I do not believe that the same crowds that called for Jesus’ death on the first “Good Friday” were the same as the crowds who hailed him as the Messiah on Palm Sunday. I also do not believe the same crowds who flocked to the Temple to hear him teach the week of his death also gathered to mock him on Golgotha. I believe what we are dealing with are different groups of people. After all, Jerusalem was packed for Passover.
If I am correct, the question then becomes: “What happened to so many of Jesus’ followers at the key moments during Holy Week?” I believe we find the answer in our current culture today.
Thirty years ago if anyone had predicted that within thirty years the following would be true, it would have seemed outlandish:
— We would largely accept without protest sweeping government powers to arrest, strip search, detain without trial, and listen in on American citizens.
— We would engage ourselves in three wars on the continent of Asia and might soon be involved in a fourth that would have nothing to do with communism.
— That businesses in the U.S. would be the primary provider of weapons for international drug gangs south of our border.
— That our prime time television shows would be censored in other parts of the world regularly for violence.
— That our nation would imprison our population at a higher rate than almost anywhere in the world (we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the people behind bars).
— Swaths of citizens would think they need to stockpile arms and food in their homes in case society breaks down.
There is, of course, a rationale for everything I have noted. But I would maintain that the reason why we have let all this go by is the same reason why Jesus’ followers disappear over the course of the first Holy Week – we turn our heads the other way. People (we) get scared. In Jesus’ day, he was on a collision course with the Romans and to run afoul of the Romans was a scary thing back then. Also, Jesus’ followers were not powerful. And many were just trying to get by. Similarly, we face international terrorism in our day as a nation and live with a weaker economy than any group of Americans has had in decades. Basic necessities such as health care and pensions are being cut back or even eliminated. Fear is a great motivator, but perhaps it doesn’t motivate us to be the people God wants us to be.
Fear also permeates the Church sometimes. It holds us back from who we should be.
The counter pull to fear is hope. And if Jesus overcame the thing that so many ultimately fear – death, then why do we let fear rule us so? If one of the things that attracts us to Jesus so much is that he was fearless – then why should we let fear dominate us so? And why do we listen to folks who basically make a living peddling fear?
What would the church look like if hope was our primary mode of being? What if Christians refused to let our fears have the final word? What would our society look like if the Church became the purveyor of hope?
A primary tasking of the church today is to instill hope, especially in the rising generations of children and young adults. It is time for us to do more than just trying to counteract the fearmongers. It is time for us to take the lead in pointing to a better, God-filled, tomorrow.
We are not going to stop getting scared. There are some scary things in this world (and even in the church) and being hopeful is not to ignore dangers. So, let us look at those scary things head on. Let’s turn toward instead of away from them. Let us, with the hope of God in our hearts, be the men and women we are called to be and let our faith instead of our fear guide us on how we should respond.
What is on your mind this Holy Week?
Until next time,