I missed it. It didn’t feel like Palm Sunday. There were no palm branches, no Hosannas shouted or sung, no celebratory atmosphere as we remembered Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, people singing His praises. I am a sucker for tradition and love the church calendar, so I missed the things that make Palm Sunday feel like Palm Sunday.
I didn’t miss it. It didn’t feel like Palm Sunday. There were no palm branches, no Hosannas shouted or sung, no celebratory atmosphere as we remembered Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, people singing His praises. In just a matter of days, Hosanna changed to hostility (those that chose to crucify Him) and hunkered down (the disciples that scattered when circumstances got scary). Celebrating a day that reminds me of the fickleness of people has always caused me a bit of conflict and so I didn’t miss the things that make Palm Sunday feel like Palm Sunday.
While there is much to be said about those that went from lining Jesus’ path with palm branches and their own clothing, shouting “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13), to yelling “Crucify him!” just days later (I asked my son today if we might often do the same thing, singing Jesus’ praises one minute and displaying our sinful nature the next, the very thing that hung Him on the cross), this year I am thinking more about the disciples.
The disciples may not have been shouting “Hosanna” (maybe they were, caught up in the moment, their voices may have joined the rest), but I imagine they enjoyed it. Have you ever been in a parade? I’ve been in a couple, once even by mistake (we all have a funny family vacation story, don’t we?), and it is fun, enjoying the jubilant atmosphere as everyone looks your way clapping, shouting, and laughing. How could they not have loved sharing those exciting moments with Jesus? Those same men though, who enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, found themselves in much different situations later. Instead of celebration there was suffering as Jesus endured arrest, beating, trial, torture, humiliation, and crucifixion. How did the disciples share in that? What was their response? Three fell asleep when He asked them to pray. One denied Him. All scattered (some returned) in fear.
The first disciples weren’t the only ones that were to share in the suffering and death of Christ. 2000 years later, His disciples are called to the same thing.
“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27
( **Note: Carrying YOUR cross always led to death, nobody expected life at the end of the journey. Sometime I will write about how death, of the old self or sinful nature, actually leads to freedom.)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
Of course we are! It is only natural. Sharing is a part of relationship, and that is what we as disciples have, a relationship with Jesus. In fact, sharing seems almost natural. I’m thinking back to when my children were little. Walking with that cute but awkward toddler gait, crushed cookie in hand, they would elongate their arm, inviting me to take a bite. Or, sitting in their high chair, learning how to use silverware, whole body covered in whatever delicacy they were partaking in for the moment, they would hold out that slimy spoon to offer me some. Then there were those adorable instances when still just babies themselves, they would offer their new born baby brother a toy, not understanding that he was not yet able to play, only knowing that they wanted to share. When it comes to suffering though, sharing that might not be quite so natural. I’ve watched those same adorable children become really selfish when one of their siblings is ill. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of them unexpectedly threw up, and the other two went running and crying, fearful they would be next and angry about the plans that were messed up by having to now stay home, giving into complaining and even a small scale of despair.
While perhaps less dramatic, as adults don’t we respond to suffering in much the same way? Fear? Anger? Complaining? Despair? This isn’t what we signed up for! Except…it is. So, how should we respond?
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
Consider it joy! Embrace it! Offer it! When we do, something happens–this trial becomes a tool. God repurposes it into something that gives us the opportunity to persevere and as we persevere we become mature. What was hard is now holy in the hands of God.
In addition to that, do not lose hope. Our suffering is temporary. Jesus’ suffering and even death, which seems like the most final thing of all, only lasted a little while. People may be fickle, but Jesus is faithful, and the story did not, does not, end with the cross. While Palm Sunday may not be acknowledged or celebrated in a big way in every church, in just one week (or in the coming weeks, there are some differences in calendars) believers all over the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Friends, in this we also get to share!
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17
Co-heirs! Co-heirs who share in the glory of Jesus! I absolutely love this. Written in a time when the eldest male got the inheritance, leaving little to nothing to the subsequent children especially the daughters, we are told that ALL who are children of God are CO-heirs with Christ. What is His is ours, not just getting the leftovers, but sharing in all that is His. Wow!
My prayer for you and for me as we have just entered this holy week, beginning with Palm Sunday, is that we will sit at the cross, remembering the suffering of Jesus with thankfulness, that we embrace our own suffering, not because it is right or willed, but because it is shared with our Savior, and that we will look forward with hope to sharing in the glory and resurrection.
Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
By Kristyn Woodworth at findingtheextrordinary.wordpress.com