb. They thought this was the end of everything they had been learning and doing during their three years following Jesus. The disciples had lost whatever faith they had possessed. But fortunately for them, God remains faithful to His promises and faithful to us, even when we are faithless. The disciples were soon to experience this truth for themselves. They did not know that what appeared to be the end, was really just the beginning for them and for the world. A glorious, new beginning was closer than they could have imagined. They just needed to hang onto their faith in Jesus.

From Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday is only one week on our calendar, but it is the journey of a lifetime, a roller coaster ride of highest heights and lowest lows – and I find myself drawn into the drama of each day every year. I have to ask myself, if I were there, would I have been among those shouting “Hosanna to the King”? Would I have been shouting “crucify Him” a few days later, along with the rest of the angry mob? Would I have denied knowing Jesus as Peter did? Would I have lost my faith as I watched Jesus die on that cross? Would I have visited the empty tomb, realized everything Jesus said and taught was true, and joyfully shared the news that Jesus is alive with everyone I met?

It surely is a journey of faith, – following Jesus, shouting Hosannas, welcoming the King/shouting “crucify Him”, watching Jesus die, finding His tomb empty, rejoicing again – a journey of faith found, of faith lost and of faith found again in a most unlikely place – an empty tomb. The disciples’ journey is my own. When dreams are denied, when the promise appears to be broken, when hope is gone and faith seems futile – it is then, I believe. I believe even while I am walking in the dark, I believe while I am waiting on the Light to come and conquer the darkness, I believe though I do not yet see.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

sincerely, Grace Day

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