Lead me to the Cross
by Amy Saleam
Here we are, the first day of Holy Week – Palm Sunday. Palm branches have claimed the name of today but they are merely what make it unique. The Gospels paint a picture of a crowd lined along the road as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Riding on the beast of burden, a path of palm trees and worn clothing formed a carpet of endearment before Him. “Hosanna… blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” He was praised. When we look at stories in the Bible that recount the life of Christ, there is always a message deeper than what appears on the surface. So what is today really about?
No beautiful horse, no guards for protection, no army around Him – no grand gestures. Despite who Christ is, all His Glory and Greatness, He chooses to enter the city with complete humility, seated on an animal who contradicts all things royal. The humility demonstrated by Christ on Palm Sunday poses the perfect snapshot of who Christ is, and who we are to be, so that our lives may be shadows of Him.
Christ leads the example of humility by choosing to humble himself without need to be humbled by another. Just as he chose to enter with humility, days later, he also chose death on our behalf. Not because He was forced to, not because He owes it to us, but because of His love for us. Allowing Himself to be placed at the forefront of humiliation and pain, He nailed our sins to the cross. And so you see, the triumph of Christ does not lay in the praise of the people on Palm Sunday, but through His passion towards us that would be soon demonstrated.
Can Pride and Humility Co-exist?
“How could he speak to me like that?”
“Why does she think it is okay to ignore me?”
“How could he say that to me?”
Undoubtedly, these thoughts have crossed your mind; I can be the first to put my hand up to this. These are what we call ‘finger pointing’ thoughts and are a product of pride. When you spend your day focusing on “me” – how you feel, replaying a hurtful interaction, or even just focusing solely on ticking off your to-do-list for the day, you occupy your mind with thoughts of, “I” rather than thoughts of Him. We end off our self-consumed day with a one-minute prayer as though we are doing God a favour in our “busy” lifestyle by remembering Him, mid yawn. The danger of this is that it provides perfect opportunity for pride to make itself a comfortable home within us. Just as light and darkness cannot simultaneously occupy the same room; humility and pride cannot live in the same heart.
When self-absorbing thoughts become our daily practice, our vision of Christ becomes blurred and His voice harder to hear. So, if we are to reflect the humility of Christ, we need to let go of ourselves and fill our lives with Him through prayer, Scripture and fellowship. When we do this, we learn that a humble response towards others rejects the shame that follows a proud reaction, and rather it embodies wisdom – a wisdom that comes from knowing Christ.
“By humility and the fear of the Lord, are riches and honour and life”
The Bible tells us that when we embody Christ’s humility, we are given life and nourishment. So when we are humiliated and hurt by others, let us be reminded that a meek heart and humble response is a reflection of Christ and honours God. If we are to know Christ, we are to personify humility. The more you are filled with Him the sooner pride will know it has no place in you.
The True Victory
“The way to Christ is first through humility, second through humility, and third through humility. If humility does not precede and accompany and follow every good work we do, if it is not before us to focus on, if it is not beside us to lean upon, if it is not behind us to fence us in, pride will wrench from our hand any good deed we do at the very moment we do it”
Upon His entrance into Jerusalem, the crowds shouted “Hosanna,” meaning ‘save us.’ They were desperate to be saved from the Roman rule over them, ignorant to the fact that the true saving they needed was the one of their heart – but Christ was well aware.
We are very much like the Israelites on Palm Sunday. We come before the Lord and ask Him to fix our problems and change our circumstances, forgetting that perhaps it is the condition of our heart that requires edification. Before we point the finger at the other person or question why certain things had to happen to us, let us go to God in prayer that he may humble and change our heart.
A humble heart gives us a Christ centered perspective of our situations. Through this, we are then able to truly forgive and extend grace to others, even if we are placed in the most unwanted of situations. As Saint Augustine perfectly puts it, if humility does not take precedence over all that we do, our efforts will be fruitless and the true saving of ourselves overshadowed. Perhaps I dare to say that the core of many of our problems and even our external concerns is because we overlook the real issue within us. You see, Palm Sunday demonstrates that beyond the circumstances that we may deem unbearable, and problems that we desire be removed, Christ came for a greater purpose than to save us from inconveniences – but came to purify our hearts and give us life through Him. He did not enter Jerusalem to conquer the Romans, but to conquer much more than that.
It’s not too late
“Of all the afflictions that burden the human race, there is not one, whether spiritual or bodily, that cannot be healed by the Holy Scriptures”
– St John Chrysostom
As we approach the end of Lent and begin the Holy Pascha today, let us be reminded of the beauty of this season. In a few days time we celebrate not only the resurrection of Christ, but also the resurrection of our renewed self. This was something beautiful that I was reminded of by one of our Church Fathers recently. And so as we spend this week reflecting on the lead up to Easter Sunday, let us encourage one another to die to ourselves and celebrate not only His resurrection, but ours also. Although none of us can say we are without blemish, let us confide in the fact that we can leave it all at the cross and have a fresh start. Just as Christ was welcomed into Jerusalem, may we welcome Him into our lives.
Not just on Palm Sunday but every day this Holy Week, may we look to His word and reflect on Scripture, pray fervently, repent wholeheartedly and return to Our First Love.
Lord, consider our laments and hear our cries for help as we come before you. Protect us from thoughts that pierce through our hearts and break us down. Help us reflect Your humility through actions that honour You. Show us that when we wait, you bring light to the darkness. Show us that when we trust, you take over and fill us with Your peace. Help us take refuge in You as the only one that can fill and satisfy our hearts.
Glory be to God, forever. Amen.