I love Palm Sunday. I was born, too many years ago to disclose, on a Palm Sunday. Then, just days before my sixth birthday, I was born again on another Palm Sunday. It has always been a day of joy and excited expectation for me.
This Sunday, as I waved my palm and sang (if you can call it singing), I remembered something I have heard from several sources. The folks who, on that first Palm Sunday, laid down their coats and branches in the road for Jesus, proclaiming, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!,” were, with rare exception, the same people who turned their backs on Him and cried, “Crucify Him!” just four days later.
There’s a great story behind the beautiful hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford. I won’t go into in detail, but HERE’S a link if you’d like to read more. When Anna Spafford’s four daughters drowned—including her baby who was torn from her arms—after a tragic collision at sea, Anna was saved from their fate by a plank that floated beneath her unconscious body and held her up. When she was rescued, her first reaction (understandably) was one of total despair. But she heard a voice saying, “You were saved for a purpose,” and she remembered the words of a friend …
“It is easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”
A fair-weather friend. A person who stops being a friend when times get tough. One who is friendly, helpful, or available only when it is advantageous or convenient to be so.*
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem in triumph, regaled as King, people found it easy to join the crowd and align themselves with Him. After all, everyone likes to be on a winning team. But as the sunshine faded, and it became difficult—even dangerous—to be counted as one of His followers, they began to fall away. Even those closest to Him—those who claimed to love Him the most—turned their faces away and hid.
Would I have done the same? Or would I have been counted among the few who stood by Him through it all?
This Sunday, I determined to praise God in the darkness that comes on Thursdays, the seeming hopelessness of Friday deaths, and Saturday despair. I want to be there, palm still waving, when joy comes, rising in full force and glory, on Sunday. I do not want rocks and stones to have to cry out because I am silent.
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people—and HALLELUJAH is our song!” (Pope John Paul II)