Face-Palm Sunday: How sincerity can keep Christians from being Christian.

Nearly every Palm Sunday sermon I heard growing up emphasized the inevitable hypocrisy of those  who would be shouting Jesus’ praise on one day and crying “crucify him!” just days later.  During these sermons I always pictured the crowds as wicked bearded villains (perhaps with pirate hats?).

I most certainly never pictured them being anything like me.   That is why it was so confusing when, without any sense of irony,  we all picked up Palm leaves and cried, “Hosannah!” just like those bearded hypocrite-pirates that we knew turned on Jesus later.  I knew that there were sides but I lost track of whose side to be on. Sunday? Friday?

The sharp turn between Palm Sunday’s  Hosannahs and Friday’s execution is not intentional hypocrisy. I feel certain now that these people were not bearded evil-doers but that they were in fact quite sincere.  … in both circumstances.

As Jesus entered the city the people genuinely welcomed him with sincere joy. The cried out to him because he was going to be their new king.  And they were thrilled. There would be a new leader, perhaps a better army, and finally a chance to get rid of the pesky Romans.  Jesus very quickly disappoints them speaking about the kingdom in ways that dashed there hopes of their kind of revolution.

This actually makes a lot of sense, then, why they so suddenly pivot from cheers to jeers was so suddenly.   Their disappointment with God drove them from sincere praise to sincere fury.

I was raised, like these people,  that one of the most important things a person can do in your life is to, “stick to your guns.”  Later I found out that if your main thing is to stick to your guns, all you end up with is your guns.  And they are the same guns as you started with in the beginning.   The depth of our sincerity alone does not make us good.   There is the possibility of us all being people of great conviction… and being wrong.   A faithful life is not based solely on sincerity.

The only people who came close to following Jesus are the people who had dropped their previous nets, had left their lives behind and were willing to follow, to learn. (and even some of them, like Judas and Peter, had their moments).  These people knew him.   The had already had the time to be disappointed, that is, to change their expectations, to lay down their guns.  They exchanged their lives for a life with misfits, poor people, children… and worse… each other.

Our hope of getting Jesus right will begin when we acknowledge we don’t know which guns, or ideas, or desires to stick to yet.

 We still turn to Jesus to be our best friend, our President, our CEO, our boyfriend, our guru, our hipster youth pastor showing us how to be cool.  We have very set agenda for what Jesus needs to be doing in the next few years of our lives.

 We will be disappointed.

 Whether or not that drives us from praise to violent fury will be the extent to which we are willing to just put our face in the palms of our hands, lay down our guns, and follow Jesus as our teacher, example, brother and even, as we see later this week, servant.

So let us wave our branches, shout hosannah,  and lay down our coats.   But if we want to make it through the rest of the week faithful to Jesus, lets clear our calendars and pack our bags.  We are going to end up somewhere very different  than where we think we were headed.



This post is part of “Diasappointed with God: An online retreat for Holy Week.” where you can read other reflections throughout this week.







This post is part of “Diasappointed with God: An online retreat for Holy Week.” where you can read other reflections throughout this week.


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