Palm Sunday and Dying to Self

I have come to the conclusion what most of us are searching for in life are things such as peace and harmony, and a happy a successful family and job satisfaction and even more than these to be loved and respected by others.

But if someone were to say to us ‘Walk through this door and you will encounter fierce hatred, scorn, torment, torture, deceit, desertion, betrayal, savagery and even murder, then would we not respond ‘FORGET IT!’ or ‘NO THANKS’?

It seems appropriate that one of our Godly Play children. Lewis, drew the crucified Christ on this particular door yesterday, for these encounters were exactly what Jesus had to face when he committed himself to face the final leg of his journey to the cross, on the day we call now Palm Sunday.

Jesus entered freely through this kind of doorway, when he rode into the city. It was the pivotal point of his ministry; from life in all its fullness he was about to steel himself to face death.

He knew what was in store for him; he had already told his disciples that his destiny was to suffer and die, and be raised on the third day. He was to tell them later that week how even they would desert him and deny him, and that one would even betray him to death.

So as he watched the crowds go wild, waving their palms for him, did he know then how fickle they would prove to be?

There they were so easily caught up in the thrill of the moment, cheering and shouting ‘Hosanna’ along with everyone else; how easily they gave their support when everything was joyful and safe and comfortable.

Even now we see that crowds are still fair weather friends, we see how easily they hail one superstar, until s/he somehow falls from grace, through misdemeanours, imperfection or a run of failures.

‘Ah yes,’ we say ‘but WE would have stood up for Jesus when the going got rough!’

Such bravado when the going is smooth…His disciples promised the same..

How would we really have fared under the same kind of pressure? The truth is we don’t know how we would‘ve reacted had we been there then in the crowd or amongst the disciples!

What if we ever had to face persecution for our faith like countless millions all over the worlds today?

One of the quotes we were asked to look at on our recent Lent course was this:-

Persecution is an embarrassment to Western Christians; or rather, the lack of it is. There is so much in the scriptures that prepares the disciple for a rough ride, for suffering and pain in this world, that when it does not happen we are thrown by the experience.

Are we simply not worth persecuting?’

Robert Warren, Living Well p 147 Attitudes Lent Course

An interesting question! But it depends how you define persecution…

There have been countless examples of Christians through the centuries and also in the modern age we live in, whom by their beliefs and their actions HAVE been deemed worthy of persecution. Many through history have followed through the same door to physical death, but there are other forms of suffering.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer was such a man, a German who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

He once wrote:-

‘It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human command than to accept suffering as free, responsible men

It is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone.

It is infinitely easier to suffer as public heroes than to suffer apart and in ignominy (in disgrace and in humiliation).

It is infinitely easier to suffer physical death than to endure spiritual suffering.

Christ suffered as a free man alone, apart and in ignominy, in body and spirit, and since that day many Christians have suffered with him.

Which Jerusalems are we willing to enter for Jesus and how will we recognize them?

If we are serious about taking up the cross and following Jesus, especially his way of living and challenging and caring, the Jerusalem situations will find us, because they are dotted through the seven ages of man…and woman.e.g.

Having the grace to love someone who really irritates you;

Standing one’s ground with teenagers to explain what is right and wrong…

Refusing to go along with some kind of dishonesty at work…

Standing on a particular principle knowing others will turn against you.

Whenever we die to self, and try to do what Christ would have done, then we become alive to his way of living…

It is our duty to stand for all that is true and right and just, even if it such a stand causes ripples of displeasure, or hatred or venom.

To take up our cross and follow means to opt for a rough ride.

Today we are free to be Palm Sunday followers, but when our Good Fridays loom large how faithful do we prove to be?

Lord Jesus,

If only you would come to our city like you did to Jerusalem.

We’ve some superb hymns to sing to welcome you! Our guitars would be out to lead the singing;

We’d wave our scarves and dance.

You would get a real red-carpet welcome

five-star treatment.

There would be a real religious revival.

It would be wonderful,

If only you could come here

To our country

To rescue us.

But in case you do,

Just one word of advice-

Stick to religion, but be careful.

Don’t interfere with politics or economics, or big business and all that,

And be careful not to make unpopular changes in the way we worship.

Save us from what might happen in the next life, yes,

But leave us to go our own way,

The way we are used to in this life.

If you get it wrong for our city,

Who knows?

We, too, might have to liquidate you.

Ian Cowie. (Eggs and Ashes)