Thursday, March 21, 2013

When The Cheering Stopped

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel."  John 12:12-13

Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled “When The Cheering Stopped.” It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero.  There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy.  In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.  But it wasn’t.

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop.  It turned out that after the war the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. 

At home Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified.  Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break.  He suffered a stroke and in the next election his party was defeated.  So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat.  It happened that way to Jesus.  When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation.  He would try to go off to be alone and the people would still follow him. The masses lined the streets as he came into town.  On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of Hosanna.  A wave of religious expectation swept the country.  But the cheering did not last for long.  There came a point when the tide began to turn against him.  Soon the opposition began to snowball. When they discovered that they could not discredit his moral character, they began to take more desperate measures. Before it was all over a tidal wave welled up that brought Jesus to his knees under the weight of a cross.  Why did the masses so radically turn against him? How did the shouts of Hosanna on Sunday transform into the shouts of crucify him on Friday?  Why did the cheering stop?

The cheering stopped because Jesus did not meet their expectations.  If this is the Messiah, where is his horse?”  “If this is King David’s heir, where are his royal robes? Where is his throne?”  “If Jesus is the Christ and God’s Son, how could his life end on a Roman cross?  How could he die so horribly?”  You see, they expected one thing…but got another.  Honestly, isn’t that how we are with Jesus too?  We say we believe and have faith, but we still expect Him to do things our way.  We want our prayers answered with our answers, not His if they are different.  The inner despair of our frustrated expectations can cause us to give up on Jesus, quit praising him, and live self-seeking lives.

The last week of Jesus’ life He got down to business.  He knew His time was drawing near and He had some serious business to attend to before Good Friday.  He spoke with a young rich man and advised him to sell all his worldly goods and follow him.  He was asking for a commitment.  Some people watching this did not understand why he would not utilize the wealth of this man who wanted to commit to Jesus and His way.  His message all through his years of ministry had been primarily one of grace but now He was saying that the time for miracles was over.  It was time for commitment.  

I would suggest to you that when that rich young ruler walked away sorrowfully that day, he was not the only one. I think that it is safe to assume that a host of uncommitted people also walked away.  Jesus was no longer talking only grace. He was now speaking about the other side of religion--obligation. He began to talk about the obligation that rests with a person who has accepted God’s grace.  The cheering began to stop when Jesus began to speak of commitment.  How about you?  Isn’t it time to get down to business?  Take the step.  Don’t lower your expectations of Jesus but accept His will and make the commitment.  The time has come.

Scripture to Claim:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6  

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