The stark difference between Palm Sunday and Good Friday is jarring. As Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem that Sunday, He was everyone’s hero.
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
They couldn’t get enough. Here He was, the person who would save them. But not in the way they had in mind. They wanted Jesus to come in, swords blazing, fighting against the Roman Empire. They just knew He was going to set up an earthly kingdom. They thought Jesus would ease their earthly oppression and give them immediate freedom. “Save us! Hooray! Thanks be to God, our persecution is almost over!”
The people wanted Jesus to be their quick fix to earthly pain.
And when it didn’t turn out the way they wanted, just a few days later, they were ticked off. They had no use for a meek, humble, lowly servant who spoke of peace, future hope, and called them out on their sin. And who did He think He was, clearing out their temple like that? And what was that? Did He just say He was the Son of God?
If He were really the Son of God, He would know what they needed, and He would do something about it.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered…Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified…. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
How could they? How could they worship Him and welcome Him and hope in Him one day and then scream, “Crucify Him!” only a few days later. How could they turn their backs on the Son of God just because they didn’t get there way?
I don’t know.
How could we?
How many times have we turned our back on Jesus when He doesn’t make things happen like we hoped? How many times have we stopped praying and searching His Word, stopped seeking His will, stopped growing our relationship because life is painful, and what’s the point of following Jesus if He doesn’t just snap His fingers and make it all better? How many times have we given up on Him when He doesn’t answer that prayer the way we wanted or isn’t the quick fixed we had expected?
“Hosanna! Save us! But only if looks the way we want it to!”
We seem to forget that Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy. We like to think of all the verses about peace and hope and blessings, but seem to ignore the ones about dying to self and taking up our cross daily. We don’t like to ponder His words on spiritual warfare, the consequences of sin, persecution, and discipline. And because of our earthly plans and our worldly hearts, we’re taken aback when following Him isn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
There are so many beautiful things about Easter. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, His triumph over death, being granted personal access to our Father. But today I am especially reminded that God’s plan for my life is so much better than my own. His way is THE way. He has plans to give me hope and a future, and He can see the whole picture, when all I can see is a sliver of the present. Everything that He does is for my good and His glory, and He only has the best in mind.
So even if that plan doesn’t look like I’d hoped and even if it hurts, My God’s plans are course-changing, soul-saving, and hope-bringing.
As you celebrate Easter today with your families, and you think about the beautiful story of Christ’s death and resurrection, look at it with fresh eyes and hopeful hearts. Remember that when our vision is so limited by the suffering of the here and now, Jesus has plans not just for our todays, but for all of our tomorrows.
As we celebrate His triumph over death today, and God’s amazing gift, remember – God’s plans always give LIFE.
Happy Easter, Friends. May you feel His life-giving, death-defeating power strengthening you today for whatever the future holds.