Matthew 21:1-11 concerns Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He was surrounded by a great crowd, which paved His way with palm branches and greeted Him with hosannas... truly a welcome befitting a King. But on the following Friday, when Jesus stood accused, there were no great crowds to cheer him on. Peter kept his distance; only a handful were present at the crucifixion.
Christians unwittingly reenact this phenomenon every year. I observe that in just about any church you choose, the Easter Sunday service is full to the brim with people who at least in some symbolic way are willing to shout hosanna to the King and lay palm branches down in His path. The Good Friday service, like the crucifixion it commemorates, is poorly attended if it is held at all.
When we tell our children the story of the Little Red Hen, we disapprove of the animals who wanted to eat the bread, but did not want to help bake it. But then, true to the hypocrisy that permeates our sinful beings, we go out and do the very deeds we so haughtily disdain! How many of us are willing to be glorified with Christ in this world, but are not willing to watch with Him, suffer with Him, or share in His grief? How many of us are willing to come for His party, but are not willing to help clean up afterwards?
How blind we are! If we truly believe, as scripture proclaims and the Apostles Creed summarizes, that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God His Father, then what have we to fear from adversity? If we truly believe, as Jesus promised, that He has been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth, why do we have such anxiety in hard times, which exist only to give us the opportunity to show how faithful we are?
Do you belong to a health spa? Isn’t the whole point of the health spa to do unpleasant and painful things so that your body will be developed? Isn’t it true that the people who avoid pain and flock around the free buffet only increase their flab and defeat their own purpose? Well, life is like a spiritual health spa. The whole point of life is to suffer adversity, tribulation, trial, and grief, so that your soul will be developed. It shouldn’t be enough for you to be chosen for Jesus’ team; you should strive to develop yourself so that you can perform at your very best when He calls you into action. If you’ve been sitting on the bench, wistfully watching all the other players being called into the game, and if you have wondered why the Coach hasn’t sent you in, maybe it’s because you’re one of those people who wants to wave a palm frond, but shuns the foot of the cross. Maybe you’re one of those who want to eat the bread of communion, but you don’t want to help Him bake it. Maybe you’re one of the people who wants to be showered with God’s blessings, but you are blind to the opportunities God presents you in your hardships.
As Peter said:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
—2 Peter 1:3-11, NIV
The Lord is coming. It is time for a new and more sober appraisal of our lives. It’s time to clean house, and face up to reality.
The Lord is coming.