I grew up in the Baltimore suburbs in the 70s so I was a Colts fan – the Baltimore Colts, not the Indianapolis variety common today.
I was a Colts fan, that is, until they loaded up Mayflower trucks and snuck out of town one snowy night.
Few, if any, fans remained loyal to the Colts at that point. Some shifted their allegiance to one of the other nearby NFL teams. Some gave up on professional football. Some waited for a new team to come to Baltimore. The rest of us were left scrambling to find a new team to follow for the upcoming 1984 season.
I chose the Chicago Bears. The Bears were coming off of an 8-8 season and looked as if they were poised to make an impact (which they did, winning the Super Bowl in 1985 on the legs of William “The Refrigerator” Perry), but I chose them for one reason: Walter Payton.
I rooted for the Bears for two seasons and actually jumped ship after they won the 1985 Super Bowl because of the “Super Bowl Shuffle.” The team…lacked humility.
My attention turned to another 8-8 team that looked like they were on the way up – the Seattle Seahawks, again because of a single player: Steve Largent.
I followed the Seahawks until that magical day in 1996 when the Baltimore Ravens rolled into town via Cleveland.
Over the past 19 years, I have rooted for the Ravens, but have also cheered on teams in the cities in which I have lived. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cincinnati Bengals. And now, as hard as it is, the Tennessee Titans.
I know people who have been loyal to one team their entire life. I have not. The reason is simple: I am not committed to one. I don’t value a team highly enough to forsake all other teams and root only for that one.
So what does this have to do with God?
For me, this is a reminder of how fleeting and conditional our worship can be. We will worship God one minute, and the next minute we will worship possessions, friendships, social status, power, ourselves, or even a football team just as much, or if we are honest, more.
One moment we will celebrate God; the next we will grumble at Him.
One moment we will be grateful to God; the next we will accuse Him of withholding from us.
We are fickle people.
And we are not alone.
Consider the Triumphal Entry that is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19). On the surface, this seemed like an amazing time of worship of Jesus, so much so that the leaders were angered by it and instructed Jesus to stop it.
But was it really a high-water mark in worship? Let’s look more closely.
It was Sunday – Palm Sunday as we would later know it – and Jesus began His day in Bethany where He was staying during the Passover week. As Jesus traveled the few miles from Bethany to Jerusalem, He was not alone. Crowds traveled with Him, probably as a result of hearing about how Jesus had raised Lazarus – a resident of Bethany – from the dead a short time before.
The excitement and anticipation was certainly palpable. Could this at last be the moment for which we have waited so long? Surely Jesus is the Messiah – the Son of David – making His way into the City of David to initiate the Kingdom at last. After all, could there be any better time than now – during the Passover – when the city was overflowing with God’s people?
The journey would have wound past the Mount of Olives which would have obscured Jerusalem for a time until at last – as the band of travelers drew near – the city arose in all of its splendor. At some point, at least by now, the chants of the growing crowd would have begun:
“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
The words of the Hallel (Psalm 113-118) would have been familiar to the crowd that day and were chosen for a reason. The Hallel was recited during the Passover in Jerusalem with two groups alternating lines before joining together for the final one. “Hosanna” is the Greek transliteration of an Aramaic expression meaning “save now” making the Messianic implications of the Hallel even more clear. The Messiah, the Blessed One, would come to save God’s people and usher in the culmination of David’s kingdom.
The people believed that this was that moment. And so they worshiped.
Wonderful, right? A wonderful moment of worship, right?
Only if you don’t continue to read the Gospels. Just a few days later, the crowds would be chanting something else. Something quite different. They would cry out for the release of a hardened criminal named Barabbas over Jesus and when asked what should be done with Jesus their response would be, “Crucify Him!”
One moment they were praising Jesus. The next minute they were cursing Him. How quickly things changed.
So what is the lesson for us? What can we seek to pass along to our kids as we teach on this passage? I think the answer is our need to position God to transform our hearts through the gospel so that our worship is genuine, which will result in more consistent worship as well. Our worship needs to be anchored securely to the foundation of the gospel. The gospel is unchanging. The gospel is secure. Experience is fluid. Our perception is often flawed. As long as our worship is rooted in what we are experiencing or our perspective of God – the wrong things – it will ebb and flow.
That is what happened to the crowd during the final week of Jesus’ ministry. They were worshiping Jesus based on their perception of who He was and what He would do. Their worship was conditional – attached to the expectation that Jesus would be the political or military leader they expected the Messiah to be. But once Jesus showed that He was not the Messiah of their expectations, they turned on Him.
This week, encourage your kids to worship God for what He has done and what He has promised to do, but to be careful to fix their worship on who God is. If they do that, their worship will be genuine and lasting.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the March 29, 2015 session (Unit 32, Session 3) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay in 2014. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian and his wife, Tara, and their three children – Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb – live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 1-3 graders at City Church.