Palm Sunday is a difficult service to plan music for. The question always is, should we mirror the sentiments of the people of the day, or should we foreshadow the events to come? For us today, it’s a day of apprehension, because we know how the events of the rest of the week unfold. But for those experiencing the events we are remembering, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem was truly a day full of joy, and they had no reason to expect anything to change.
When I was in college, I regularly had people ask me about my faith, or challenge it or question it. Several times people said things to the effect of, “But you seem so smart! Why are you Christian?” It took some time to sort out my answer to their implications that faith is illogical, simply because in my experience, there is nothing that could be more logical. That said, while faith might be logical, it doesn’t make it easy, because with God the logic is always seen in hindsight.
Innumerable times in my life I’ve been struck by the massive presence of God in my life, and how His planning and work has led me to exactly where I am. And when that hits me, in those moments of clarity when I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, I think back to all the steps in the journey to get here. Most of the time it involves both closed and open doors, joy and pain and frustration, and my faith tells me that each step is leading somewhere, but I have no idea where He’s leading. Of course once I look back, I’m forced to say, “Well duh. That makes sense now. That’s why I didn’t get that job, if I had I wouldn’t have worked in this place, that led to this other place…” and everything lines up so neatly.
All in all, it would be impossible to look back at how I’ve ended up in Richmond, VA, and not have faith in an omnipotent, ever-present God who has a hand in my life. To me, there is circumstantial evidence that God exists, from my personal experiences. It makes sense to me to have faith, because I see where I’ve been, it helps me trust in Him for the future.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of someone in Jerusalem as Jesus is entering on the colt, who’s experiencing this Holy Week for the first time. I can only imagine the range of emotions that must have been felt during that first Holy Week. Elation and despair, rejoicing and weeping. And all they had to hold on to, to comfort them, was their faith in God that everything to happen was a part of His plan. Can you imagine trying to convince yourself of that if you were there? It’s difficult enough in my own life to have faith that a closed door, or something frustrating or painful, is all for my own sake, and that God is having me experience it for a reason. And for those with Jesus during the Last Supper, or keeping watch in Gethsemane, or watching as He was mocked and beaten, their faith had to have been unbelievably strong, to keep faith that this was God’s plan, and that it would be all for His glory.
I suppose the moral of this tale is similar to what I tell myself when I run: “If there are people out there running 50-mile ultra-marathons, you don’t need to be complaining about 5 miles.” Likewise, I need to remember that if Jesus’ disciples were able to keep their faith throughout the harrowing journey of Holy Week, that all the events that seemed like disaster were all leading up to something spectacular, then I should certainly have enough faith that He’s in control of my own life, and has a plan for it as well.
I’d also like to issue a challenge: this year, try to experience Holy Week as if you were living it, feeling it, watching the events unfold for the first time. Read the scripture with a new perspective, and on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, pretend you’re there, one of the disciples, and this Savior, Teacher, is someone you have known for some time, and he’s warning you of what’s to come. I guarantee that if you do this, you will see Christ’s sacrifice for us in a whole new light.