What would it have been like to be part of the fickle crowd around Jesus? I have often reflected on how I would have reacted to the major shift in thinking. One week the people are praising Jesus as the Messiah. The next week they had Him on a cross. Am I like that, I wonder? Do I change that quickly?
I remember visiting Israel and Egypt in 1988. I was in college and we were studying there for just shy of a month. We arrived in Egypt at one of 12 possible sites for Mt. Sinai and spent the night at St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Jebel Musa (Mountain of Moses). We woke up at 3:00 AM and began to climb the path up the mountain to get to the top by sunrise. Our breakfast consisted of some kind of incredibly sweet fruit juice (that was as thick as jam) and a piece of a fruit that I didn’t recognize. That was it.
We arrived at the summit just in time for the sun to come up. It was magnificent! The view looked more like a painting that real life. In the picture above, which faded in a box over the years, are two friends who were on the trip with me. It was breathtaking. But as the sun rose, so did the heat. Jebel Musa is located in the Sinai Desert. As we came back down the mountain, we were very tired, very hot, and very hungry. Our guide wanted us to walk through several other sites once we reached the bottom but all we wanted to do was get in the bus, with the cool air, and go find some food. I kept thinking, “Why did we come here? There is no food; it’s too hot; the bathrooms are literally holes in the ground; there’s no drinking water; it’s awful in Egypt.” I wanted to get on the van and stopped caring about what amazing things I was seeing.
I was an Israelite.
I was asking the same questions the Israelites were asking Moses: “Why are we here? There’s no food, no water, it’s hot! Can’t we just go back now?” I now regret my attitude because I think I missed much of what God had for me that day. I am thankful that I was not part of the crowd around Jesus. I’m afraid I would have missed that significant moment in history with my fickle attitude toward Jesus. I do that now! My feelings can take me from love to hate in less than 9 seconds. I can go from fully supporting someone to desiring to take him down faster than I can blink. I’m not saying I do that, but I am certainly capable. If I had been in a crowd of others praising Jesus, I could easily be in the same crowd who yelled for His crucifixion.
I guess my point is this: we would like to believe we are better than we are. But as we prepare for Holy Week, our challenge is to become part of the story. Can we allow our true “fickleness” to be exposed? Can we own how one minute we praise Jesus as Messiah and the next act out of our flesh to harm Him? Can we identify with the disciples who repeatedly fell asleep when Jesus needed them and then fled when He was taken away?
The amazing part of the story is this: it was for the people, who were just like us, that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is safe to expose our lack of faithfulness to Jesus because He forgives. But to deny it and deceive even ourselves into thinking we would not do that is to be like Peter. He exclaimed that he would never deny Jesus and then did…3 times. Allow those realities to sink in as we approach Holy Week. Read the Passion Story again and again, identifying with different people each time. Would you have been scared? Of what? Would you have been angry? With whom? Interact with the Story this week. Let it become real to you.
God’s blessings as we enter such an amazing time of year.