COVID-19: Supporting Yourself and Your Loved One


The world looks very different than it did just a few months ago as a result of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. The need to limit contact by social distancing or self-quarantine has disrupted our routines, our systems, and – for many of us – our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Families and caregivers are facing hard decisions about protecting their health, finances, and loved ones. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reliable sources for up-to-date public health information. Here, we want to provide practical tips for supporting yourself and your loved one through this uncertain, ever-changing time.

Take Care of Yourself

We can’t emphasize this enough: just as if you were in an emergency situation on a plane, put your own oxygen mask on first! Many of us go into autopilot when we are under stress. That might mean making decisions without thinking through what might be different about this particular situation or trying to stick to a routine that is not currently feasible. Often unknowingly, caregivers distract themselves from their own wellbeing by focusing on taking care of others.

Ignoring your own self-care is a recipe for burnout. If you don’t attend to your own needs, over time you will start to feel the symptoms of stress take over. This might include unusual tiredness, feelings of resentment, persistent muscle tension, headaches, digestive problems, unusually high levels of annoyance and frustration, or other manifestations of stress. Take some time to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What do you need right now to tend to your own self-care? If you’re not sure how to “check in” with yourself, try some guided mindfulness exercises. A mindfulness app, Headspace, is currently offering some free guided meditation, but there also plenty of free exercises on YouTube.

This is not a one-and-done check in! Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s just two minutes.

Check In With Your Loved One

Okay, now that you’ve checked in with your own wellness and needs, it’s time to turn your attention to your loved one(s) to learn how they are managing. You can ask directly, “How has your mental health been with all the information coming out about COVID-19?” You may have a lot of assumptions about their responses based on their diagnosis or your own experiences. To hear what they are saying, make sure you actively listen to how your loved one is feeling.

Base your response on what you hear your loved one say. You can show that you were listening by reflecting back what you heard: “It sounds like you’re really worried about which news sources to trust right now, is that right?” Next, before making suggestions or telling your loved one what you think is best, make an inquiry. For example, ask, “Would it be helpful for me to share some advice or would you prefer just to talk?”

Now comes the hard part. Respect what your loved one says. If they are not in need of advice or help, don’t charge forward with more information. Don’t offer your judgment on their preference. And try not to say or do anything that inhibits future honest conversations.

In fact, it may be helpful for both you and your loved one to decide on your boundaries for how you want to talk about COVID-19 moving forward. Make an agreement about how often you discuss it, what kind of information you share, and when the best times to talk would be.

Offer Specific Ways You Can Provide Support

If your loved one is open to help or advice, be realistic about what you can provide. It may be well-intentioned to make a general offer, such as, “I am happy to help when anything you need,” but you can remove confusion and avoid overextending yourself (and perhaps creating resentment) by suggesting specific tasks you are willing and able to do.

Here are a few suggestions of help you could offer:

  1. Initiating a daily phone or video call to check in with each other.
  2. Supporting their keeping or making of a new daily routine.
  3. Calling your loved one’s insurance to see if tele-health services are covered and how to access them.
  4. Making a list together of coping skills for stressful or overwhelming moments.
  5. Playing virtual games, whether by finding existing ones or getting creative and making your own. FFDA tip: Try writing a story together! You can begin with a sentence or paragraph and then ask your loved one to write the next section. If you’re far apart or are practicing social distancing, use an e-mail chain or a Google doc to host the story.
  6. Dropping a meal or groceries at their front door.
  7. Practicing a mindfulness exercise together.

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones by focusing on health and safety. We are in this – and we’ll get through this – together.

Additional Resources

COVID-19: Supporting Yourself and Your Loved One

COVID-19: Recommended Preventative Practices and FAQs for Faith-based and Community Leaders

Click to access PartnershipCenterPDF.pdf

The power of integrity and taking a stand

Greg Laurie contrasts behavior of Moses with brother Aaron

Awhile back I came across an interesting headline in Forbes magazine: “Success Will Come and Go, but Integrity Is Forever.” The article pointed out that building integrity takes years, but it only takes seconds to lose. How true.

