Mystery is at the heart of faith
Great is the mystery of faith.
This is something Christians say in every communion service. And I find it a great comfort and inspiration to say these words. And to recognise that our faith is so big and so amazing that it cannot be fully explained and comprehended. It is a mystery.
Why does mood of the crowd change in Holy Week?
And one part of that mystery is how Jesus goes, in the space of one short week, from being a hero on Palm Sunday to being a villain on Good Friday.
Jesus enters Jerusalem on a Sunday – riding on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would enter the holy city in this way. And the community greets him with loud cheers. They throw down their cloaks in Jesus’s path and cry, ‘Hosanna!’ Which means ‘Save us!’ The people believe that Jesus has the power to save them, to rescue them – from the Romans and all that oppresses them in life. Just as Moses saved their ancestors from slavery in Egypt in ancient times.
Nonetheless, the community in Jerusalem turns against Jesus. And, by the Friday, they are baying for his blood. They want him executed and cry ‘Crucify!’
How can this be?
I was reading this week an article that suggested that there were two very distinct communities in Jerusalem – those who supported Jesus and those who opposed him. And we see the first group on Palm Sunday and the second on Good Friday.
But I’m not convinced that these two groups were quite as distinct as the article suggests.
After all, at the beginning of the week one of Jesus’s closest friends, Peter, says he is willing to die with Jesus. But, by Friday, he is adamant that he has never even met Jesus, let alone been one of his followers and supporters.
Do we only cry Hosanna? Or do we cry Crucify too?
So how is it that we can shift so rapidly from Hosanna to Crucify?
I guess that there is a deep human need – perhaps a survival instinct – to want to be on the winning side.
When Jesus is being proclaimed as the Messiah and it looks like he is going to assert his rule – then everyone wants to get behind him.
When things go wrong and Jesus is arrested and sentenced to death, people get scared. And understandably so. Who would want to be crucified? Who would want to go on supporting a lost cause?
To be a Christian is to be part of the community that surrounds Jesus.
And so, the question is will we be loyal when the going gets tough? Or will we too desert Jesus when our faith puts us in any discomfort, let alone danger?
It’s all very well to sing worship songs at church and proclaim our faith together on a Sunday morning behind the thick walls of our buildings. That’s like throwing down our cloaks on Palm Sunday. We are in the safety of the like-minded. We are in a crowd that is behind Jesus.
But what about on Monday morning at the office – when people ask us about our weekend? What about on Thursday evening at a football match - when people are swearing on Jesus’s name? What about on Saturday afternoon – when God asks us to give some money away that we were planning to spend on ourselves?
We are then in a different crowd. A crowd that scoffs at people who go to church. A crowd that has no respect for the name of Jesus. A crowd that puts itself first and others last.
And are we going to be different?
Are we going to risk standing out from that crowd?
This week is Holy Week and a great opportunity to be different. You can be different by attending the many wonderful services that will take place on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
And that’s good.
But you can do better than this.
Forget the winning side and the losing side – be on Jesus’s side this Easter
You can be different among the crowds who deny Jesus and even hate him.
You can tell someone at work that you are a Christian. You can ask the person sitting next to you In the stadium not to swear on the name of Christ. You can do something sacrificial for those in need – either giving your money or your time.
Do this at Easter and you will truly belong to Christ’s community.