By Pastor John Mateos Ong and Pastora Monique Lopez Ong
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week. But because we are on lockdown, we could not give justice to the celebration of this very important season. Why is Palm Sunday very important to Christians?
Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus asked His disciples to prepare a donkey to ride through the streets of Jerusalem while people line up waving palm leaves to welcome Him. Billy Graham said, “The greatest mission field in our country today is in the local church-the people sitting already in our churches. I hope by now we know that these signs of the times mean that Jesus is coming soon.
Luke 19:36-40 says, “As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
The people were excited to see Jesus because of all the miracles they saw Him performing. This was His glory day as He was getting all the attention of the people. But later on, in Matthew 27;15-23, it relates, “Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
The same people who were shouting “Hosanna in the highest! Praise be to God!” in the streets of Jerusalem were now yelling “Crucify him!” What caused this change of heart? A lot of Christians can relate to this. This probably prompted Billy Graham to state the previous quote. He knows that the greatest mission field is not outside but actually inside the church. Because professing Christians who attend church need to be evangelized again!
So what seemed to be the problem of the people?
Words vs. Heart
Even though they shouted the highest praises for Jesus on Palm Sunday, it was all words and no heart. There is a saying that goes, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Everybody will stick with you as long as you are beneficial to them. But once tragedy strikes, they are gone. This is how you will know who your real friends are.
Casual vs. Committed
They have a casual faith. They saw other people shouting praises so they did the same. Committed faith is seen when the rubber meets the road. Sacrifices have to be made.
Religion vs. Relationship
They do not really know the person they are worshipping.
Three things that we can do to have committed faith are by being:
Christ-Centered - We focus not on what we can get out of our faith (in the case of the people, they focused on the miracles) but based on Jesus Christ. A little problem and you turn your back on Him. It is not putting God only when you are free but actually giving Him our best and putting Him first. We do this not because of what He does but because of who He is. Matthew 22:37 says, “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind.”
Relationship-Driven - Matthew 16:24-25 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” You cannot have committed faith without a relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to know Him In order to have a relationship with Him. Once we know Jesus, then everything will be worth it. Trials have a funny way of revealing the true state of our hearts. When the road becomes too difficult to travel, we start to blame God. For the people, they shouted praises because everybody else was doing it. But when they saw the same people shouting something else, they were easily swayed too.
Devoted - 2 Corinthians 3:12 says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It’s very easy to act like a Christian. You can go to church every Sunday, sing all the songs and pray all the prayers. If our faith is based on our situations or circumstances, it will never be committed; it will always be casual. Faith cannot be seen in comfort. It is during uncomfortable situations where we can really show what our faith is made of.
A committed faith praises God both in good times and in bad, knowing that all we were ever promised is in the good as well as in the bad. The promise of Jesus Christ is not that we will not be persecuted. If you are really a follower of Jesus, do not look for comfort. Expect persecution. Because Jesus said He will be with you in good times and in bad.