Wednesday, August 5, 2009

“Hollow Praise” by Dr. James H. Savage

Has someone ever given you a compliment, and later said something about you behind your back that was not so pleasant? Why do we humans do this? Would it not be easier to simply never offer the compliment to the other person if we are not serious about our words? How does it make you feel about the other person when you find out through the rumor mill that unkind things have been spoken? I wonder how Jesus felt on Palm Sunday as he rode into Jerusalem.

The New Testament shares through the four gospels that Jesus began to be less and less popular as Passover came closer and closer. Jesus was talking about His death more as each month passed by. Jesus’ disciples seem to become more nervous as they journey closer to Jerusalem, and as they speak more about death.

When Jesus and the disciples reach Bethpage, they settle down near an olive grove. Some of these olive trees today date back for many centuries. We often call this place that is still in existence “the mount of olives.” It is located on a hillside directly across from the hillside gate where Jesus would enter on the next Sunday. Jesus spent much time in prayer and thought as he prepared himself for the entry into Jerusalem. A great number of people were still following Jesus, and many inside the city had heard about Him. Jesus must have been famous by the time Sunday had come, for the crowds were lining the streets. They were praising Jesus, and proclaimed: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Why were they waving palm branches, and calling Jesus “the Son of David?” They did this because they expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans, lead a rebellion of Zealots, and establish a new nation of Israel. Jesus heard their shouts of praise, and already knew He would disappoint them greatly since His purpose was very different.

I personally think Jesus appreciated the support, and shouts of praise. But Jesus would also have concern in His heart for the souls of the same people who would turn their backs on Him in just a few days. Everyone loves a person in power like a king or a president. But no one likes a servant who dies on a cross for the spiritual salvation of the world.

Things did not change for the followers of Jesus until The Day of Pentecost. Even the event of Easter did not provide the power and courage that was needed. Palm Sunday reminds me that our praises to God might be hollow shouts of praise until we receive the power and courage we need through the Holy Spirit. In my daily relationships, Palm Sunday reminds me to offer true and genuine encouragement to family, friends, and church members alike. My prayer is that each of us will be filled with God’s Spirit this year, and offer our praises to God, and our encouragement to our fellow Christians along the way. I pray that our praise to God and our encouragement to others will never become words that are nothing more than “Hollow Praise.” God grants the Spirit to all who ask. God offers us the opportunity to offer heartfelt praise this year! Praise God!

It is interesting that all four of the traditional gospel writers include the story of what we call “Palm Sunday.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all share this great story, but here is Matthew’s account:
“When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; and they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the palm trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” May the God of all palms and praises touch your heart and bring comfort to your soul this spring. May the God who led Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, be with you and give you comfort, and strength for each day: and may the God of peace bring peace to all souls that struggle.

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