Friday, April 07, 2006

Revisiting "The Enthusiasm"

Life has kept me from doing much writing this week. For that I apologize. I know how frustrating it is to stop into a blog and not see anything new. But as I said before, this blog is for me and I won't sacrifice what I have to do to blog. The interesting thing is that I have two or three posts half-finished, but duty is calling. I'll get them up sometime soon. But in the meantime, I was going through some of the thoughts I had last year as we approached Holy Week. It has always been my favorite time. And with Palm Sunday barely 26 hours away, I'd like to share these words I wrote last year as I thought about the people who waved palm branches before the prophet on a donkey -- those people who, for a few minutes at least, had enthusiasm.

There's nothing like a new hobby that really is fun and exciting. I've had many in my life -- some of which are still passions, while others faded away. As a kid, I had a huge black superball. Actually it wasn't a superball because it was some sort of tough black rubber which was slightly smaller than a baseball. But had a great bounce. In the summer when I had a chance, I would play my own baseball games. With a mitt on one hand and the ball in the other, I played out games featuring real major leaguers, a few of my friends and any other names which came to mind. I'd often do play-by-play, although quietly so that anybody happening by wouldn't hear me.

My house had a large brick section at the front. There were no windows in the brick; just a sidewalk which ran almost next to the wall. The game was simple. To pitch, I would throw the ball hitting the sidewalk first, then caroming off the brick back toward me. If I caught it in the air, it was an out. If it came off the wall as a grounder, then I had to field the ball like an infielder and throw it off the wall on the fly and catch it for the out at first base. Runs were only scored when I couldn't catch something or if I couldn't hit the sidewalk on the pitch.

I must have played that game for at least half my waking sunny-day hours for three or four summers. Then something must have happened. Maybe the ball got lost. (There was no replacing that black super ball.) Or maybe it was the added responsibilities of my life -- more baseball, more chores, more helping at the family store. Maybe my voice was worn out from so much play-by-play. Whatever it was, my enthusiasm for the game just wasn't there anymore. I'd love to have that enthusiasm back. Shoot, I'd love to have that black super ball back.

I often wonder about the people who spread their cloaks and palm branches before Jesus that Sunday. Why were they so happy? What were they expecting from Him? Were they just waiting for Jesus to begin the long-awaited uprising to drive the Romans from the land of Israel? Were they celebrating the arrival of a new king? A prophet? A celebrity? Were they simply caught up in excitement and joined in? I wish I knew. I wonder what happened to those people. Did the same people who shouted "Hosanna!" also shout "Crucify!"?

I've always been fascinated by Acts 14. The people of Lystra had received Paul and Barnabas with great pomp and circumstance. After Paul had healed a man who had been crippled since birth, the Lystrans try to worship the two evangelists as Greek gods. The text says that even after explaining everything to the people, many still wanted to sacrifice to them. Paul and Barnabas were stars! But then some of Paul and Barnabas' enemies showed up and whipped up the crowds to the point where they got a hold of Paul and stoned him, drug him out of the city and left him for dead! We're not told exactly how long a span of time it was between worshipping and stoning, but the text seems to imply that it wasn't very long at all. The people who had to be held back from worshipping Paul and Barnabas had in short order became those who tried to kill them. Why? Were they too easily led? Were they disappointed by Paul and Barnabas' refusal to be worshipped? How can a person go from wanting to worship to wanting to kill in such a short period of time?

There are times when we move from one extreme to the other as well. We can flow through the process of infatuation with another person until it finally dies out. We can rush headlong into a hobby for a while until we get burned out. It can happen spiritually too. Our desire for prayer and closeness with God can move from hot and heavy to "when I get around to it." The Bible, which once called to us, begging to be read, can turn into a silent, dusty decorative item on the bedside table. Our enthusiasm can wane. Our relationship with our Creator can grow cold.

In my imagination, I can see the face of Jesus looking out at the crowd of people calling for Barabbas instead of for Him. And I see Him recognize a face; the face of a man with hatred etched in the wrinkles of his skin. But Jesus remembers him from another day. On that day, he wore a smile and threw down his cloak for His donkey to walk across. And a tear runs down Jesus' cheek. The same kind of tear which ran down His cheek on that Sunday as He was reminded of the rejection of His own people. And He looks at the man who is shouting "Crucify Him!" Then suddenly the man sees he has been recognized and he runs back to his home. There he sits, wondering why the enthusiasm he had felt for this arriving prophet had faded and been replaced by hatred.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Those are good questions! I hadn't thought of it from that perspective before, but it certainly is possible that many of them were just caught up in the excitement. I hope they weren't caught up in the frenzy crying crucify too!