Devotion Forty Two
This past Sunday was the observance of Palm Sunday. The story for the day tells of people gathering along the streets of Jerusalem and waving palm branches and spreading their cloaks as Jesus rides by on a donkey. We are told of crowds shouting:
Hosanna to the Heir to the House of David!
Blessed is the One who comes
in the name of the Most High!
Hosanna in the highest!
Apparently there is so much shouting and carrying on that in Lukan version of the story, the Pharisees tell Jesus to quiet his disciples. And Jesus responds, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out!” [Luke 19:40] There is no curbing the enthusiasm.
So we are told of a loud, we might even say, rowdy, response to Jesus as the rides into Jerusalem. There is affirmation for him as a longed for leader.
It’s a good thing that Jesus is not one to get taken in with appearances because as the story goes on, later in the week, there is a crowd that shouts, “Crucify Him!” with just as much enthusiasm as the Palm Sunday throng. Could these have been some of the same people? That is very possible.
So we can imagine the people shouting ‘Blessed is the One who comes in the name of Our God!’ one day and then a few days later shouting ‘Crucify him!’ Now psychologists and sociologists can probably give us greater insight into this dynamic. But we all know that people are fickle. We are fickle. We change our minds all the time. We say one thing and do another. We do one thing and say another. While you can look for consistency in the behavior of, say, a dog, don’t expect it from humans. We are each a bundle of inconsistencies. And the composition of our inconsistencies changes from day to day if not minute to minute. But one thing I am wondering about in the gospel stories of the end of Jesus’ life is the role of the leaders, especially the religious leaders who want Jesus killed but do not have the authority to carry out capital punishment. I think people can be very easily swayed by capable, powerful leaders. So I suspect that the people who shout ‘Hosanna!’ and later shout ‘Crucify!’ have in some way been influenced by their leaders. Maybe we could even say manipulated by their leaders.
When I look around today, it seems to me that this is still going on and that the scope of the influence of such manipulative leaders is amplified by social mediaI. I think people in countries around the world INCLUDING OUR OWN are being exploited by leaders who are using fear and lies to stir up support out of self interest and to gain personal power. These leaders can be masterful and very effective. This gives me some sympathy for the crowds, for myself, for my neighbors, and for my enemies.
This situation also gives me greater appreciation for Jesus who was not swayed or influenced or manipulated by the leaders or the crowds. His loyalty to Divine Love was unswerving. His connection to God was not lost or broken even with his death at hand. The manipulative leaders and the fickle crowds bring the unshakeable faith of Jesus into greater focus.
And we are told that Jesus forgives all from the cross. Talk about the wildness of mercy!
This is the week to remember that whatever crowd we are in, we are loved and forgiven. May we extend the same love and forgiveness to others especially those who may be in different crowds than we are. May our desire be to remain steady in our devotion to the God of pure, unadulterated Love. Amen.