Billionaire Warren Buffett says that when you’re looking for someone to hire, you should look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. Then he adds, “But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”

Moses had integrity. The Bible describes him as “Moses the man of God” (Deuteronomy 33:1 NKJV). And when Moses the man of God temporarily left the scene, it was complete chaos. He left his brother, Aaron, in charge of the Israelites while he went up to Mount Sinai to receive the commandments.

But while Moses was away, the people went to Aaron and basically said, “Hey, you know what? We need something we can worship.”

So Aaron told them, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me” (Exodus 32:2 NLT). Then Aaron took all of the gold, melted it, and formed it into the shape of a calf.

When the people saw it, they said, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (verse 8 NLT).

Meanwhile, Moses was up on the mountain. And when he came down and saw what they were doing, he said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?” (verse 21 NLT).

So why were the people worshiping a golden calf? They came from Egypt, and Egypt essentially was idol central. They had all kinds of images they worshiped, and the people were used to this sort of thing. So they reverted to it.

We see from this story that one man, Moses, lived a godly life and influenced millions of people. On the other hand, one man, Aaron, lived a compromised life and had a horrible influence on others.

Not only that, but Aaron lied. He said to Moses, “You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire – and out came this calf!” (verses 22–24 NLT).

George Washington said that it’s better to offer no excuse than a bad one.

Aaron initiated this. He was responsible, but he didn’t take responsibility for his actions. It was on his watch that he helped the people commit idolatry. He should have stopped them cold and refused.

And to make matters worse, he wrapped it in religious jargon to do away with the guilt. He said, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” (verse 5 NLT).

This still happens. People will make sure they carry out a token spiritual action like giving thanks before a meal, but then they’ll go commit a gross sin. God doesn’t want to hear their grace at mealtime. Rather, God wants them to repent.

We find a fascinating passage in the Old Testament book of Amos, where God says, “Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (5:23 NLT).

Did you know there can come a point when you’re singing praises to the Lord and God effectively says, “Stop already! I don’t want to hear it. Your lifestyle contradicts what you’re singing. What you’re doing is offensive to me”?

That’s what was happening when the Israelites presented a burnt offering and worshiped the golden calf. God was saying, “I don’t want your burnt offering. I don’t want you to worship false gods. I want you to love me with all your heart.”

What a contrast Moses and Aaron were. Moses set an example that the people could follow, while Aaron set a bad example. Moses was known for his decisiveness, conviction and doing what was right. Aaron, on the other hand, was known for his indecisiveness, weak will and desire to fit in.

You see, Aaron didn’t want to offend anyone. In the same way, sometimes we’re afraid to make a stand because we don’t want to offend.

Don’t do that. Make a stand. Do what is right, not what is easy. In fact, sometimes when you do what is right, it’s very hard.

A man or woman of integrity does the right thing whether or not someone is watching. When Aaron was with Moses, he was “godly.” And when he wasn’t with Moses, he was pretty ungodly. He gave in, and he led the people in their sin.

Sometimes we’re the same way. When we’re around strong believers, we’re strong – kind of. But the moment we’re away from them, we crumble.

Find strong Christians to be around. And in time, you need to be that strong believer yourself.

The highest compliment we can pay is to describe someone as a man or woman of God. May that be said of us, not just by casual acquaintances, but by our family and close friends, by those who know us well.

“I am only one, but I am one,” said Edward Everett Hale. “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Make your stand for what is right, and God will bless you for it.


Original here

‘I Am Leaving the World’

The Last Words of a Man Betrayed

by Marshall Segal
Staff writer,

What would you have said, to the people you knew and loved most, the night you were to be betrayed?

On the eve of the most unjust day anyone will ever suffer, Jesus sat with his disciples, knowing that he would be betrayed by someone close to him. He knew how his friends would abandon him within a few hours, leaving him to be wrongly arrested, unjustly convicted, and brutally executed — alone. What would he say to these men, men he had known and loved for years, men who would go on to build his church and be persecuted for his name, but men who, on this night, through fear and confusion, would desert him?

