Have you ever pictured what Palm Sunday must have looked like? In my mind, I see streets just overflowing with people in their Bible-time robes. In my picture, there are palm leaves everywhere. They’re waving in the air, laid on the ground, flapping half-torn from trees. And as Jesus rides in majestically on His colt, I hear the people chanting with passionate fervor, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”
In that snapshot, the day looks pretty much perfect. It looks like something I would love to witness and be a part of.
But the sad reality is that Palm Sunday was one of the most hypocritical days in the history of the world.
In Mark 11, the people are here:
Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”
Only a few chapters later, in Mark 15, only a couple of days later, the people have already moved on:
Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”
Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”
So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.
These were the VERY SAME PEOPLE in both stories. One day, they were singing Christ’s praises, and the next day they were hatefully demanding that He be crucified, proclaiming that they would rather have a murderer loose on their streets than Jesus.
Boy, doesn’t that say a lot about human nature…
We, as humans, are crowd followers. It’s in our nature. We follow others from one trend to the next, one thought process to another.
That sometimes even creeps into our relationship with Christ when it should have no effect on how closely we follow our Savior.
Yet I don’t know how many times I have been to a worship service, gotten caught up in others’ emotions, and vowed to serve God more and to love Him better because of it. Then, in the quiet moments when no one is around, or worse, in the moments when surrounded by those who don’t care about God’s commands, that resolve is suddenly incredibly fragile.
Christians have a reputation for being hypocrites, and frankly, I think it’s deserved. We are so often all about the fervor and not about the follow-through. I shudder to think that had I been there on those streets the day of Jesus’s trial, my voice might have added to those crying, “Crucify Him!”
God has some pretty harsh words about hypocrisy. He says, ”Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Titus 1:16 says that those who profess to know Christ but whose lives don’t show it are, “abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”
God sees our hearts. There are no shows we can put on for Him. No smoke and mirror tricks. No believable lies. He knows the difference between a heart in tune with His and one following the crowd. He’s God.
Lord, I pray that in this Easter season and throughout our lives we would genuinely worship You, our Creator and our Savior. God, sometimes letting the distractions of this world guide our thinking is just the effortless option, the autopilot reaction. I pray that we would instead have a heart that doesn’t praise from routine but that praises from a longing to bring You glory.
And I pray especially, God, that those who will come to church this coming Easter, determined to look like good Christians but who have never accepted the grace You have given would realize the need for a real relationship with You.
Thank You God that You sent Jesus to die on the Cross, even for those who called out for His torturous death, even those who spit in His face. Thank You for such deep love.
In Jesus’s name,