Confessing Christ Bloggers
Apr 8

Written by: Richard L. Floyd
4/8/2009 9:35 AM

We can do this in a number of ways. We can turn Jesus into the supporter of our personal goals, or the upholder of our national ambitions, or our politics, or other ways where he becomes who we want him to be instead of who he really is. “Palm Sunday faith” is when we want a Jesus without a cross so we can have a faith without a cross, a faith without challenge or sacrifice, a faith without testing or struggle. When we do that we turn God into a kind of talisman or lucky charm to bless our projects and our aspirations, when in fact the God of the Bible is a God with his own sovereign purposes.

The problem with a Palm Sunday faith is that we live in a Good Friday world. I believe that Christian faith is essential a joyful enterprise, but it is a joyful enterprise that doesn't turn or flinch from the hard truths of the world's harsh brutalities. So Christian faith without a cross does not show God's full power to deal with human sin and death. And a faith without a cross will be found feeble and wimpy when the chips are really down.

What do I mean when I say it is a Good Friday world? There is a certain heartbreaking aspect of living that comes to us all. Often we only see it from a distance, as in this war in Iraq, where we have seen pictures both of dead and injured civilians and dead servicemen and women. But to the families of those individuals that heartbreak has come “up close and personal.”

And some heartbreak comes to every human life sooner or later. It is not just in wartime that the powers of sin and death do their heartbreaking work. Which is why there is so much comfort for us in worshipping a God who himself “became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And that is exactly it. Our God knows the whole truth about human life. Knows not just the Sunday veneer and the masks of propriety but the dark and sad parts of it all. Knows that life is not a bowl of cherries. And this God not only knows the worst the world has to offer, but he has done something about it. His love is not sentimental love; it is holy love, a love that moves and acts to deal with love’s enemies. A God who merely comforted the afflicted and bound up the wounded would not be a God who takes on the power of sin and death and evil. That is what the cross of Jesus is all about. God himself confronting human life at is very worst, at its most irredeemable, at a pitiful state execution, where the most powerful forces in the world humiliated and destroyed this humble innocent man.

He took it all on himself, the whole weight of the world’s hate and violence, its guilt and shame, all of it there on the hill at Golgotha. For us. You and me, and not just for us, but for everyone, across the ages. And not just for humans, but for himself, because his own holiness could not tolerate the world’s sin without atonement. And so he made it, not with the blood of rams at the temple, but making the sacrifice himself, spilling his own life out.

And why? Because that is what love does. By its very nature love spills itself out. In the letter to the Philippians Paul says that Jesus even gave up his own rightful claim to divinity, emptying himself, taking the form of a slave, for the cross was a slave’s death.

And because of this humble obedience the Father has highly exalted him, and has given him God’s own name. Because “Lord” is the name Israel gave to their God, and to no one else. But now Jesus is called “Lord.”

When we call Jesus “Lord” and take the full measure of his love we will be moving toward a faith that can meet life’s darkest hours and toughest spots. A faith that is able to stand at the foot of the cross. And the world desperately needs people like that with faith like that: faith in Jesus, and in the power of his cross.

Copyright ©2009 Richard Floyd

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Re: The Perils of a Palm Sunday Faith in a Good Friday World

Dear Richard,

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the text of Scripture to cause us to look down our noses at the faith of the vast crowd that welcomed Jesus with a "red carpet" made of palms and ancient prayers. With Roman solidiers everywhere, they had a much more immediate awareness of the reality of crucifixion than we do, and knew the risks. When they cried our "Save, please!" it as profound and real a prayer as we will every pray. and the confession "Indeed, the King of Israel!" was every bit as joyous, r and true as the Barmen and other declarations we so like to celebrate in times of trouble. "Fear not, daughter of Zion!" Indeed, they did fear not!

According to John, the disciples did not understand these things at the time, it seemed like nothing at the time, but, after he was glorified, after they witnessed his own humble obedience unto death, the disgrace of death on the cross being his true glorification, his exaltation to being the bearer away of the sins of the world (our sins, their sins, the crowd's sins) then they remembered that these things had been written of him and these things had been done.

God bless!

Jim

By Jim Link on   4/8/2009 3:19 PM

Re: The Perils of a Palm Sunday Faith in a Good Friday World

Dear Richard,

I wasn't talking about the crowd's sincerity, I was talking about its conformity, its conformity in faith, faith manifested in confession and praise and prayer, to the King who was entering into Jerusalem: please refrain from putting down such "Palm Sunday Faith". I think it was Barth who said that faith is an eschatological phenomenon: where there is faith the old world has come to an end and the new has begun: "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Certainly our faith is not in our faith, and it is is not our confessions we confess. Our faith is in Jesus Christ and him we do confess. Insofar as he indeed is the object, and even the subject of our faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are justified through faith, faith is reckoned to us as righteousness, apart from any merit in faith itself. God is faithful in Jesus Christ, and it is clear that Christ approved the faith of the crowd, acknowledging himself at that moment was its true object. And thus we need not fear even the weakness of our faith, for he is ever faithful, for in his perfect faithfulness, he allows us to be faithful. Yes, there is temptation and trial, in which our faith itself may become utterly nothing, even our enemy, I think that is what you are referring to. But God himself will prove faithful, and thus, even in temptation, we may rejoice, for God is working his purpose out.

By Jim Link on   4/10/2009 7:59 PM

Re: The Perils of a Palm Sunday Faith in a Good Friday World

Jim,

Yes, I think you are right about the sincerity of the crowd's confession. But like even our own most cherished confessions we humans can betray them. And so another crowd (how many of them the same people we do not know) shouted crucify him on Good Friday.

-Rick

By Richard L. Floyd on   4/10/2009 9:36 AM
   
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