His last words on that awful Thursday are words we so desperately need to hear. Believe, even when faith feels impossible and seems to cost you everything. Love, even when you want to walk away. Abide in my love by diligently and persistently doing what I have told you to do. Take heart, even when your heart begins to fail. And be at peace, even when your life feels like war.

1. Whatever may come, believe.

Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). And again, “Now I have told you [what is about to happen] before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe” (John 14:29). Before he went to his death, he wanted them to know that, whatever horrors may come and whatever might make them feel otherwise, God can be trusted — to, and through, the bitter end.

Many of us might miss the sobering power of these words, because we think believing is easy. We may have wrestled on and off with doubts, but we have not been forced, in life-or-death moments, to decide if we’re truly ready to stand with Christ, whatever may come. That’s what the men in that room were about to face — no freedom of religion, no right to assemble and worship; just hatred, condemnation, and eventually torture. Every man who heard Jesus say “Believe in me” eventually died for believing.

We may not have to face what the disciples suffered (some do around the world today), but it can still, at times, be intensely hard to believe. Our suffering, of various kinds, can throw unsettling shadows on our thoughts about God. And yet right here, in the darkest, most painful days in history, knowing what he would suffer, knowing what they would eventually suffer, Jesus can say to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Whatever darkness lies ahead of you, expected or not, he says the same to his friends today.

2. Love one another, especially when it’s hard.

Believing wouldn’t be the only mountain these men would face ahead. The most repeated and memorable charge that night might be a surprising one to hear:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)

He rehearses the same anthem over three chapters (John 13:1415:12–13), climbing to the summary: “These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:17). Jesus was on the brink of execution, preparing to go to war with Satan, hell, and death, and yet he spent many of his last breaths reminding them to love another. Why? Because he knew, very painfully and personally, just how much that love would cost them — just how hard it would be to keep loving sinful people.

When Jesus kneeled down to wash their feet that night, he knew what horrors those feet would experience along the path of love — assaulted by rocks and worse, left beaten and bare in prisons, hung on crosses. Yes, he would go to the cross in their place, rescuing them from the horrible wrath they deserved, but his death would not spare them from deep agony in this world. As he took and carried the cross they could not bear, he called them each to pick up their own (Matthew 16:24) — one they could not carry alone, but one they would nonetheless carry, with his help.

Love one another. The command is not simply a plea to keep peace, like parents might give to bickering children. The command is a blood-earnest cry into the battle lines of the greatest war ever fought. How we love one another is not incidental or peripheral to the universe, but at the very heart of what God means to say in the world. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

3. Abide in my commands.

Jesus did say, “Believe,” even in the valley of the shadow of death, but he did not only say to believe. He exhorts them to remember and to do all that he had told them to do, including his charge to love one another. If their faith was going to survive the dangerous road ahead, they had to be utterly committed to do whatever he had commanded. “If you love me,” he says to them, “you will keep my commandments. . . . You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 14:1515:14).

As he was about to leave this world, he looked his disciples in the eyes and told them to obey. He says the same to us as we walk into our own troubles. “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:9–10). The secret to standing firm through terrible circumstances is abiding in Christ by trusting and keeping his word.

The strength we need to press on and bear fruit, especially in suffering, springs from God’s love for us — and we abide in that love by heeding his voice. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If we try to navigate the darkness without listening to Christ, we will flounder and fail and accomplish nothing, but with him, we can do and endure all things — a promise Jesus himself would cling to, in prayer, as he went to the cross (Mark 14:36).

4. Take heart in any storm.

That Thursday night was anything but peaceful. The war for the cosmos, thinly veiled for most of human history, was now breaking into Jerusalem — and the disciples were caught at the epicenter of the conflict.

And yet Jesus could still say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). These men had no earthly reason to have peace, and yet they had been supplied a peace birthed in the perfect wisdom and all-powerful authority of God himself. Jesus did not just give them peace; he gave them his peace.

As he held out peace, he did not downplay the fires they would face. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). The world will hate you. You too will drink the bitter cup of suffering (Matthew 20:23), “they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). Yet, let not your hearts be troubled.

