By Dr. Jerry Rankin
“The whole crowd began to praise God joyfully…‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Luke 19:37-38
Celebration of Palm Sunday was a wonderful worship experience. Attendance was good, the sermon began to focus our thinking on the significance of the Passion Week. A special music presentation by the choir and orchestra in the evening stirred emotions to a peak of inspiration. Some churches traditionally dramatize the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with a setting of children waving palm branches.
That triumphal entry as recorded in the 19th chapter of Luke’s gospel was obviously a climatic event in the popularity of Jesus as the crowds sang praises and welcomed Him as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. They proclaimed that His ascent would bring peace in heaven and glory in the highest. But within a week the crowds had turned against Him and succumbed to the manipulation of the Pharisees in demanding He be crucified.
The nature of Jesus as our Lord and Savior elicits an attitude and expressions of praise. The grace and mercy of God which we have experienced in the redemption He provided should stir our emotions. In fact, Jesus said if His disciples/followers did not praise Him, as was appropriate, the very rocks would cry out in praise. But the praise of the crowds was short-lived.
Even His own disciples were disillusioned. They still expected an earthly king who would throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. They just could not comprehend a suffering servant who would willingly die to establish a kingdom far greater than a provincial earthly reign.
How long did our praise on Palm Sunday, or any Sunday last? After feeling blessed by drawing into the presence of God, encouraged by fellowship with the body of believers and renewed by the Word of God, did we return to the routine challenges of life on Monday morning? How far did our praises extend into the week as we had to cope with a sick child, trying to juggle financial obligations and confronting conflicts at home and work? Since God resides in the praises of His people, did an awareness of His presence evaporate as our attitude of praise was left behind at church.
When we arrived in Indonesia as new missionaries I anticipated seeing the power of God manifested in multitudes of people being saved once we arrived to share the gospel. The disillusionment was severe when we did not encounter the expected response. I was disappointed in God. I had done my part in committing my life to serve Him, sacrificed in leaving the comforts of America, but He was not doing His part. Discouragement grew into despondency when God did not bless with the results we expected.
Like the crowds in the days following the triumphal entry, we sometimes become disillusioned that God does not pour out the blessings we expect. His hedge of protection against trials and adversity is lacking, the daily problems are still there and life returns to the mundane. Genuine praise should extend beyond inspiring worship on Sundays. An intimate relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords should not be contingent on what He does for us, but because of who He is. An awareness of His abiding goodness, faithfulness and mercy should elicit continuing praise that cannot be restrained regardless of our circumstances.
Dr. Jerry Rankin served as president of the International Mission Board from June 1993 to July 2010 and blogs at The Rankin File.