(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - Throughout the world, the church shouted "Hosanna!" and waved palm branches commemorating the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem. I had the privilege today to preach at the St. Luke United Methodist Church in Pensacola, taking part in their observance of Palm Sunday at the beginning of this Holy Week. The congregation received 16 new members today, four of whom were baptized as they professed their faith in Christ. Pastors from across the district have shared with me the very strong attendance in their services this morning.
This week, crowds will make their way into sanctuaries across our district and conference to remember events that transpired nearly 2,000 years ago. I personally am preaching on Holy Monday and Maundy Thursday and I know all of you are busily preparing to lead worship several times in the upcoming days. My prayer is that God will be glorified through our efforts to make the message of Christ known in this season.
I shared this morning that one of my struggles has always been how a crowd could turn on Jesus so quickly. There are certainly explanations for this, such as Jesus' refusal to declare the tax unlawful and his base of support being angered with his response to the point they realized he was not going to establish a political kingdom. But one idea put forth by Dr. James Fleming that I resonate with is the possibility of their being two crowds: a Sunday crowd shouting "Hosanna" and a different Friday crowd shouting "Crucify Him!" This approach leaves us with a simple question: What do we do with Jesus? The truth of the matter is, there are still two crowds today, one shouting "hosanna" and another yelling "crucify." Every generation has to answer for themselves on what they will do with Jesus.
Before we declare ourselves to always be in the "Hosanna" crowd however, we too must remember that even Jesus' closest companions - his disciples - denied him and deserted him as his death on the cross drew near. We all have had moments where we lived in ways that made us look much more like the Friday crowd than we would care to admit. But as Bishop Will Willimon notes in his book Why Jesus?, our sin is not the end of the story. This is God's story and God is faithful; his steadfast love endures forever.
As we walk with Christ this week - as long as we can before we, like Peter and the others bail, or like Judas, we betray him - I pray we would sense Christ's passion for us and the world anew in a deep and meaningful way. Let us remember that God's steadfast love endures forever. And when we find ourselves at the foot of the cross on a Friday afternoon, when the skies are dark, and it seems that death has had the final say in this story, may we have the faith to keep watch and pray. Not to give it away, but God's steadfast love endures forever - and not even death will be able to stop it.