Only a God in utter control of all things could hold out peace in days like these — in days like ours.

Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When life begins to overwhelm you, remember all that Christ overcame for you — and have peace. Believe in all he is for you. Love one another relentlessly. And abide in his great love, a love on display in each painful step he took to have you.

How Is Your Faith Today?

Date: March 12, 2020
Author: hepsibahgarden

And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.

And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. Luke‬ ‭5:18-20‬

The 4 men who carried the paralysed man had faith that if the sick man would be brought to Jesus, he will surely be healed. Until they carried and brought him to Jesus, there wasn’t any possibility of him being healed. That’s the beauty of fellowship 😊

If God has to do do something for us, He will first see our faith. Word of God says, But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬. It’s like — When we go to the store to buy stuff, depending on the money we have, only can we buy things. Faith is just like that. The man sick of palsy could not get himself come to Jesus on his own. He needed help to be carried and brought forth.

But, the 4 men who carried and brought him to Jesus had faith that he would be healed.



So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans‬ ‭10:17‬

The more we read and hear the Word of God, that much more faith will increase. Sometimes, unbelief and doubt may creep in and make us doubt God’s Word. Nonetheless, we should not stop reading and hearing God’s Word not stop praying.

May God help us all! ❤️
Original here


India: Pastor says life becoming ‘far more difficult’ for Christians amid escalating persecution

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

A pastor in India has opened up about the deteriorating state of religious freedom in the country, revealing things are becoming “far more difficult” for Christians who almost daily encounter persecution for their faith.

“Things have become far more difficult for pastors like me,” Pastor Ramesh Kumar, a church planter who leads house churches in 12 villages outside of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, told persecution watchdog International Christian Concern. “Almost daily, I encounter a situation where I am asked to stop preaching the Gospel and recant my faith in Jesus.”

Pastor Kumar described several incidents of persecution he has experienced over the last several weeks. “Some days, it is only a mild warning,” he said, but “other times, it turns into a frightening physical assault.”

On March 16, the pastor was about to leave his home when four people showed up at his door. What started as a civil conversation quickly turned volatile after the pastor revealed he “preaches Jesus to people who want to hear.”

“When the four men asked if I receive money for converting people, I immediately sensed the trouble was going beyond my control,” he recalled. “I immediately called my landlord, who is a Hindu, and he came to my rescue. He dispersed the four men by explaining that I am not doing any harm to anyone.”

The pastor uses a bicycle to shuttle between villages to conduct prayers, lead Bible studies and various Sunday worship services, and share the Gospel message with people he meets along the road. He described a recent incident where one of his house churches was almost shut down.

“It was around noon after I had completed Sunday worship in Puran Patti village,” he recalled. “Suddenly, a four-wheel vehicle full of young men stopped in front of the church. These young men entered the church shouting anti-Christian slogans and started to hurl abuses at the Christians who had gathered.”

“After an hour of intense abuse, the Hindu radicals locked and sealed the door of the church. They told my congregation and me that we were no longer allowed to assemble in the church.

“It was a very painful thing for my congregation and me. However, we took the matter to the village president. He came to the church and opened the locked doors. According to the village president, the people who attacked the church were outsiders, and the village president knew we were not harming anyone by holding worship in the church.”

Despite the persecution he continues to face, the pastor stressed that “God has been very faithful.”

“I am not going to stop witnessing and will continue to serve Jesus even though things are not favorable at the moment,” he said.

“I do get worried every day when I go out. But I do know that God will help me.”

According to Persecution Relief, which tracks anti-Christian persecution and harassment in India, crimes against Christians in India increased 60 percent between 2016 and 2019. The majority of these incidents have happened in Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India, with nearly 200 million people. However, only about 350,000 Christians live in the state. According to reports, police in the state have worked in tandem with Hindu extremists to mistreat Christians and other religious minorities.

Illegal arrests and false criminal charges are among the most common forms of police harassment endured by Christians in Uttar Pradesh.

