Summary: In order to have a sustained commitment, you need to: 1. Focus on the goal. 2. Focus on fact, not feeling. 3. Focus on growth.
The backdrop for this day on the Christian calendar, which we call Palm Sunday, is the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast. Jesus has come riding into town from the Mount of Olives on a small donkey. Crowds are following him and shouting in excitement. The Bible says, “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred” (Matthew 21:9-10). It was a time of passionate emotion. When they called him “Son of David” they were saying that they saw him as the Messiah, the deliverer talked about in Scripture. They believed it was a new day. Deliverance from Rome and their other enemies was just around the corner. Hope was in the air.
The only problem was that Jesus was not making the moves that the people were expecting. He was not even railing against the government of Rome, let alone forming a resistence group. And then things became worse as the week progressed. It looked as though Rome had conquered the Messiah, rather than the Messiah conquering Rome. He was arrested. They overpowered him, tortured and beat him. In the minds of the people, this could never happen to a real Messiah. The mood began to change. The ecstatic mood of euphoric optimism first faded and then became jaded. Wild endorsement of the Messiah turned into enraged condemnation. Shouts of “Hosanna” became cries of “Crucify him!” Jesus had disappointed them and failed to meet their expectations. They reasoned that God never operates from a position of weakness. They had an agenda for him and when he refused to comply, they thought he might as well die. He was no longer of any use to them.
It is a dangerous thing to be caught up in a mob mentality. One minute the mob can be ready to make you king, and the next minute they want to rid the earth of you. To get caught up in the mob places you in danger of having your values and actions molded by the pressure of the crowd and the emotion of the moment.
A few years ago we saw images on the news about a high school hazing incident. Someone captured it on video and it was televised all the major stations. It showed a group of young people attacking other young people, as a small group of adults stood watching, and even cheering, as the abuse went on. When it was all over there were several concussions, a broken ankle and five young people who were hospitalized. In the mob you lose your personal identity, your moral boundaries and you can become capable of things that you never thought you would do. Remember that these were friends — people who wanted to be a part of their group. You have to wonder how desperate people are to belong when they subject themselves to hazing.
Our goal should never be the approval of this world. Remember that the Bible says, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).
But this incident, and others like it, serve to remind us that the temptation to fit in and go along is very strong. We want to be like everybody else, and have everybody like us. We will do almost anything to be accepted. But in the process you lose who you are. You no longer have an identity. You no longer stand for anything, because you cannot stand against what the majority are doing and thinking. When your goal is approval by the world, then if everybody you are with loves God, then you love God. But if the mood shifts, and the people around you become disappointed or angry with God, then you do too. You don’t have a mind of your own. At one time you really loved Jesus and were committed to him, but it did not go over well with people, and they didn’t seem to understand. You found that people rejected you, and you no longer felt like you fit in. It was much easier to drop your faith than make new friends, so you forgot about your relationship with Jesus, or you cooled off a lot. You started well, but somewhere you got off track. You listened to other people who told you to forget the whole thing. The same pressures existed in the time of Isaiah the prophet. He wrote: “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!’” (Isaiah 30:9-11).