Though we’re separated from each other, our places of worship, and normal Easter festivities because of the coronavirus, yesterday was still a great celebration.  On the first Palm Sunday people thronged the streets shouting, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and “Hosanna!” (Save us) because they thought their Messiah had come.

photo by Avel Chuklanov,

They were right.

Yet one week later those shouts of joy and expectation turned into shouts of contempt. Those present at the cross challenged Him, “Save yourself, and us, if you are the Son of God.” As we experience the tyranny of a heartless virus that threatens our freedom, our future, and the lives of those we love, our praise could just as easily turn to rejection of the God we love.

Why would people turn against the very one they had just praised?

First, what the people expected from their Messiah and what Jesus came to offer were two different things. They wanted a king to deliver them from the brutality of Rome. Instead of humbly riding into town on a donkey as a suffering servant, they wanted Jesus to gallop in on a white horse of victory, slay their enemies, and release them from bondage. However, Jesus’ plan was not a temporary rescue from their suffering, but eternal freedom from sin.

Secondly, the masses are easily swayed. If everyone else is grabbing palm branches and running to a parade, most people will join in. But who has courage to speak up when all around angrily shout, “Crucify him”? Tempers flared as many recounted the scene at the temple and the way Jesus slammed the religious leaders. Our Messiah wouldn’t act that way! “Kill him! He’s an imposter!”

Thirdly, I don’t believe everyone who praised Jesus on Palm Sunday voted for His execution. There remains a remnant of faithful believers in every generation no matter how grim things appear. Jesus’ disciples ran away in fear and grief, some followers were not aware of the mock trial, and those who were there must have cowered at the intensity of hatred around them, their impassioned pleas for mercy drowned out by the crowd.

After His resurrection, however, they made their voices heard. No longer afraid, they proclaimed Jesus the Messiah to everyone who would listen, and even to those who would not.

Finally, some were undecided. Many weren’t even in Jerusalem during these events and only heard about it afterward as news traveled throughout the region. They made their decisions for or against Christ based on the testimony of the ones who told them.

Today, it’s not Rome’s domination that has us crying out for God to save us—it is the coronavirus. And our responses are the same as they were in Jesus’ day.

God’s answer may not be what we want

Usually, we have a pretty good idea how we’d like God to answer our prayers. We give Him our list: stop this disease from spreading, heal the sick, help doctors find a cure, provide for our needs, and let us get back to life as usual (preferably by this time tomorrow). We even say please. We quote scriptures of God’s promises to save us. And God may choose to do just that. But what if His rescue is more than just a temporary one? What if He wants to use this pandemic to draw people to himself and heal our sin-sick world, not just for this lifetime, but for eternity?

We are easily swayed

 When God answers our prayers we are happy. When we lose our job and our family members get sick and we’re stuck in the house for weeks on end, happy wears thin. What we read on facebook, hear on the news and from friends and neighbors can either give us comfort, or move us to panic. One minute we can be praising God with our online congregation and the next succumb to shaking our fists at God for letting us down.

It takes courage to trust

Jesus’ first disciples had to endure three days of grief and uncertainty before His glorious resurrection Easter Sunday. Whatever happens during our days of suffering with COVID-19, we are experiencing many of the same uncertainties as those first disciples. And none of us know how long it will last.

The undecided

There are people all around us who have yet to hear a true account of what Jesus’ endured for our sake, and why. They may have made a decision from the stories of those who hate Him. But they might be swayed by a true believer who has personally experienced the life-changing love and forgiveness of the Messiah.

Whatever happens in the coming days, I want to be counted among the remnant firmly rooted in Christ. Though He has power over all creation, our Messiah submitted to torture and death so He could free us from the tyranny of sin. Whatever His plan for the world at this point, can we still say?

photo by Jean Carlo,
  • I’m kind of scared, but I trust you, Lord.
  • I don’t understand why you’re doing it this way, God, but I know you have a plan.
  • I’m angry and hurt that you let this happen, but Jesus, I know you are our only hope.

I am confident the day will come when God’s people will experience our final rescue. We will either be raptured from this earth by our Savior Jesus Christ, or wake up in His presence as a newborn in eternity at the moment of our death. And to that I say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!