In February, leaders of the Hindu nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad held a press conference claiming they identified 30 locations in India’s Uttar Pradesh state where religious conversions were taking place, notes ICC. The VHP leaders vowed to end these “forced” conversions in a door to door “Ghar Wapsi” campaign.

As part of “Ghar Wapsi,” or “back to home” campaigns, Hindu extremists storm into villages and lead “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.

Since this announcement, attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Uttar Pradesh have “skyrocketed,” according to ICC, which notes that almost every weekend since the press conference, it has received reports of Christians in Uttar Pradesh facing intimidation, harassment, arrest or assault.

India is ranked 10th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which has been documenting incidents of persecution against Christians since 1998, incidents targeting Indian Christians have risen steeply since 2014, when Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power.

In 2019 alone, the EFI documented at least 366 violent attacks on Christians and their places of worship in India.

Suffering savior, good shepherd, returning king

by Greg Laurie on Mar 6, 2020

One of the most well-known passages in the Bible is Psalm 23. It has been justly called the pearl of the Psalms. Throughout the centuries, so many have benefited from its profound yet simple truths.

But it’s also important to note the psalms that precede and follow Psalm 23.

Psalm 22, for example, presents Jesus as the suffering savior. This psalm gives us a graphic account of his crucifixion, including references to the way he would die and the piercing of his hands and feet. Also, it opens with the words that Christ uttered from the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (verse 1 NKJV).

Then Psalm 24 speaks of Christ’s return, when he will come again in glory. Instead of wearing a crown of thorns, he will wear a crown of glory as he comes to establish his kingdom on earth.

So we have Jesus presented as the suffering savior in Psalm 22, as the good shepherd in Psalm 23 and as the returning king in Psalm 24.

In fact, the pages of Scriptures give us many pictures of God. And in Luke 12:32, Jesus makes a statement that pulls a number of them together: “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (NKJV).

In that statement, Jesus presents God as a shepherd, a father and a king. We have a shepherd in the words, “Fear not little flock.” Then we have a father and a king in the following: “For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Of course, each of these pictures has its limitations individually. But taken together, they give us a more complete picture of who God is.
He is our king, our sovereign, and our master. Therefore, we walk before him in reverence, awe, and respect.

But at the same time, he is our father who loves us. So we have a relationship with him in which we have open access into his presence.
In addition, he’s our shepherd, because we’re often just like sheep: dim-witted, straying, and getting ourselves into messes of our own making. So he is there to rescue his flock.

David, who penned Psalm 23, was a shepherd. He was a shepherd’s son as well. Also, the Bible refers to him as the shepherd king of Israel.
I can just imagine David sitting on a rock one day, looking out at his sheep, when the words of Psalm 23 came to him. Maybe he was reflecting on the things about sheep that reminded him of himself.

Of course, there’s a lot we can say about sheep. They have many strange characteristics, including the fact that they really can’t take care of themselves.

Some animals, for instance, cam pretty much care for themselves. A dog requires some care. Then there are cats. They stop in for food and leave for the rest of the day. Sometimes they even disappear for days at a time.

Of course, each of these pictures has its limitations individually. But taken together, they give us a more complete picture of who God is.
He is our king, our sovereign, and our master. Therefore, we walk before him in reverence, awe, and respect.

But at the same time, he is our father who loves us. So we have a relationship with him in which we have open access into his presence.
In addition, he’s our shepherd, because we’re often just like sheep: dim-witted, straying, and getting ourselves into messes of our own making. So he is there to rescue his flock.

David, who penned Psalm 23, was a shepherd. He was a shepherd’s son as well. Also, the Bible refers to him as the shepherd king of Israel.
I can just imagine David sitting on a rock one day, looking out at his sheep, when the words of Psalm 23 came to him. Maybe he was reflecting on the things about sheep that reminded him of himself.

Of course, there’s a lot we can say about sheep. They have many strange characteristics, including the fact that they really can’t take care of themselves.

Some animals, for instance, cam pretty much care for themselves. A dog requires some care. Then there are cats. They stop in for food and leave for the rest of the day. Sometimes they even disappear for days at a time.

