a bit monkish.
How different is "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" from "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!" How different is "The King of Israel!" from "We have no King but Caesar!" How unlike one another are green branches and the cross, flowers and thorns! See how the one before home the garments of others were spread is stripped of his own, and lots are cast for them. How bitter to you are our sins [O Lord], which need such bitterness to wash them away!
— Bernard of Clairvaux, “Palm Sunday: Sermon Two”
It's amazing to think how the same crowds who praised Jesus on Sunday could be shouting for his death on Friday. Were the people so fickle and simple of mind that they could be swayed from praising Jesus to cursing him in just a matter of days? History hasn’t been kind to these Jerusalem crowds. Some have claimed they only cheered for winners, and when Jesus was arrested, they didn’t want to be linked with a loser and face the wrath of the religious leaders themselves. Others contend that the core of the mob’s change of heart was in their misunderstanding of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God.
In his second Palm Sunday sermon, Bernard of Clairvaux offers that the differences between Sunday and Friday can be summed up in one word: sin. Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem was actually a demonstration of the people's the need for his Jerusalem arrival. Their cheers turned to jeers because sin was competing with godliness for the rule of their hearts.
It’s easy to look back at these crowds and condemn them. Yet this inner heart battle is as alive in the world - the Church! - today as it was in first-century Jerusalem. How easy it is for us to worship God on Sunday morning and then mistreat our Sunday lunch server because she forgot to remove the onions from our burger. How easy it is for us to say we can't work with the children or youth at the church because we're too tired. The same battle that existed in the hearts of the Jerusalem crowds is a battle that lives inside many of us who claim Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
Perhaps we too misunderstand Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. Our misconception may come not from an expectation that Jesus will overthrow an oppressive government. Instead, I wonder if North America’s misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God is that we expect it to offer convenience. In another sermon, Bernard stresses that Jesus didn’t suffer to relieve us of suffering. He suffered so we might share in his suffering. The Christian life isn’t about what we want, or deserve, or about what rights we have. It’s about forsaking our life so we might live completely for Jesus in authenticity and consistency.
The heart-battle is over and Jesus has won. This is the essence of holiness.
(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts
I'm a follower of Christ serving as an Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary.