BROODING over Palm-Sunday-Inspired Questions

In yesterday’s post I expressed both my reluctance at joyous, palm-waving celebrations and my caution to avoid Palm Sunday nostalgia.  The backdrop and fallout of Palm Sunday and Easter sharply contrast with each other, and through that contrast we can better discern God’s plan amidst man’s idea.  But Palm Sunday’s value also relates to our own faith journeys and experiences.

Palm Sunday inspires three questions for us to brood over as we move into Holy Week and prepare our hearts for His righteous and victorious resurrection on Easter morning.

Who Am I?

Last week I ventured to our local farm and ranch store with seven excited kids to purchase 125 baby chicks.  Most of them clamored to pet or hold a chick, but one child in particular looked right at home among the farm and ranch implements and supplies.  Dressed in jeans, boots, a button up plaid shirt, and cap, Josiah couldn’t have planned his outfit any better.  In between handling the chicks, he thumbed through tractor catalogs with great interest.  “You look like a farmer, Josiah!” I remarked.

“Thank you!!” came his immediate reply.  This is a boy who knows who he is and what he likes.  If you asked him, “Who are you?” he’d probably answer, “Farmer Josiah”.

I wonder if we so clearly know who we are.  The first question prompted by Palm Sunday is “Who am I?”  How do you answer that question?   Do you excitedly identify yourself with Christ?  Do others see your life and identify you with Him?

In Matthew 21:10-11 we read, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’  The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Jesus caused a stir.  His work and His presence always did.

Jesus is still causing a stir.  His work and His presence still cause others to take notice and ask, “Who is this?”  As we consider the question, “Who am I?” we must ask ourselves if we, through His presence and power, are causing a stir.  Do people take notice and ask, “Who is this?” when you’re around?  Not because of you, but because of who lives in you?  If they don’t, shouldn’t they?  And if they don’t, shouldn’t we reconsider how authentically we answer that first question – “Who am I?”

What Is My First Reaction?

Have you ever considered what Jesus did after his Palm Sunday parade was over?  In Mark 11:11 we see that Jesus went first to the temple upon arriving in Jerusalem.  I think that’s profound.

Jesus knew what was coming in his week ahead.  He would have likely agreed with Alexander, the little boy made famous by Judith Viorst’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Except, in Jesus’ case, the book title might have been expanded to Jesus and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week.  But despite what lay ahead, Jesus went to the temple.

Or maybe Jesus wasn’t thinking too much about what lay ahead in His future and was just enjoying the present.  After all, He was the center of a city-wide parade, welcomed as a king, riding upon a donkey reserved just for him upon a carpet of garments and palm branches.  I can imagine how easy it might have been to get caught up in such fanfare.  But even if that was the case, Mark 11:11 still tells us that Jesus’ first stop in Jerusalem was the temple.

Jesus’ first response – in both bad and good times – was worship.  And that prompts the second question.  “What is my first reaction?”  In troubling, dangerous, heartbreaking times – is my first reaction to worship and seek God?  In carefree, joyous, exuberant times – is my first reaction to worship and praise God?

Why Do I Turn Away?

And finally, the dichotomous reality of a festive, “Hosanna!” shouting crowd in John 12, and a vengeful, “Crucify Him!” demanding crowd in John 18 forces us to consider the third question.  “Why do I turn away?”

The Jerusalem crowds turned away from Jesus when he didn’t meet their expectations, hope and desire.  Do we do the same?  Do we set stipulations on what Jesus should do and how He should act in our lives?  Are we willing to praise and worship Him as long as things are going well?  Do we praise him in the midst of good times, but not the storm?  Or do we cling to Him in the storm, but forget Him when life is smooth and easy?

As Holy Week begins, I find myself brooding over these Palm-Sunday-inspired questions.  Who am I?  What is my first reaction?  Why do I turn away?  These are important questions and answers to consider.  This is the power of example that Christ modeled and lived.

And just for that, I might wave a palm branch or two.