Sheep, on the other hand, need constant attention. God didn’t design them with long claws, sharp teeth or great size and strength. They completely depend on their shepherd for sustenance, protection, guidance and pretty much everything.

And while sheep are basically alike in their essential nature, each sheep also has its own distinct characteristics. Thus, a shepherd comes to know the unique traits of each sheep in his flock.

For instance, he might know that one of his sheep is afraid of high places. Another sheep might be afraid of dark shadows. So the shepherd would keep that in mind while he was leading his flock.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14 NKJV).

So not only does the good shepherd know our natures, but he also knows our needs. And when God looks at us, he knows the deepest needs of our lives.

What, then, is the desire of the shepherd for his sheep? We find the answer in this statement from Christ: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

The shepherd wants his flock to flourish. He wants his sheep to be well-fed and cared for. He wants them to be content.

So when Jesus said, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” he was saying that God isn’t austere, angry, and reluctant to work in our lives. Rather, God loves us and has a tender heart toward us. It gives him pleasure to give us his kingdom and blessing.

This abundant life Jesus spoke of is not necessarily a long one. But it certainly is a full one. Though medical science has had breakthroughs that possibly could extend the years of our lives, they certainly can’t add life to our years.

For me, just thinking of Jesus as my good shepherd gives me a great sense of security.

Yet it’s important to note that only the Christian can say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” That statement is only true for someone who has committed their life to Christ.

Is Jesus Christ is living in your life? Is he is your shepherd who leads and guides you? If not, then I hope you will make a commitment to him today.

Learn more about Pastor Greg: Bio

Originally published at

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Behold Your King Comes Unto You

Palm Sunday is more than cute kids waving palm branches in church

Mark A. Barber on Mar 29, 2020

Behold Your King Comes unto You

Matthew 21:1-11

Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday begins what we call “Holy Week.” It was a week of very high drama. The entire gamut of emotion was evidenced, great fear, great suffering, great confusion, great sorrow, and finally, great joy. It joins the week of creation as being one of the two most important weeks in human history. It actually begins with the anointing of Jesus for burial by Mary of Bethany. Even though Matthew does not mention the anointing until later in the week, John clearly locates it on the evening before the triumphal entry. The anointing of Jesus with the expensive spikenard becomes the occasion of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. The reason Matthew locates the event later is because he wants to make the association explicit as the next event he records is Judas going to the high Priest to betray Jesus. We must remember that the Gospels follow a combination of temporal and logical arrangement. So the events are not necessarily in chronological order. John uses the chronological order and shows us the connection of Mary’s anointing to Judas’ betrayal by naming Judas as the one most offended by the act. As the Hebrew day begins at sunset, this anointing initiates the drama that follows. It tells us that Jesus came to Jerusalem to die and not yet to reign.

So when we come to Palm Sunday as it is called, we are informed that there was quite a difference in the expectation of Jesus and that of the people. The people would come expecting a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and set up the Messianic kingdom. Surely the One who could raise the dead and heal the sick could overthrow the Romans. He could speak the word, and the Romans would fall over dead. Jesus certainly was capable of this. Ironically this is demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane as recorded in John’s Gospel. But instead of killing the soldiers when Jesus replied “I AM” they only fell backward. With all the heavy armor on, they would be like turtles on their backs. It would have taken several seconds to get back on their feet, plenty of time for Jesus to have escaped with his disciples into the desert. But Jesus came to Jerusalem to be rejected and put to death, not to kill Romans.

On the morning, Jesus departed from Bethany and joined the crowds on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to Passover. Jesus sent his disciples to get him a donkey to ride on, in particular, a colt that had never been ridden. A colt is terrified to be ridden as it has not yet been broken. Matthew’s gospel adds the detail that they were to take the colt’s mother which might serve to calm the colt. Jesus could, of course, as the donkeys maker have calmed the colt in his own power, but it appears He chose to let the colt’s mother do that. Jesus anticipated the owner would confront the disciples about it, so Jesus reolied that the master needed it. So they let the colt and its mother go.

Matthew says that this was done to fulfill the words of the Prophet. “Behold your king comes to you, humbly, sitting upon a donkey, the foal of a donkey.” Matthew stresses that Jesus’ life was the fulfillment of Scripture even as the other gospels. What we get from this is that Jesus is identifying Himself as the promised King. The Jews clearly understood this claim. But they did not understand the nature of this kingship. Perhaps if they reflected upon the text, that this King did not come upon a regal white horse, but a humble donkey. All they could see was a Messianic King who would overthrow the Romans and set up an everlasting kingdom.

They show their understanding by strawing their garments upon the colt and upon the ground before Jesus. It is also said they cut palm branches off the trees and waving them, hence the name “Palm Sunday.” The palm branch was the symbol of the Hasmonean kingdom which started after the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Greek forces of Antiochus Epiphanes. This was the last time they were a sovereign nation. Rome absorbed Palestine into their Empire and set a non-Jewish king, Herod, to rule over them. When we add that this was the week of Passover in which Israel celebrated its liberation from Egyptian slavery, we can see a perfect storm of misinterpretation. What Jesus came to do and what the people thought Jesus came to do were completely at odds.

Jesus is escorted into the city with the joyous shouts from the 118th Psalm. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest! The 118th Psalm is an interesting psalm. It does contain the joyous hosanna. But it also talks about rejection as well. The stone the builders were about to reject was to become the chief cornerstone. Even this psalm testifies to Jesus’ sacrificial death. He was indeed a king, just not the one they expected. Soon they would choose Jesus Barabbas rather than Jesus Christ. He was more the expectation of the people. Barabbas came and started an uprising against Rome and was arrested. It is interesting that Bar Abbas means “Son of the Father.” This title fits Jesus Christ as well, and that rightly.

The people in Jerusalem asked who this man was who was coming to Jerusalem. The crowd answered back that it was Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. The other gospels say that the crwods came out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus and His entourage. There was much joy in the city. The Roman chhort in the Fortress Antonio looked down upon this with alarm. The Jewish leaders also were alarmed. Luke tells us that they went to Jesus and begged Him to silence His followers. Rome did not look kindly to insurrection. If the Jewish leaders lost control of the situation, Rome would come down heavily. They were worried that their Temple would be destroyed and that their privileged position might become death or slavery. They would soon reject Jesus in the vain hope that by doing so, the nation and the city of Jerusalem would be saved. The truth was quite the opposite. Their only hope was in Jesus. By rejecting Jesus, they ended up losing their Temple, their city, and their privilege to the Romans.

When we celebrate Palm Sunday, we think of happy children processing down the aisle to the altar waving palm branches. We have fit songs to sing. It is a great celebration of our King. But sometimes, I am concerned if we don’t miss the message of Palm Sunday. We should remember that between Palm Sunday and Easter is the cross. And between the ascension of Jesus and His return is the very troubled world that we live in. For those who remain faithful to Jesus and believe on Him, the day in which we can truly cry out “Hosanna” will come. But it has not come yet. Our own cross lies before us, the one Jesus says we must carry. The world will reject us even as it did Jesus. The world will misunderstand us and our mission as much as it did our Lord’s. The world only sees power. They cannot accept humility and weakness. They are looking for Barabbas to save them, not Jesus. But in the end, Christianity, after almost 300 years of suffering would triumph over the Caesars. But this is not the final victory either. The mixture of Christ and Rome was lie putting together oil and water. A Christendom of worldly power and splendor is at odds with the humble beast of burden. The theology of glory will come. But now it is the theology of the cross.

So we proclaim Christ not with pompous ceremony but with humble service. We point not to ourselves but to our Lord Jesus. We do not come to overthrow the wicked but to proclaim a Savior who wills that every person believe and be saved. “While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us.” We walk in His footprints with our crosses at tow and not palm branches. The time will come for the palms, but not yet. Jesus had palm branches waved at Him, but by Friday they were beating Him with the palms of their hands. He would be beaten, subject to mock worship and then hung on a most miserable of thrones, a cross. Hosanna means “Lord, save us!” This He has done in His own way, by His own atoning death on a cross. In this way, let us offer our hosannas.